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21 October, 2023

Preparing for the DAT as an International Student

Preparing for the DAT as an international student can be difficult. To help out, weโ€™ve created this article which contains a complete DAT guide for international students.
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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.

๐Ÿ“ DAT Structure

The Dental Admissions Test (DAT) is an exam every individual applying to dental schools in the United States and Canada must take. After reading through the DAT guide, one can apply to obtain a DENTPIN and administer the test. The guide provides all the DAT information, which is updated every year. Be sure to read it thoroughly before signing up for the test. Every applicant only receives three attempts to take the DAT, each taken 90 days apart. If necessary, additional attempts can be granted after seeking permission from the ADA. Additionally, students are recommended to complete general biology courses, general chemistry courses, organic chemistry and basic mathematics in their undergraduate years to gain knowledge of some content tested on the DAT.

Outlined below is a summary of the structure of the DAT. Check out our other article for full descriptions of the structure here. The entire test lasts 5 hours and 15 minutes. For all the subjects, the US customary system and the metric system are used!

  1. Natural Sciences: 40 questions for topics in Biology, 30 questions for topics in Chemistry and 30 questions for topics in Organic Chemistry.
  2. Perceptual Ability (PAT): 90 questions testing three-dimensional manipulation of shapes and spatial reasoning.
  3. Reading Comprehension: 50 questions based on several passages (5-8) with varying lengths.
  4. Quantitative Reasoning: 40 questions on mathematical topics such as algebra, data analysis, probability, statistics, etc. A digital calculator is provided on the test screen; you are not allowed to take a personal calculator.

โœ… Eligibility

To be eligible to take the DAT, you need :

  • Active passport for proof of identification: When registering, make sure all the information you submit on the form matches your passport. During test day, you will need to bring your passport to cross-check your identity before you are allowed in the testing room.
  • Dental Personal Identification Number (DENTPIN): Once you obtain a DENTPIN and sign up to take the test, you will receive an eligibility letter from the ADA.

Other than these requirements, it is advised to complete at least two years of college to be well-prepared for subjects that are tested on the DAT. During those two years, pick classes such as Biology, Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Statistics, Geometry and English. Once you have everything mentioned above and need more help navigating through the process of registration, follow the steps described in our other article found here.

Please note proof of English proficiency (TOEFL) is required to apply to dental school. The TOEFL exam has four sections: reading, listening, speaking and writing, to test academic English skills. Each section is scored out of 30 points, with the total score reflected out of 120. There is no pass or fail result! Whichever institution or exam you wish to apply to determines admission/eligibility based on how high you can achieve. The average score is 90. However, it is best to score within the range of 100-120 to be deemed competitive. This exam is accepted by most institutions worldwide. More information about the exam and how to register for it can be found here.

๐Ÿ“Š Competitive Statistics

Once the test is completed, the final score report is available for 3-4 weeks once the ADA verifies the scores. An important thing to note is there is no penalty for answering any questions incorrectly. The scores are based on the number of correct responses so if you run out of time, start guessing!! As an international applicant, competitive test results (scoring within the 20-24 range) can prove your ability of English proficiency, test-taking skills and knowledge of basic subjects taught in the US. There are tons of study guides, videos, visual content and articles on DATBooster to ensure your worries turn into confidence for scoring high! To have a full perspective of the scoreโ€™s breakdown, visit our other article by clicking here and for more information on statistics, be sure to check out our study guide and look for DAT statistics.

๐Ÿ’ช Challenges

Below are some challenges that international students might face. Again, everyone has their own unique studying techniques so you may not have any difficulties with the test! To explore more study tips to score exceptionally, read through our article found here.

  1. ๐Ÿ’ฌ Since the subjects are based on the English academic curriculum, extra practice with the content of each section might be necessary. There is no need to stress as each section on DATBooster has plenty of resources!! Specifically, subjects like Perceptual Ability and Reading Comprehension can be complex. However, repetition of practicing questions can help perfect strategies. For PAT, keep using the generators for daily practice and test yourself using the practice tests. For RC, I recommended reading several articles daily to increase your reading speed. Also, practice learning strategies such as skimming through the passage to find essential details such as names, dates, figures, events, etc.
  2. โฑ You might have difficulty understanding the questions for each section to answer them fully. Getting through the whole section is vital while the clock keeps ticking! To avoid this issue, take a timed practice test to see how far you get to answering questions entirely instead of having to guess. Then, figure out strategies such as answering questions you feel most confident in, then proceeding to more challenging questions. Another approach is looking over the whole section, flagging questions that seem hard and answering them at the end with educated guesses.
  3. ๐Ÿ–ฅ Use the pre-testing tutorial provided at the beginning to feel comfortable navigating through the test. This tutorial lasts 15 minutes, which is plenty of time to figure out all the control buttons you might use during the test. These are just some of the challenges; every individual is a unique test taker, so you might not have any of these issues! Just try to give your best performance and believe in all your efforts to study for this exam.


In conclusion, DAT is a standardized test that all dental schools in the US and Canada require for admission. It tests applicants on basic biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, perceptual ability, reading comprehension and quantitative reasoning. As an international applicant, there are several additional steps: provide proof of English proficiency (TOEFL exam), have valid identification (mainly a passport) and most importantly, study extra hard to be more competitive. You may face challenges in the process but be sure to check out all the resources DATBooster can help you with to relieve some of your stress!!

Once youโ€™ve registered for the DAT, be sure to check out all of the resources DATBooster has to offer. Fortunately, DATBooster provides everything you need to prepare for the DAT in one place. We recommend exploring the DATBooster site and testing the free content to see if the product is right for you. Once you choose your resources, hit the books hard and donโ€™t look back! In case you arenโ€™t quite sure how to begin preparing, be sure to check out our article on how to prepare for the DAT. Good luck studying!