How Justin Scored a 29 AA on his First Attempt

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"Finish the practice tests. That’s three quarters of the battle, with the rest simply being review. DAT Bootcamp, with its tagging system, makes that much easier for you. "
Justin Yang
29 AA

My timeline’s a bit all over the place, so I’ll start with a brief overview. I enrolled in DAT Bootcamp for three months at the end of December to study over winter break and take the exam in March. PHASE 1: I kicked off with PAT Academy due to general unfamiliarity and began watching the BIO videos, intimidated by sheer density. I took the first practice tests for GC, RC, and QR and scored well so I moved on. I saved OC for later. The issue was that I hadn’t scheduled the test date, so by the time I was back in school, I felt comfortable pushing off studying week by week. Don’t do this! You should schedule your test date ASAP not only to motivate yourself, but also because the spots fill up surprisingly fast – you’ve been warned 😅. By the end of February, I realized I was wasting my subscription, so I paused it with 23 days left to go. Note that you’re only allowed to do this if your break exceeds a month’s time. I figured I’d get back into studying once I graduate so I had no issue agreeing to this. Between Phases 1 and 2, I at least tried to keep my streak going via Daily Warmup. PHASE 2: I renewed my subscription at the end of June to time it with my test date and so came three weeks of suffering.

BIO: 26

I watched through about half the chapters over winter break, focusing on Cell and Molecular Biology because I have a stronger foundation in Ecology and Animal Behavior from my college courses and because I was slated to take Systems Physiology in the Spring. I did the Bio Bites for every section I completed via video. The rest of my studying happened in Phase 2, at which point I gave up on watching all the videos for the sake of time and made peace with completing the practice tests and question banks. I answered every single question under the first two tabs. Unlike the Bio Bites, these questions read much more similarly to the ones on the DAT. Be sure to read and review. I myself kept a notebook of everything I got wrong so that I could have the harder concepts on speed dial. Instead of jotting down question and answer, I’d make note of the concept being tested. If there was a word I didn’t understand, I’d jot down its definition too. Then you’d know what it is that you need to work on and have just the resource to do so.

GC: 30

I completed all the practice tests and just reviewed the questions I got wrong. If there was a section I was consistently underperforming in, I would do the question banks next.

OC: 30

This was probably the biggest challenge (besides PAT) because I remembered nothing from school. I had to start from zero, so I set out to watch all the videos. I loved Dr. Mike’s energy but there were just too many subsections in each chapter. I felt myself getting bogged down by the material so I enlisted the help of ChadVideos, which for $60 provides a similar service to Bootcamp but for TS and QR only. Though the practice tests/problems were better represented by Bootcamp across the board, I appreciated ChadVideos for concision. Watching all of his videos for OC gave me a firm grasp of the concepts, which I then supplemented with Dr. Mike’s greater specificity. I didn’t use ChadVideos for BIO, GC, or QR, so I can’t speak on it, but I’d assume similar results. Be sure to complete all the practice tests and complete the Reaction Bites/Anki Decks for the reactions you struggle with. Sections that required rote memorization (Spectroscopy and OC Lab Tests) I reviewed especially on the morning of so that I could at least commit the pesky names and numbers to short-term memory. This worked out because I ended up getting an IR-spec question I would not have been able to answer the night before.

PAT: 23

Rough. I don’t know what to say besides practice. The more days you look at the material, the better – instead of ramming your head into a wall trying to 100% the question banks, do a few at a time across all six subsections. I tried to do PAT problems whenever I had down time… while cooking, in League queue, in bed before going to sleep, etc. I needed to integrate it into every aspect of my life and consider it a game for it to become fun – which it eventually did. That way, practicing for PAT no longer feels like studying. My bane was Angle Ranking. No amount of preparation seemed to make a difference, and I’m assuming most, if not all, the questions I got wrong on the real deal were in this subsection. Everything else, you can logic through. Subsections like Hole Punching and Pattern Folding were conceptually easier, so you’re just working against the clock with added lag. In my experience, Angle Ranking could not be cheesed. I know a lot of folks recommend jumping around the subsections to do the easy ones first and the hard ones last, but I felt that wasted a lot of time (of course this depends on how much lag you end up with). With this section, you should just try different orders across Bootcamp’s ten practice tests and see what works best for you. If you need help understanding the problem solving beyond what’s provided, try the PAT videos on Mental Dental’s YouTube channel. On the day of, I took a practice test a few hours before my appointment because I couldn’t fall back asleep. I think this primed me well.

RC: 30

This doesn’t seem like a section you can study for, which is a good thing because RC is significantly easier on the real deal than on Bootcamp. I would commit this time to other sections (like in TS) once you’ve taken a few practice tests to get a feel for it. I’m not sure if I just got lucky, but most of my questions were in chronological order, which worked for me because I prefer reading through each passage over search and destroy. At the end of the day, RC completion is defined by personal preference.

QR: 30

I completed most of the practice tests, prioritizing speed since lag gets pretty bad in this section on the real deal (might be the calculator loading in and out). It’s important to read the question but not so much the answer choices. I personally only looked at them once I figured I had the answer. That way, if there’s a match, you know you’re probably right.

Final Comments:

No matter how little time it feels like you have left, you aren’t doomed. In other words, any amount of time you can commit will make a difference even if it doesn’t seem like it’d be “enough.” I’m pretty sure I spent every night in the two weeks before staring up at the ceiling and rotating between every negative emotion I could muster. It sucks having to take an exam like this, but consider it a learning experience in every sense of the word learning. If you stay even mildly positive and use that to fuel your motivation, you’ll at least be able to finish the practice tests. That’s three quarters of the battle, with the rest simply being review. Bootcamp, with its tagging system, makes that much easier for you. Also try taking a full-length within a week of your exam. I took it the Monday before, and holistically, I needed to refocus on OC. Go with whatever ends up working for you, but don’t shy away from trying it at least once so that you know how tired you’ll be doing this for four hours.

Another note, I was also lucky enough to have studied alongside - not with - my partner, also preparing for the DAT. I would like to emphasize alongside. Everyone comes to the table with a different skillset and knowledge base, so it’s counterproductive to study together. Simply studying in parallel (think parallel play among kindergartners) and coming together only to review the material in common is more than enough to enjoy the benefits of having someone to suffer with.

Lastly, Pomodoro #1. It kept me sane cramming for TS, and it inadvertently enforces active recall. Good luck! 😉

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Hannah Brein, DAT Bootcamp Student