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21 October, 2023

Best Way to Take Notes for the DAT

Many students decide to take their own notes while studying for the DAT. In this article, we outline the best way to take notes for the DAT to help you learn faster and score higher.
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DATBooster is the #1 study tool for the DAT and contains everything you need to prepare for the DAT. See why DATBooster is used by most pre-dental students.

With so much material to cover before test day, many pre-dental students can feel lost on how to best approach studying for the DAT. Although there are many techniques that students can successfully use, I found that taking notes by creating your own Anki cards is the best technique to facilitate short-term and long-term learning. Anki is a powerful flashcard software that utilizes spaced repetition to ensure that your weaker areas are reviewed more frequently than topics you are more familiar with. Using Anki to take notes helped me score a 24AA, 24TS and 30 in the biology section of my DAT! In this article, I will share the reasons I decided to take notes using Anki, my reasoning for making my own cards instead of using premade decks and the approach I took to making my Anki flashcards to show why this is the best way to take notes for the DAT.

Handwritten Notes vs Anki Flashcards

When most people think about taking notes, they instinctively think about putting pen to paper and writing handwritten notes. Although making flashcards may seem to be an unconventional form of taking notes, there are several reasons you should consider using Anki for your notetaking instead of handwriting your notes:

  • Anki Cards Are Quick to Make
    Time is an invaluable resource during your study journey and the last thing you want is to waste time making time-consuming handwritten notes. Although there is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to initially using Anki, these flashcards are faster to make than handwritten notes.

    Built-In Review Process
    We’re all guilty of taking handwritten notes that we never touch after we make them. However, when you take notes using Anki flashcards, you’re creating interactive notes that will also be useful tools during your review process, ensuring that the effort you put into making these notes did not go to waste. 
  • Anki Is Easily Accessible Anywhere
    With Anki, there’s no need to worry about losing or forgetting your notes like you may with handwritten notes. Anki’s digital platform ensures that your cards are always secure and accessible. Anki is free to download on Mac and Windows products. Additionally, you can access your flashcards on the go from your Android or iPhone- although there is a $30 fee to download the Anki app on iPhones.

Making Your Own Anki Cards vs. Using Pre-made Decks

A simple Google search will lead you to various ready-for-review Anki decks used by past students. DATBooster even provides several Anki decks- which can be found in the “flashcards” tab of each subject page- that can be utilized in your studying. Although these prepared decks are useful for filling in any gaps in your knowledge, I believe that there are several benefits to creating your own flashcard notes rather than using pre-made decks:

  • Learn as You Go
  • Most people find flashcards most useful during the review part of their study journey, yet they neglect the learning potential that comes from making your own flashcards for a new topic. By taking the time to write your cards, you reinforce what you’re learning, ensuring that you remember the material better in the future.
  • Personalize Your Learning
  • When taking notes, you want to ensure that you’re phrasing complex topics in ways that are easy for you to understand. Translating material into your own words will not only help you to learn information better while you’re taking notes, but it will also make it easier for you to recall this information later in your studying. Take this a step further by adding extra features to your cards that can aid with your learning. For example, visual learners should aim to add images or diagrams to their flashcards. Other students may find it beneficial to add examples or deeper explanations to their Anki cards. Check out our article titled “Additional Anki Features” for explanations on how you can personalize your Anki flashcards.

Three Step Process

  1. 1. Subject Review + Card Creation
    This first step is a bit time-consuming since it requires you to do two things at once, but it’s crucial to set up a strong foundation for the rest of your studying. Basically, as you are reading through study guides or watching content videos, you should simultaneously create flashcards that cover any important or unfamiliar information. Here’s some advice for what this can look like for each subject:

    1. 🧬 Biology – As you are reviewing this material, focus on making cards for any bolded vocabulary words and multistep biological processes. For this section, it is especially helpful to add images and diagrams to help you better understand the material.

      🧪 General Chemistry – The general chemistry section of the DAT requires memorization of a lot of equations and trends. Our general chemistry formula sheet includes all of the important equations you should use to make flashcards. Don’t forget to also make flashcards for conceptual material such as solubility rules and periodic trends as you are watching Professor Dave’s video explanations.

      ⚗️ Organic Chemistry – The organic chemistry section of the DAT will test you extensively on your understanding of different reactions. For this section, try making flashcards with the reactions’ reactants, products, reagents, and extra information such as intermediates or rearrangements.

      📐 Quantitative Reasoning – For the quantitative reasoning portion of the DAT, you will want to make flashcards for the different formulas that appear on the DAT. Check out our geometry and algebra cheat sheets for comprehensive lists of the formulas you should memorize before test day.
  1. 2. Review
    One of the greatest features of using Anki flashcards to take your notes is the software’s review potential. Unlike handwritten notes, which require a more passive review process through the reading of their contents, flashcards challenge studiers to actively recall information. The combination of Anki’s active recall potential, dynamic card formats and spaced repetition software ensures that students not only create notes that cater to their needs but they also utilize their notes throughout their study journey.

  2. 3. Fill in the Blanks
    It’s inevitable that you will find gaps in your knowledge as you delve deeper into your study journey. Because Anki flashcards are digital, you can add to your notes at any point while keeping them organized and updated.

Final Points

Studying for the DAT is not a one-size-fits-all experience. Although students have found success using this technique, we encourage students to try different approaches and adapt them to their own learning styles. Nevertheless, the capacity for Anki to serve as both a notetaking and review tool makes it a must for dental school aspirants. For more information on how to make the most out of your Anki deck, check out the following articles: