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21 October, 2023

How Long Should You Study for the DAT?

Studying for the DAT can take a long time to prepare for. In this article, we will discuss how long should you study for the DAT?
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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.

Although a career in dentistry promises a lifetime of exams for any who chooses this path, the DAT is arguably one of the most important and intimidating exams a future dentist will face. With so much at stake, dental school aspirants should ensure that they devote enough time to studying. This inevitably begs the question, how long should one study for the DAT?  Variables, such as familiarity with DAT topics and outside personal responsibilities, mean there’s no cookie-cutter answer to this question. However, in this article, we’ll outline some general rules of thumb that will help you decide how long you should study for the DAT.

Aim for a minimum of 250 Hours over the span of 2-3 months.

According to the ADEA website, most DAT resources generally recommend that students study between 200 and 250 hours, but we at DATBooster suggest that students stick to the latter end of the spectrum. Here’s how we recommend you breakdown this time:

1. Initial Content Review: 120 hours over the span of 1-1.5 months

A solid chunk of your studying should be devoted to this crucial step. Good content review establishes a solid foundation that you’ll build on throughout your studying. Scoring well on each subject of the survey of the natural sciences component of the DAT is critical, so students should aim to spend at least 30 hours of content review on these sections. Students should already be exposed to topics covered in the quantitative reasoning and reading comprehension sections, so not as much time may be needed for reviewing these topics. Here’s a summary of the hourly breakdown we recommend:

  • Biology: 30 hours
  • General Chemistry: 30 hours
  • Organic Chemistry: 30 hours
  • Quantitative Reasoning: 20 hours
  • Reading Comprehension: 10 hours

During this initial content review, students should aim to take good notes and create flashcards that they can refer to during their studying. Check out our articles on taking good notes and DAT study techniques for more info on how to make the most of your initial content review.

2. Introduction to Perceptual Ability: 30 hours

Unlike the other subjects covered on the DAT, PAT material is new to all first-time test takers. As a result, students should aim to spend at least 5 hours on each of the individual components of the PAT to familiarize themselves with the different sections of the DAT.

3. First-Round Practice Tests: 50 hours

With your DATBooster subscription, you gain access to 10 full-length practice tests. To make the most of these exams, we recommend that you mimic test-day time constraints and spend 5 hours on each. This step is crucial for getting accustomed to the exam’s timing and formatting and for discovering the areas of weakness you need to focus on during the second phase of your content review.

4. Second Content Review: 50+ hours

After taking each practice, spend a couple of hours going over questions you missed or were confused about. Thoroughly review your weaknesses by referring to your notes, watching videos, or making flashcards. This step is where the magic happens, so don’t blow it off! Check out our article on using Anki to review practice tests for some tips as you enter this phase of your study schedule.

🤔 Things To Consider When Creating Your Study Timeline

Our recommended 250-hour minimum is a general rule of thumb, but nobody’s DAT journey will be the same.  Here are some things you should have in mind when organizing your study schedule:

1. Familiarity With Material

Undergraduate prerequisite courses are critical for establishing a basic understanding of the material covered by the DAT.  Therefore, all pre-dentists should have a solid foundation that they can build on throughout their studying, yet this isn’t always the case. Whether you’re a non-traditional pre-dentist who is years out from graduation, an unlucky undergrad stuck with a bad professor, or a student who just can’t remember the material from Intro Biology, you may find yourself lacking basic familiarity with DAT material. If this is the case, devote extra time at the beginning of your study schedule to content review. This will likely increase your overall study time, but it will pay off come test day.

2. Outside Responsibilities

As much as you may wish to devote all your time to studying for the DAT, it’s likely that other responsibilities will require your time and attention during your study season. Between coursework, jobs, families and extracurriculars, many students may struggle to carve out time in their busy schedules for studying. When creating a study schedule, be realistic about how much time you can devote to studying and try to focus your study season during a time when your calendar has emptied out a bit.

3. Mental Health

Studying for the DAT is a long and stressful process. Combined with any personal or outside responsibilities, it’s easy to see why the DAT study season can be a very draining time of a pre-dentist's life. Step away from studying to decompress and relax by working out, hanging out with friends, or just chilling at home. At the end of the day, the amount of time you spend studying is only valuable if you’re actually learning, so try to emphasize quality over quantity. If you find yourself halfway through your study time, mentally exhausted and unable to comprehend any of the material, don’t be afraid to take a break or call it a day. You’ll be able to come back to your studying feeling refreshed and ready to learn!

Final Advice

Studying for the DAT is a marathon, not a sprint. Students should ensure that they allow themselves enough time to learn subject material, complete practice tests and review weaker areas. By ensuring at least 250 hours of quality study time, you’re setting the foundation for a successful test day. With this said, I discourage you from trying to fit 250 hours’ worth of studying into two weeks. Space out your study schedule over a couple of months and make sure to take rest days. Don’t be disheartened if you start studying and find yourself in need of more time. There’s a lot to cover before the DAT and everyone learns at their own pace. Lastly, if you’re intimidated by the idea of creating your own study schedule, follow along with our 8-week and 12-week study schedules for step-by-step guidance on how to work through your studying!

Check out these articles for more tips as you prepare to study for the DAT: