If there was anything I could go back and change, it would be to start studying from earlier in the year even during the semester, because little bits of knowledge daily is better than trying to cram all the information in a short period of time.
Hello everyone! My name is Arif Hussain and I have recently finished taking my DAT. I wanted to share how I studied for one of the biggest exams I have ever taken! This time of studying is really stressful and is really hard to stay motivated but all the work that goes in to studying will truly pay off on test day! I have had the advantage to study with DAT Bootcamp and this was the only resource that I used to study for this exam! I would like to breakdown my background, how I did on the exam based on my practice tests, and how I studied in each section.
I took my exam in July, right after the end of my sophomore year of college. My major is in biology which means I have a strong background in the sciences. I had recently taken physiology and comparative anatomy in the winter semester which helped me a great deal in studying for biology. I had also just taken a year of organic chemistry and the year prior I had taken general chemistry and calculus. My biggest recommendation is to take the DAT when most of its content is still fresh from other courses (such as biology, organic, or gen chem) because this is when the material is still very fresh and easiest to review. With that being said, reading was a very weak subject for me and PAT was something that was very new to me and required a little bit more concentration. Fortunately DAT Bootcamp had me covered in all aspects of the exam and I did not have to use a single source outside of Bootcamp!
My timeframe for studying for the DAT was from the end of my winter semester which was around May and all the way up to my test date of July 16th. The amount of time was already shorter than what I wanted but what made it harder was that there was holidays such as Eid and other classes that I had to fulfill while studying for the DAT (to all my Muslim folks, Ramadan was very tough to manage along with classes and DAT). My biggest recommendation is try to your best to free up time (2-3 months) for just studying the DAT daily with no interruptions. If there was anything I could go back and change, it would be to start studying from earlier in the year even during the semester, because little bits of knowledge daily is better than trying to cram all the information in a short period of time (more on this later!) So taking into consideration the amount of days I actually studied for the exam, I would say I studied about two months.
Study Timeframe: May 9 - July 15th (with breaks)
My Daily Study Schedule:
- 3-4 hours of Biology
- 2-3 hours of General Chemistry
- 1-2 hours of PAT and/or Reading
- 3-4 hours of Biology
- 2-3 hours of Organic Chemistry
- 1-2 hours of PAT and/or QR
I tried my best to follow Ari's schedule as this was a very good way to get through studying DAT without forgetting things over time, however I did not have as much time due to having other responsibilities I needed to take care of so I decided to stick to this schedule. I studied PAT for about 10-20 minutes a day doing just a few problems over time. I also completed nine of the full length tests which was the best representation of the actual DAT.
My Method of Studying:
PAT 24 (BC Range: 19-21)
Since PAT was a very new subject to me, this was the subject that would take a lot of time to conceptualize and understand. Joel's videos are awesome ways to learn about the concept and to try to visualize the concepts in your head. But like every other post has highlighted, PAT is something you just cannot master unless you are actively practicing everyday!
Keyholes was a difficult subject for me so I took my time in the beginning of my studying to learn and practice it until I thought I had it down. TFE and Hole punching came to me very easily so I did not spend as much time practicing those as I felt that doing 5-10 questions was satisfactory. Cube counting was just best to follow the tallying method as this was simple and could be done very fast after practice. Angle ranking and pattern folding was also very hard for me and I spent much more time on my daily practices doing these questions. The best part about PAT is that you can do it literally anywhere! Whenever I was out with my family or I had time in between breaks, I could load up the app to practice on these questions.
My suggestion for the order of completing PAT on the exam was to skip to question 31 and do angles, go down the normal order of hole punching, cube counting, pattern folding, then go to TFE and then end with keyholes because this was the fastest method for me to finish as most questions. While it is important to get as many questions right as possible, it is just as important to complete as many questions as possible because this section is really a time crunch! I always struggled with timing in my practice tests as I could never finish on time but the best thing here is to find the order that best works for you. It's not about trying to get every question right because there are many confusing ones but it's about getting as much done as fast as possible. In my opinion, I thought that Bootcamp's questions were much harder than the actual PAT on the DAT and this is possible with a lot of practice!
QR 22 (BC Range: 20-24)
QR is primarily about basic math knowledge learned throughout high school math classes however it is the way that questions are worded and the style of questions that makes it difficult. Be aware of what the question is asking (this section is very prone to simple errors) and make sure to follow the suggestions that Bootcamp gives on the QR section. I personally wrote down anything new that I learned on how to solve a problem or anything that I found confusing so that I can refer back to it later in my studies. Go over the equation sheets that are given by Bootcamp in order to remember units and other things before the exam. If there was anything I could work on in this section, it would be to finish the questions in a faster pace as this was the section with the smallest amount of time allocated. So make sure to learn from mistakes in the practice exams as they are highly representative and work on efficiency in solving problems.
RC 21 (BC Range: 20-24)
This was the section I wish I practiced more! I was very scared to practice the reading section because I really did not like the SAT reading section either. I did a reading passage every week but I would recommend to read science articles or anything really daily to get in the habit of comprehending information quickly. I used the search and destroy method to answer the questions as this was the method best for me but always remember to mark the inferring questions as you cannot answer these by searching and destroying. Even though an hour seems like an adequate amount of time for three passages, it is very easy to get sucked into questions which take a long time to figure out. This may have been my biggest problem during the exam and no matter what method you use, I would recommend to always mark questions that you cannot figure out and keep moving through the reading section because time can run out pretty quickly! The practice exams were a very good representation of the actual reading section and the passages were actually shorter on the actual DAT but always make sure to keep track of time and carefully read what the question asks for.
BIO 30 (BC Range: 21-23)
As I mentioned before, I had a very strong background in biology due to my previous classes however this was the section that I spent the most time studying for. This was because this section had the most amount of content to memorize and it takes a considerable amount of time to get through. I watched through all the bio videos and did all the bio bites in order to review the content.
My actual method for studying for the DAT was using active recall. I really loved how Bootcamp created the Notion page which highlighted every single thing that I needed to know for biology down to the details. In order for me to memorize the content, what I did was use a software which allowed me to do well in my biology classes. This software is RemNotes and I used a mixture of the Cornell method along with the Notion method to make questions about the content. Making the RemNotes took a very long time but this was one part of the studying phase as I learned all of the content. It usually took me two days (sometimes a day based on how busy I was) to finish a chapter. Then the day after I was done, I would review by shrinking all the questions and actively quizzed myself to remind myself of all the content. Once I felt ready, I went into flashcard mode where I could actually test myself on the content. In order to get the content down to its finest, I would finally take the Bio Bites and Qbanks to get it down well.
The biggest takeaway is that while reviewing bio is very important, it is also just as important to remember as much as possible because there is no way of knowing which questions you will be asked. I would tackle this by beginning my morning by reviewing an old chapter by skimming through the questions and then doing the flashcards. It is not about getting every question right instead it is more about getting yourself exposed to the content because the more you see it, the more you will remember it. The practice exams were harder than the actual DAT in my opinion but that is the beauty of being overprepared as you will know what you will be asked on the real thing. I've provided a sample RemNote in this post of how I created them for every chapter:
GC 24 (BC Range: 20-24)
This section was very similar to what I learned in general chemistry in college (with the exception of nuclear reactions). The best way to learn GC for me was just to take notes with Dr. Mike's videos and understand what I did wrong in the Qbanks and the practice tests. I also made a RemNotes as a simplified version of the actual notes and to write down personal things that I learned throughout the practice exams. I would recommend taking personal notes of things that were very confusing and to take note of the tricks that Dr. Mike uses to solve questions. Be ready to shift to different types of questions correctly in the practice exam and review the equations and trends that you need to know to pass this section. Memorizing the nuclear reactions and other principles like rate laws may be confusing but can be done after looking at them a couple of times. The practice tests were very representative of this question so I advise to take your time to learn from the practice questions in order to learn GC well.
My RemNotes: https://www.remnote.io/a/content-/62db5585bbabd55477dfc1ec
OC 30 (BC Range: 22-30)
Organic Chemistry was much easier on the actual DAT then the practice exam. With that being said, it is very very important that you get as much exposure to practice questions as there can be many different reagents and foundational questions. Do not rely on memorizing all the reactions in order to do good on this section as half of the section is foundational questions! While it was very important to memorize everything that you can know about for reactions, it is important to spend the same amount of time learning about acid-bases, spectroscopy, how reactions work in order to be successful. To accomplish this, I opened another RemNotes just to take notes of what I needed for OC from Dr. Mike's awesome videos. Write down whatever trends and equations you need to memorize in a way that makes sense to you so it is easier to learn. For reactions, I would first learn them and then practice the reaction bites and Qbanks to get them down. At the end of my study, I filled out the whole sheet that was empty with personal notes so that I can better remember the reactions. All in all, the practice tests prepare you well for the actual DAT as it is much easier but take the time to go through the reactions that you need to know.
Here is the empty reaction sheet: https://drive.google.com/file/d/15q6Mna3mqSj1EEEfqwcMPIpTmcLyeJri/view?usp=sharing
Week Before The Test
Since my study time was in a shorter period, I was forced to take practice exams every day on the last two weeks of my study period. While this was very tiring, this had prepared me well for the time component of the exam and got me in the habit of thinking quickly. I would recommend to take a full length exam one day and then review it the next day in order to remember and take quality notes of the content. I skimmed through the GC and OC notes everyday and I reviewed my bio RemNotes everyday like I had already from before. Even though I was only getting 22-23 on my practice exams, remember that this is not representative of how you will do on your final exam. While the practice exams are the best way to test yourself and put you into the mindset of the real DAT, it is more about learning what you did wrong then focus on the score that you got!
Main Takeaways of my Story:
- Plan from ahead, make a schedule for yourself so you can learn little by little in order to actively recall information to better prepare you over the long run for the exam.
- Make time for studying, try your best not to take part in other things while studying for DAT because you want to put in as much time as you can to study
- Follow a plan that works for you, find the method of studying that helps you retain the most information while focusing on the breadth of the material.
- Study with a friend so you can stay motivated throughout your study period and make sure to give yourself break so you can perform your best on test day.
- Do not focus too much on the scores of your practice exams, focus on what you got wrong and how you can improve so you can efficiently answer questions within time.
- Practice makes perfect. This is really the best way to get yourself the score that you're aiming for!
If you have read this far, I greatly appreciate the time you have taken to better your studying. I know this time becomes very nerve wracking and anxiety soars but just know that many people are with you on your journey of becoming a dentist. Nevertheless, it is important to start studying from beforehand because it will help you greatly in learning the information over a longer period of time. It is much harder to learn things over a short period of time even if you are completely free as there as just too much content to know so always plan ahead. Nervousness and stress are things that show that you care about the DAT and that you want to see success! Give yourself breaks, enjoy some time away with fam while studying for the exam and give it your all! Future dentists here we come!
Please feel free to comment or DM me personally on my insta - ayyy_arif about any questions!