OzTREKK Student Blog: Preparing to write the DAT
Story by Brittani K, Griffith Dental School student, February 2020
DAT got you down? Frustrated with memorizing biology facts? All the TFE problems look the same? Well, you’re not alone!
The DAT can be extremely difficult and daunting, especially if it’s your first time writing it. You don’t know what to expect; you’re wondering if the practice questions you’ve done will be similar to the real test; you’re anxious because your dreams of becoming a dentist are hinging on this one giant test. A lot is at stake! But don’t worry! Everyone feels the same way you do, so stay calm and read on for my tips about how to tackle the DAT!
Tip #1: Set up a study plan
It may be too late for that now if you are writing in November 2019 because you should already be very studied up at this point. But, if you’re writing next year, I highly suggest creating a study schedule (like the one from DAT Bootcamp). This is something that I found too close to when I was writing, but if you can start using their schedule before it’s too late, it will save you so much anxiety!
One of my biggest problems when I studied for the DAT was that I became overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information that I had to cram into my brain. When I would sit down to study, I would just get all worked up about how much I had to study, instead of just studying it. So, if you can use a study guide, then you can section out everything you need to learn and it becomes a lot more manageable.
Tip #2: Use DAT Bootcamp
Have a look at DAT Bootcamp. This one is super important. And no, this is not sponsored! I just really think this website helped me do well. It is a bit pricey, but it’s totally worth it (especially if it means you don’t need to write the DAT again). The practice questions that they have for chemistry are a little bit harder than what you will likely get on the DAT (at least for me) so practicing with them will make your test day seem like a breeze. As well, their website allows you to take practice exams and it will tell you your estimated score (e.g., 18/30). This will definitely help you to figure out your weak points and strong points and will also allow you to get an idea of what you should be expecting to score on the actual DAT.
Tip #3: Don’t worry about memorizing chemical equations
I remember that I was petrified about memorizing every chemical equation for the DAT because you are not allowed a formula sheet in the exam—or a calculator! I was like… uh okay, how am I supposed to do anything?
But relax. The actual DAT is written in a way that you don’t really need to memorize a ton of formulas or even do a lot of math. The questions are much more concept based than calculation based. That being said, don’t disregard mathematical questions or learning any of the formulas, but they will not form a bulk (if any) of the questions on your exam. My best advice would be instead of memorizing the formulas, learn why formulas are the way they are and how the variables are related (i.e., rather than memorizing PV=nRT, learn how and why pressure affects temperature and volume). This will help you actually understand the content, rather than just memorizing random letters in sequence, and will be a lot more likely to help you on the exam.
Tip #4: Spend time finding out what will be on the test
Seems obvious, right? Well, not necessarily. When you look at the Canadian Dental Association website’s info on the DAT, it looks a little something like this:
That’s a lot of stuff…
However, in reality, the DAT breakdown is a little more like this:
That’s little more manageable! But what I’m really getting at is that you should spend your time focusing on the big sections (anatomy/physiology, genetics, and cell bio). I’m not saying you should ignore the other sections of course, but the majority of your questions will be from those sections. So, I wouldn’t recommend spending a bunch of time memorizing animal behaviour facts and all of the different phyla of the animal kingdom.
That being said, you may still get a question on those smaller, less-important topics, but it simply isn’t worth your time to memorize them for the off chance that you may get 1 or 2 questions at most, when you are guaranteed to get a bulk of your questions on other topics. This tip is especially important if you’re running short on time to study for the DAT!
Tip #5: Review the questions you get right
Now, this one you may have heard before, but seriously, I cannot stress this one enough. It is so common to do a set of practice questions and then mark your answers and go over the ones you got wrong.
Do not do this!
It is just as important to go over the ones you got right as it is to go over the ones you got wrong. A lot of times when you do practice questions, you will take a guess on an answer and get it right. Then, when you’re going over your answers, you check it off as correct and that’s that. By doing this, you take away your chance to learn from that question. And you may get a question like it in the future and be like, “Oh yeah, I remember I did something like this…. What did I put? Was it right?” and then you’re hooped.
So please go over your answers. All of them. And don’t just go over them. Take time. Like… as much time as it took you to do the questions in the first place. Trust me, you will learn so much more this way!
Okay. That’s it for my tips in this post! I’ll be sure to post more if it’s something that will help other people! I know the stress of studying for the DAT can be immense and I know the pressure riding on the outcome can be life changing.
But for now, just study hard and that’s the best anyone can do! 🙂
Check out Brittani’s website, “Destination Dentist“