Probably one of the most common questions we get is: “What do I need to score on the DAT in order to get into dental school?”. Let’s be honest, being a pre-health student is hard. The competition is fierce, and you have to put in a rather unfair amount of work without any guarantee that you will achieve your objective of becoming a dentist. It is thus frustrating when we call or email admission offices to ask whether or not we stand a chance, only to get the standard reply: “We look at applications holistically”. So, in an effort to minimize these frustrations we decided to write a post that clarifies things a bit.
1) They DO look holistically
I know this is frustrating, but this is in fact the truth. There is no official score “cutoff” for either your G.P.A. or the DAT when it comes to dental school. But don’t feel like this is a frustrating lack of information! Instead, celebrate the fact that the admissions committee is basically saying to you that you are able to be weak in one area and make up for it in another. Admissions committees consider your G.P.A., DAT scores, extra curricular activities, shadowing experience, personal statement, background and diversity, as well as your leadership ability. It would be foolish to forsake your dreams because of one poor score, as you have the ability to make up for the score in many other areas.
2) There are some good statistics on the DAT
Just because admissions committees look at candidates holistically does not mean that there aren’t statistics to guide you. As you probably already know, the DAT consists of four subtests (Overview of Science, Perceptual Ability, Reading Comprehension, and Quantitative Reasoning). The science portion consists of three sections (biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry) that are scored individually (however you also get a combined “Total Science” score as well). While the various portions of the test have varying numbers of questions, each section is scored between 1-30, and the Total Science, Reading Comprehension, and Quantitative Reasoning Scores are combined to give an “Academic Average” score. No one gets a 30AA. The test is written to make that impossible. The average test taker scores somewhere between 17 and 18. The average score for students that get accepted to dental school hovers around 19.5-20. Scores of 24 and up are fairly rare and improve your chances of acceptance considerably. The PAT is very unique to the DAT (as opposed to the science sections that you will also see tested on the MCAT for example), and thus it is popular opinion that the PAT is the second most important score after the academic average. This has not been proven, however, and has actually been denied by several admissions committees (yes, we asked!).
3) So what should you aim for?
While keeping in mind that the DAT is only one of the many factors that will be considered by the admissions committees we do recommend that a student aims to obtain at least a 20 on each section. This doesn’t mean that a person with a 19AA should forget about applying! Students with scores below 20AA are accepted all the time, especially when they have a solid G.P.A. or some life experience that makes them stand out from the other applicants. But by obtaining a 20 on each section you will have an arrow in your pocket that says that you are able to handle the rigors that come with being a dental student. That is why DAT Champion exists, and we trust that by providing you with expert study materials you will be able to obtain a DAT score that gets you to dental school.