The DAT Exam
The Dental Admission Test, also known as the DAT exam, is designed to provide dentistry programs with a scale for how to judge an applicant’s potential for success within their institution. The test is scored based on the individual parts of the test, which includes reading comprehension (RC), perceptual ability, survey of natural sciences – biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry (BIO, CHM, ORG), and quantitative reasoning (QR). Make sure you answer all of the questions, even if you have to guess, because wrong answers are weighted the same as unanswered questions.
The individual sections (BIO, CHM, ORG, QR, and RC) are then compiled and then added with the Total Science (TS) and Academic Average (AA) scores. Your TS score is the measure of the individual components and divided by the number of components there are. Your AA score is the average of the individual component scores.
Prior to leaving the testing facility, you are provided with an unofficial scoring report. Your official scores are sent for audit and are subsequently verified by the Department of Testing Services. The scores are then dispensed to the dental programs that you designated on your DAT application. Additionally, your scores are also automatically sent to the Associated American Dental Schools Application Service (AADSAS) or the Texas Medical and Dental Schools Application Service (TMDSAS). These services might have an association with one of the schools you applied to, which adds to the benefit of attending.
What Does a ‘Good’ Score Look Like?
The actual DAT exam is scored on a scale of 1 – 30. All of your answers are worth one raw point, with no deduction for wrong answers (you should always guess an answer instead of leaving it blank). Each section of the test is graded individually to create a raw score. Those raw scores are then covered to scaled scores, which gives you that 1 – 30 number. Your composite scores are also compiled. These scores are not an average of the scores across the sections of the exam. Instead, they are a full evaluation of how you performed on the entire exam.
To be considered a top scorer on the DAT exam, you would need to obtain an AA score of 21 or higher. This would likely get you admitted into any dental program of your choice, but getting less than that doesn’t doom you to give up your dental aspirations – not at all.
Getting a 19 or 20 still leaves you in a competitive position in the top 25th percentile, which is the sweet spot you should aim for. By gaining at least a 19, that puts you in a great spot for still applying to those top programs and allowing your supplemental work to sway an admissions committee.
Scoring an 18 is also considered good enough, however, you wouldn’t be likely to gain entry to one of the more elite dental programs. That isn’t to say that a top school wouldn’t even look at your application, it just means your additional application materials would have to be stellar.