Meet Nabiha, a happy DAT Bootcamp customer who recently conquered the DAT. I’ve asked Nabiha to share her DAT experience with us as the featured student of November.
What did you change while studying for the DAT a second time that led to an improvement in your score?
When approaching the DAT a second time, I changed my studying habits and mindset. I first tackled the subjects I knew were my weakest (instead of feeling comforted with going through what I already knew as I did the first time), and powered through Dr. Mike’s General and Organic Chemistry videos, notes, and the practice questions. I had the mindset that if I felt tired from doing Chemistry towards the end of my day, I would “relax” by either reading the Biology Textbook given by Bootcamp (while active highlighting) or watching YouTube videos on each topic, as Bio was initially my strongest subject. Remember, when your mind says you’re done, you’re only 40% done, so power through.
One of the more significant differences in my studying habits was how I reviewed. I rewrote the given Bootcamp notes in a summarized fashion for every GC and OC chapter, and before I did a set of questions, I went through every chapter summary, refreshing and reiterating the information prior to testing it. Another change I implemented was taking EVERY timed exam, either broken down by subject, or Full Length, provided on Bootcamp, then going through my wrong answers, fully understanding why I got it wrong, and reviewing the chapter.
My last change might be a little extreme for some, but it honestly helped me get a score better than I could ever imagine; self discipline. I personally set a reward system for myself this time around. I was fully aware when I wasn’t on my A-game, so I would not reward myself with fun, because if I did, then I would continue to behave/perform sub-par and be okay with it. And when I did well or completed all of my tasks, I indulged in all the fun. It made sense to me, for my second time studying for the DAT, to sacrifice 2 months of fun, for never having to worry about taking the DAT ever again, becoming a stronger dental applicant, and being closer to achieving my goal.
What challenges did you face while preparing for your retake, and how did you overcome them?
It is a fact that when you are reading or learning material, and something distracts you, that you will lose some of the information you just learned. For me, my phone was and is my biggest distraction, as embarrassing as that is to admit. Most days I would park my phone in another room so I would not feel tempted to go on it, maintain my focus, and not hinder the retention process of my learning.
What advice do you have for other students currently studying to retake the DAT?
Whether this is your first time or a retake, mindset is huge! Go into studying thinking this is the only time you can this exam ever. Think of this whole dental school process as GOOD stress and GOOD pressure, because this is our DREAM! When you shift your mindset into thinking you “get” to study and work towards your goal, as opposed to you “have” to study, it will bring a positive energy into your efforts.
Mindset aside, identify your strengths and weaknesses off the bat by taking a base line test before starting your studying. Then work on your weaknesses first! It feels comforting to get questions right, but that pushes off what you should be practicing and improving. After identifying your baseline, create a schedule, and STICK TO IT. Bootcamp has one which is great, but I highly recommend catering that schedule to YOUR weaknesses and strengths! Print it out and have it in front of you so you know what you are suppose to tackle every day. Also, utilize every resource you buy to its full potential. You already spent money on Bootcamp, so watch EVERY video and answer EVERY question you paid for! If you buy DAT Destroyer, answer every question in there! It will only prepare you for the best.
My last bit of advice would be to implement some level of reward system that works for you. When it comes to achieving any goals, sacrifice comes into play as a motivating factor to push you to do better, and when you do better you will get to enjoy more too. Set solid expectations/goals for yourself on a daily/weekly basis, and when you complete these, treat yourself! But if you know you were slacking on studying one day/week, think of your future self, and how instead of spending that time having fun, you can spend that time “catching up” on what you slacked on. Because pushing an exam to a later date only because you could have been more self disciplined is also pushing how much sooner you can feel relaxed. However, mental health is very important, so don’t do anything so extreme that it will ultimately be detrimental.
What did you do to prepare for the Reading Comprehension section?
For RC, regularly reading science articles and developing speed and competency helps. What I did was only a little different than your Bootcamp suggestions, but fundamentally the same. Per passage, I dedicated 7-9 min reading and 11-13 min answering questions. When I read, however, I actively use the highlighting technique and kept my cursor flowing with the words my eyes were reading to prevent my eyes from wandering. I highlighted every date/year, name, definitions, and trends/results (only highlighting the key words of each, not full sentences), that way if I need to go back to find it I know it’ll be highlighted. Also the act of highlighting helps me stay focused on the material and retain information as well, because my mind tends to wander. If I happen to be running low on my allotted reading time, I will skim through the rest of the passage and highlight only key words of the remaining paragraphs, and use the Search and Destroy method for the paragraphs I did not have time to read.
Definitely practice reading daily, and when using the reading practice exams, actively highlighting is really helpful if done properly (so not highlighting full sentences, but important words). Also over time with more practice, when you are reading a passage, in the back of your mind start to think “could this be a question?” because a lot of the questions are the same: recall or tone. So it’s helpful to read the passage while mentally also thinking of how each sentence could be tested, or if that sentence was pointless, for lack of a better word. That is why I like my highlighting technique because it allows me focus on the key concepts and ignore the filler sentences/words.