UPDATE 5/15/2014: DAT Biology Changes Officially Pushed to 2015

Back in October, we announced that the ADA was planning to change the DAT starting in 2014. The changes focused on updating the Biology section in 2014 and the Quantitative Reasoning section in 2015. Other than a short description, no other detail was provided as to what the changes will contain and most importantly, when these changes will take effect.

After some research, it appears that the upcoming changes to the DAT have been planned since early 2012 (or even 2011 although unconfirmed). These changes were focused on  reviewing items and content relative to science courses and science textbooks. New test questions are being developed according to the “Test Item Development Guide”. A copy of the guide can be accessed on the ADA website. This guide appears to be National Board Dental Examinations which supports the motion to make the DAT a better predictor of success in dental school. This is NOT to say that questions will be related to dentistry, but that the format for question may shift in the direction of the guide.

I recently acquired some documents directly from the ADA that give us an insight on the future direction of the DAT. The first of these documents is a presentation titled “Update on the Dental Admission Test (DAT)” which was conducted during the ADEA Fall 2013 Meeting. The information about the upcoming changes to the DAT start on page 9 and extend through page 12. We are going to breakdown each of these pages in full detail.

The biggest update from this batch goes to the Quantitative Reasoning section internally referred to as (QRT). As you can see from the image below. Questions related to Data analysis, interpretation and sufficiency, quantitative comparison, probability, and statistics will begin to appear on the DAT starting in 2014. However, the questions will not contribute to your QR/AA scores up through the end of 2015. Starting in 2016, based on the pilot test conducted during 2014-2015, questions in these sections will begin to contribute to your QR/AA scores. This gives plenty of time for students to adapt to the changes and for preparatory material refinement. A presentation from 2012 notes that the ADA originally estimated that the new questions will contribute to scores beginning in 2015. This indicates a year delay in the process as scores are now expected to contribute no earlier than 2016.

Changes to Critical Thinking Content


Details on the Biology section have not changed much other than to clarify the window for the biology section. The window has now been extended through 2015. At this point, it is likely that any changes that will occur to the DAT will be near the end of 2014. Time to take a breath! There is plenty of time to take the current DAT without any worry of changes.

Changes to Biology Test Specifications

The third picture indicates that the changes are still being developed and refined and that all new items will be pre-tested and reviewed, revised or retired. This indicates that the Biology Section may see a similar pilot  test but in a shorter timeframe.

Test Construction

This fourth image is a bit more unclear. Test Construction Committee (TCC) is the group of individuals responsible for drafting new items as indicated in the previous image. This image shows a “sample representation” indicated by names of universities. I interpret this as one of two ways. Either faculty members at these universities are working to add new content to the DAT or that the pilot test will begin at (or near) these locations. I am inclined to believe it is a list of members involved in the revision process.

TCC Representation

The remainder of the power-point covers post-test survey results as several graphs comparing 2012 to previous years. It appears that over the past 5 years the “apply early” message has been taken very seriously. The graph on page 22 shows a steady increase in tests taken in June and July and a steady decline in tests taken in August, September, and October.

You can download a copy of the DAT Update 2013 Presentation Here

In addition to this presentation, we have also gained access to an FAQ by Kaplan regarding the upcoming changes. I have bolded any interesting components.

DAT Test Changes in 2016
Changes to Quantitative Reasoning

Why is this section changing? 

The ADA wants this section to require more critical thinking. The changes will eliminate some of the easiest questions (numerical calculations and conversions) as well as some content that is not deemed to be critical for success in dental or optometry school (geometry and trig). These questions will be replaced with additional Probability & Statistics questions, presumably of higher difficulty, as well as new critical thinking question types that sound like the quantitative question types on the GMAT and GRE.

What is changing specifically? 

First, all questions from the following categories will be eliminated: Numerical Calculations, Conversions, Geometry, and Trigonometry. These questions will be replaced with more Probability & Statistics as well as the following new question types: Data Analysis, Interpretation & Sufficiency, and Quantitative Comparison.

When will the changes occur? 

In 2014-2015, the DAT and possibly the OAT will pilot experimental items for these questions, though it is currently unclear when exactly these items will begin being piloted and how they will be tested (i.e., whether they will be included within the current section or will be identified as experimental). These questions will not count toward student scores in 2014-2015. The ADA plans to have the full new Quantitative Reasoning section scored beginning in 2016.

How should students prepare for these changes?

Students should continue to prepare for the current version of the DAT & OAT. They may see experimental items on their tests in 2014-2015, but those items will not count toward their score, so students do not need to worry. Once the changes are finalized and an official launch date is announced for 2016, the Kaplan course will be updated to prepare students for the new test content and question types. We will always ensure that our course aligns with the current or immediately upcoming test blueprint.

Changes to Biology
Why is this section changing? 

The ADA notes that college-level biology courses take more of a systems approach, focusing on complex interactions within biology systems. This does not align with the way the Biology subsection of the DAT & OAT tests content. The ADA wants the section to more closely match what students are learning in their introductory biology courses.

What is changing specifically? 

It is not yet known how the changes will impact the section. It may be as minor as changing the way that some questions are asked or may include more substantial changes to the test blueprint.

When will the changes occur? 

The ADA is targeting sometime in 2014-2015, but a specific timeline has not yet been determined.

How should students prepare for these changes?

The test is changing to better align with what students are already learning in their undergraduate courses, so this change should be beneficial to most students. The Kaplan course already teaches biology content using a systems approach, so students will be prepared for both the current test and any upcoming changes. That said, it may be advantageous for students who are already ready to test to take their test sooner rather than later in case any of the changes result in higher difficulty questions.

You can download a copy of the DAT Update FAQ Here


2013 Presentation Source: http://www.ada.org/sections/educationAndCareers/pdfs/adea_presentation_datupdate_2013.pdf

Archived Resources:

UPDATE (3/10/2014): New details have been summarized in More Details Emerge on the Upcoming Changes to the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) 


A recent publication by the ADA titled “DAT Newsletter – Volume 4” sheds light on several large changes to the DAT. The document states that these changes are expected to begin in 2014, less than 3 months away.

The ADA puts out a newsletter regarding policy changes for the DAT on, what seems to be, an annual basis. This newsletter summarizes the upcoming changes discussed by the DAT Committee since the last summary.  A past example of the DAT Newsletter from 2012 can still be accessed on the ADA website. Usually the newsletter consists of updated test taking policies and does not discuss changes to the content of the DAT. However, the DAT Newsletter for 2013 brings some interesting test subject changes alongside a few policy changes. A summary of the key changes can be found below.


Biology test specifications will be changed for 2014. Biology survey courses have shifted to a systems approach (i.e., focusing on complex interactions within biological systems, rather than viewing biology in a reductionist manner), and thus the biology test specifications are being adjusted to conform to this holistic approach. The Examinee Guides will be reviewed and revised to ensure clarity.”

Based on this quote from the newsletter, we believe the biology section of the DAT will likely have less “random” factoids to commit to memory such as material from lower division biology courses covering the topics of  “Organism to Ecosystem”. It is expected that topics such as physiology are to become a larger focus on the DAT biology section. This change may make it more difficult for many students to take the DAT following their 2nd year (as currently advised) since only a handful of core biology courses have been taken alongside the general and organic chemistry classes.

When contacting the ADA regarding more clarity on the biology section changes, we received a canned response:

The Biology Test Construction Committee has some recommendations regarding changes in the test specifications, and they will be up for discussion and approval by the DAT Committee in early 2014. We will keep test takers posted as to when it will take effect.”

Our only advice at the moment to those planning on taking the DAT is to take several of the core upper division biology classes such as physiology and microbiology prior to taking the DAT. Preparing for the exam in early 2014 may be difficult due to a lack of new preparation material and a well rounded understanding of biology is a must to perform well in this case! Keep an eye peeled for an updated iteration of The Examinee Guide. It is also likely that other material on the ADA’s main DAT Information Page, such as the sample test, will be updated to provide more information regarding these changes.



Quantitative Reasoning Test (QRT) specifications have been revised to eliminate the sections for numerical calculations, conversions, geometry, and trigonometry. Items will be added in the following areas: data analysis, interpretation, and sufficiency; quantitative comparison; and probability and statistics.”

This change has been rumored for a while and some preparation materials such as Math Destroyer have been adding tests with questions focused on the concepts listed above. The ADA explicitly states that “These changes will be implemented no sooner than 2015.” More information will be added regarding this change in the near future.
As more information becomes available, it will be posted on the DAT website


Dental Admissions Test (DAT) Part 2 – Planning, Strategies, and Resources

September 19th, 2013 | Posted by Elias Almaz in Advice | DAT | Dental School | Tips - (Comments Off on Dental Admissions Test (DAT) Part 2 – Planning, Strategies, and Resources)

Shortly after my exam, I started to receive multiple messages a day asking of how to best prepare for the DAT. The truth is, there is no right way to prepare. Each person has a unique background in the subjects tested and their own way of mastering them. With that said, it is important to research the many resources available to pre-dental students preparing for the DAT. It is best to plan out your strategy beforehand rather than exploring the resources as you prepare. Here are a few tips and resources I used to construct my own study schedule for the DAT:

  • IF POSSIBLE, give yourself at least 6-8 weeks of studying.
  • Understand, DON’T memorize!
    • The material may become overwhelming towards the end of your preparation and understanding the material will help you retain information or help select the best answer from the possible choices.
    • Understanding will significantly help in increasing your speed, a vital part of success on the DAT.
  • Create a schedule beforehand and plan out your attack!
    • Review your schedule of the day every morning and at the end of a session, review the next day’s goals.
    • Creating a schedule REALLY helps to keep you on target and focused on completing your day-to-day study goals.
  • Use a base structure like dentalWorks 8 Week Study Guide on Student Doctor Network for  your schedules foundation. Modify to fit the resources you are using!
  • Check out our DAT resources section on the Pre-Dental Ultimate Resources page for more useful resources such as practice questions.
  • Try to schedule your DAT as early as you feel comfortable. Having a definitive date really kicks motivation into high gear!


Since I am applying this year, I had limited time to prepare for the DAT. As a result, I used the sample schedule above and condensed it into a 4 week program, doing double the work per day. While it is possible, I DO NOT RECOMMEND doing this. The experience was extremely exhausting and in retrospect was risky.


To prepare for the DAT I used the following materials:

  • Chad’s Complete DAT Prep Videos, Notes & Quizzes (30 day subscription) HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
    • Bio Videos (Incomplete)
      • As a biology major, these videos were extremely fundamental. I do not recommend them for people with strong biology backgrounds.
      • The videos have not been finished and as a result, only cover a fraction of the bio needed.
    • General Chemistry
      • Excellent! With only one run through, I understood a large portion of the material covered on the DAT. Notes are a great review tool and reference throughout studying.
    • Organic Chemistry
      • I am horrible at organic chemistry! These videos did not work the same as his general chemistry videos. Repeated review of the notes was a key aspect of understanding the material! Take great notes. Don’t be afraid to pause the videos to add more detail!
    • Qualitative Reasoning (Math)
      • I have a very strong background in math and I found these videos essential to improving my calculation speeds without using a calculator.
    • Angle Ranking Questions
      • Hundreds of questions. Most are only 3-4 degrees apart making them similar to the most challenging angle ranking questions that you will see on the DAT!
      • Formatting of the questions are poor and letter choices can be confusing from time to time.
    • DAT Destroyer does exactly what its name implies. It DESTROYS your DAT self esteem. With that said, the system works! It makes sure you don’t forget the subjects you have been painstakingly learning and expands upon them. Several of my DAT questions were extremely close to the questions in DAT Destroyer. To maximize the benefits of this resource, you should understand why every answer choice is right/wrong.
    • It is widely recommended that the book is reviewed in its entirety multiple times.
    • It is normal to get ~50% of the questions right the first time around.
    • Contains difficult qualitative reasoning questions that cover the breadth of the section on the DAT. Mastering this book teaches you all the techniques you may need and exposes you to the type of questions to expect.
    • I was skeptical about buying Math Destroyer with a strong understanding of math.
    •  It is very difficult to finish within the time allotment on the DAT (45 minutes). I finished the QR section on the DAT in 30 minutes and had 15 minutes to go over my answers. The DAT had many similar questions to the MATH Destroyer which really helps out.
    • It’s the last section of the DAT and your adrenaline starts pumping like crazy which can make it hard to focus knowing your score is on the next screen.
  • Glimmer1991’s Ultimate Breakdown Collection – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
    • An excellent resource that brings together many of StudentDoctorNetwork’s finest DAT preparation content.
    • Excellent bio guides, PAT tutorials, strategies, and answer sheets for DAT Destroyer.
    • Excellent compilation of DAT breakdowns for hundreds of members.
  • DAT Kaplan Blue Book (in-book and online practice tests)
    • Decent all-in-one DAT resource. PAT section does not hold up to the difficulty of the DAT. Provides decent practice tests with full explanations. The online tests closely replicate the real DAT, even includes the tutorial!
  • Cliffs AP Biology
    • Great reference guide for the breadth of the biology section on the DAT.
  • ADA 2007 Practice Exam – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
    • Easy, but free, practice exam by the ADA. A great first practice test midway through your preparation!
  • NEW (2018) ADA Practice Test and Practice Modules – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
    • Candidate will have 24 hours to complete the testing module from the time of purchase.
    • Individual modules are identical to the modules included in the Full Practice Test, except that there are two additional modules provided for the Perceptual Ability Test that are not in the Full Practice Test.
    • $20 per Module – Individual Modules
      • Biology 101 (40 items)
      • Organic Chemistry 101 (30 items)
      • General Chemistry 101 (30 items)
      • Reading Comprehension 101 (25 items)
      • Perceptual Ability 101 (30 items)
      • Perceptual Ability 102 (30 items) – NOT INCLUDED IN FULL SET
      • Perceptual Ability 103 (30 items) – NOT INCLUDED IN FULL SET
      • Quantitative Reasoning 101 (40 items)
    • $100 – Full Practice Set
      • Biology 101
      • Organic Chemistry 101
      • General Chemistry 101
      • Reading Comprehension 101
      • Perceptual Ability 101
      • Quantitative Reasoning 101
      • 3 hours and 5 minutes, divided into timed sections to simulate the actual test
    • The number of correct answers will be reported upon completion. Scores will not be provided.
    • I recommend ordering the Full Practice Set & Perceptual Ability 102 + 103
  • RETIRED – “ADA 2009 Practice Exam” – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
    • A practice exam by the ADA that comes in a print or computerized form.
    • I highly recommend the print version as the computerized one does not let you review your mistakes, but only shows your scores.
    • Please make sure to order ahead of time as the test must be shipped.
      • Exam costs $27 dollars + $8 dollar shipping.
    • Test contains several mistakes, however a corrections packet should come along with the exam.
    • This is as real as it gets! This should be one of the last practice tests you take.
    • High quality timed practice questions.
    • Focuses on key concepts and targets commonly misunderstood material.
    • Used when DAT Bootcamp only had 1 test ready. Now contains 5 tests per section.
    • A current 3 month subscirption costs $97 dollars.
    • 5 or 10 practice PAT tests that are great for developing strategy and an eye for the section. Can significantly improve one’s score. I ordered the 10 test version, but only completed half of the tests before my DAT.
    • 5 test version costs $99. 10 test version is $129.
    • Great simulation of the testing environment.
    • Comes with demos of other DAT section material. Be sure to try out the reading comprehension demo!
  • TopScore DAT (3 Test) – RECOMMENDED
    • I found the biology and qualitative reasoning sections to be more difficult than the actual DAT.
    • PAT section is worthless after the first test. The other two tests are variations of the same questions and are no longer a challenge.
    • Includes several DAT guides including strategies and a prep checklist.
    • Surprisingly accurate on predicting actual DAT Score.
    • Order it in advance! While it is a digital download, keys are manually provided and only provided during business hours.
      • 3 test version costs $59.95.
    • A free and recently updated exam produced by the ADA for the OAT. Since the exam is also made by the ADA, its Survey of the Natural Sciences, Reading Comprehension, and Quantitative Reasoning sections are identical to the DAT.
  • NEW (2018) OAT Practice Test and Practice Modules
    • Similar in design & cost to the new DAT practice test. May contain identical questions (unknown).


Other Popular Resources:

  • Kaplan DAT Prep Course
    •  Focuses on building a foundation for all topics. A great resource for non-science background pre-dental students.
    • Great for those who need a set study schedule.
  • DAT Achiever – RECOMMENDED
    • Advanced topic tests that are preferred by high scoring pre-dental students.
    • A great resource to review if you have extra time.
    • PAT section is considered one of the most accurate representations of the DAT.
    • Up to 7 tests depending on price plan ($69.99-139.99)


Please understand that this is just a review of study material I and many others have used. No one has to follow it 100%, there is no guarantee that you will score a high or low score by following it.