Thursday, March 28, 2013

How I Studied for the DAT

This is just what I did to prepare for the DAT. I had a not-pretty GPA (both science and overall), and figured the DAT was my one chance to prove to adcoms that I'm actually very smart! lol. Some encouragement - I had a low GPA but a pretty high DAT and received enough interview invites to choose a school that really fits me. In my experience, a high DAT can open doors that were previously closed. Moral of the story? If you study hard, this score can really make or break you. 

Also, I started out being HORRIBLE at OChem, pretty good at Gchem, and pretty decent at bio (I'm a bio major). That in mind, these resources served me very well. 

  • Kathleen and Annie. Seriously, study buddies make life sooo much better. All three of us will tell you that our summer studying for our MCAT/DAT/OAT was actually really fun.. It sounds so nerdy, but being with your friends, asking each other questions, and encouraging each other will really help you through studying that could otherwise be extremely dull/stressful. 
  • DAT Destroyer (I swear, worth its weight in GOLD. I literally learned ochem from the ground up using this book.)
  • Crack DAT PAT 
  • TopScore tests (8 tests, but you need windows for this I think)
  • Kaplan class - Kaplan online materials (5 tests, math review, online class support, Kaplan Blue Book)
  • Kaplan Blue Book
  • Princeton Review MCAT Biological Sciences Review Book
  • My college bio book
  • Freelanceteach on youtube (love this guy! so cute and nerdy)
  • Sample DAT from ADA website
  • **Resources I didn't use, but people liked: Chad's videos, Cliff Notes AP Biology, DAT Achiever, this link (seems to have lots of helpful stuff.. but it's kind of weird ahha)

  • Berkeley ends mid-May, so I started studying literally the day after school ended, all the way until August 22. So.. I had approximately 3 months, give or take a couple of days. 
  • First month, studied pretty lax - like 2-3 hours a day
  • Last two months, studied about 8-10 hours a day (this includes breaks!! like eating!) I guess a typical day for me would start around 8am, and work until 6 or 7pm, once I started getting more serious about studying. In between, I would schedule my meals, coffee breaks, etc. and maybe workout at night to relax/unwind. Sometimes, I would read some more before I slept, but for the most part, we would just find something fun to do :)
  • Completed the entire DAT destroyer (didn't buy Math Destroyer) 3 times through.
    • Strategy: Take the questions timed. For example, if the OChem section on the DAT always has 40 questions, do 40 questions in one set, timed. Then, go back and check your answers. Mark what's wrong, and start reviewing the material for each TYPE of question. Ex. you got a question on photosynthesis wrong - memorize photosynthesis. You forgot about the endocrine system and what produces what - memorize hormones. 
  • About a month into studying, take a practice test every weekend at the SAME TIME you are scheduling your test. I scheduled my test for 8:00AM, so on my practice days, I woke up at 6:00AM to simulate when I would eat, drink coffee, how I would feel, etc. This helps make the test day feel as comfortable and normal as possible. I took about 10 practice tests before I took the real DAT.
  • Practiced using 2 laminated sheets and a whiteboard pen + eraser since that's the only writing tools you get. 
  • I took the Kaplan class (which was honestly not worth the money) but it gave me confidence that I knew what testing conditions would be like (all the material is available online and tests are taken on the computer. Looks VERY SIMILAR to the actual test)
  • Kaplan's online resources are great - their math section includes a lot of probability, which my real test was heavily focused on. Tests are about the difficulty level of the actual exam. 
  • Used my Blue Book to memorize facts (but I'm not a very good memorizer, so I used the Princeton Bio Review book to understand the background)
  • Crack DAT - anytime I got bored. 
  • Note about the PAT section: Honestly, I thought I was really prepped for PAT because I would consistently score 25+. HOWEVER, my test was wayyyy harder... I think a lot of people have had similar stories, because I swear.. some of the questions had NO right answer, and there were all these hole punch questions with triple folds, which got me really confused.. But either way, keep trudging on, and don't get discouraged. 
These are extremely important. 
I took them every 2-3 hours, and in the beginning, I could really only focus for 1.5 hours at a time, so you will build up tolerance quickly. There are two types that you can take - productive breaks, and non-productive breaks. I will call them non-productive because its not that they're unproductive (because you really do need them, but the NO PRODUCING aspect is key, aka, it can be productive to be non-productive. There, I made something up, deal with it). Everyone's threshold is different, but as I studied, there would be times when both types of breaks were necessary.
  • Productive Breaks
    • When they're good: When you're getting bored of a single subject, and feel like your brain won't retain much more information
    • Types of productive breaks: 
      • Do a PAT section. These are kind of like games so they're fun!
      • Read up on a dental school that's your dream to attend - find out what aspects make their program unique, and get fired up to study more :p (so nerdy, I know, but it works!)
      • Start drafting your personal statement
    • Non-productive Breaks
      • Coffee with friends
      • Snack or just wait until your next meal as a big break
      • Meditation
      • 5-15 min. power naps (Don't sleep for like 4 hours and call it a nap. That's just sleeping.)
      • Watch a TV show (want recommendations? I like... SHERLOCK, Doctor Who, The Walking Dead, Mindy Project, New Girl, random food shows like Cupcake Wars, Dexter, Breaking Bad, Parks and Rec)
  • Drive/public transport to your testing center so you're sure you know how to get there, and what the parking situation looks like, and what traffic is like. Parking at my testing center was really shitty (you had to pay every 2 hours, which I obviously couldn't do when I'm taking a test) so I had my VERY AWESOME amazing friend drive me to my test at 5:00am. lol. I'm weird and like to sit at coffee shops before anything important happens for like, an hour, and just relax (ex. interviews, DAT day)
  • Do that free DAT that's available on the ADA website. This will be very similar to your actual score, and it's a good confidence booster!
  • Bring tissue into the test room (who knows if you'll need it!)
  • Dress in layers
  • Bring snacks that have a low glycemic index
  • Drink coffee if you usually do, don't if you usually don't. 
  • Be confident and sure of yourself! Don't second-guess yourself unless you really know you were wrong. 
Good luck!


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  2. Hi, I have been reading your blog and it is amazing!. I was wondering when did you take the DAT. During your Junior year? When is the best time to take it?

    1. Thank you!! I'm glad you've found it helpful :)

      I took a gap year, so I took my DAT during the summer after my junior year. You could still take it summer of your junior year and apply during that same cycle (not take a gap year), but then your application would most likely not be complete by the time you expected to submit it. If you have any other questions, shoot me an email!