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21 October, 2023

What to Expect on the Day of the DAT

You’ve spent months preparing for the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) and are finally ready to take it! In this article, we will discuss what to expect on the day of the DAT.
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📝 Checklist for Test Day

  1. Any form of ID with your signature (passport or driver’s license)
  2. A secondary identifier that also has your signature and full name (credit card, debit card, library card, etc.)
  3. A planned breakfast plus snacks for test day
  4. Earplugs (the wireless, soft, airplane earplugs). This is a must and it is a lifesaver. The headphones they provide are noise cancelling but if you have a big head like me, it felt like my brains were being squeezed out. I resorted to my earplugs. I could barely hear other noises and it was very comfortable.
  5. Have an idea of where your test center is and how long it will take to get there (taking into account of traffic). I also used Google Maps and utilized the in-person view to see the parking layout. *There is an optional “testing sample experience” that you can sign up for but it costs 30 dollars. Save that money and keep on reading 😊*
  6. Prepare a light/thin jacket to potentially wear in the testing center. They always keep their temperatures around 75 degrees Fahrenheit so keep that in mind when you are putting on your clothes in the morning.
  7. Bring a positive mindset. You have studied so hard for this test and stressing out on the day before and the day of will only make you feel worse. The most important thing is for you to try your best! If you want to read more on what to do the day before, click here.

📅 Test Day

It’s finally test day and you hopefully just got a solid 8+ hours of rest. At this point, you should be accustomed to your test time. Make sure you are up at a time where you can be ready to leave and arrive 30 minutes prior to your assigned test time. My DAT was at 11:30 a.m., so I woke up at around 9:00 a.m. to get ready. I ended up leaving around 10:30 a.m. to get there at 11:00 a.m.

When getting ready in the morning, I highly recommend going through the checklist one more time to make sure you have everything ready to go. Try to avoid any new foods or eat out of your regular routine just to ensure that you do not get an upset stomach during your exam 

Drive safely to the exam site, I know everyone is a little jittery and nervous but make sure you arrive safe and sound so you can even take the exam! If you can, having a relative or friend take you can be very useful. Use that extra time to just relax and calm your nerves and do some last-minute review.

The reason you want to arrive around 30 minutes before your exam is so you can find the testing center and get a feel for the layout of the testing center. My testing center was in a two-story building and it took me a couple of minutes to find the entrance. Use that extra time to locate the restrooms, break room and check-in/testing area. Before heading into check-in, use the restroom if you need to (the next time you can use the bathroom is in 2.5 hours).

📍 Check In

After entering the check-in area, they should guide you through every step but here is a brief rundown of what it will be like:

  1. They will first check your name and IDs for verification.
  2. If you have any snacks, they will offer you to put them in the fridge.
  3. You will be assigned a locker where you can place your personal belongings. Put everything in (make sure your phone is off) except your ID and earplugs (you can put your secondary ID in the locker). It has its own removable lock and key. Make sure to keep the key! Keep it with your ID and earplugs so you do not lose it. For size reference, the locker was a cube that fit both my Adidas crossbody and 22 oz. blender bottle.
  4. Next is a security check. They ask you to remove glasses, roll up sleeves, invert all pockets and they run you by a metal detector.
  5. Afterwards, they take your fingerprint and picture.
  6. They will then give you two laminated sheets with two fine-tip expo markers and explain the rules.
  7. You are sent into the test room and assigned to a desk.

🤔 What to Do/Expect on the Test

Now that you have finished your check-in and are at your desk, in front of you should be your computer and a tutorial screen. Once you begin the tutorial, you are allotted 15 minutes to do it. This is what I recommend you do with that time as well as what to expect on the DAT.

Prior to starting the DAT

  1. Put in your earplugs/headphones and make sure they are tight and snug.
  2. Start your tutorial. As you go through the tutorial, test out everything you can (including the calculator, periodic table, etc.) so you can get a feel for the actual test format. Please note, you can’t highlight the passage for the RC section in the tutorial but on the actual section, you can.
  3. For the Reading Comprehension section it will first show you the whole passage with no questions presented. After you read you can hit next and it will show the questions along with the passage at the bottom. If you highlighted on the passage-only page, your highlights will still be there as you go from question to question.

During the first half of the exam

  1. Take a breather and remind yourself to try your best. Always stick with your gut and mark anything that you have a remote question about.
  2. You will notice the computers are very slow and there is a 2-second delay between the questions. It is very frustrating but everyone goes through this. This is why marking questions you want to review is extremely important. It is nearly impossible to go back question by question. Instead, you want to go to the review section and jump directly to your marked question. I speak from experience; I was panicking because I couldn’t find a question that I forgot to mark. I found it and changed it with exactly 10 seconds left on the clock.
  3. There will be a review section that displays all your questions, either answered, unanswered, or marked and you can quickly jump back to a specific question, similar to the DATBooster practice tests. Do not worry, clicking the review button will not immediately submit your exam.

30-minute Break

  1. You get one 30-minute break between after your PAT section and before your Reading Comprehension section. When you finish the PAT section, it will automatically start a timer for 30 minutes. Once you see that, get up from your desk, head out of the testing room and let the supervisor know that you have started your 30-minute break. There should be a clock in the testing room before you leave to gauge when you need to return. Keep in mind the test will immediately move to the next section once your break is over.
  2. Use this break to your fullest! You just finished the hardest parts of the test and are free to do anything you would like. I ate some snacks, went on my phone (set a timer just as a precaution) and called my sisters to release some stress. I also went outside and did some jumping jacks to get my blood pumping. Do not chug water unless you want to hold your bladder in the middle of the Reading Comprehension/QR sections. Try to go to the bathroom one more time before your break ends. Remind yourself that you are almost done! Get those last two sections done.

Second-half of the DAT

  1. When reentering the testing check-in area, you must do another security check and fingerprint scan so make sure you give around 5 minutes for that. Also, make sure to ask for a brand-new set of laminated sheets and markers just to be safe.
  2. Tips for scratch paper: You are allowed to get new sheets at any time by simply raising your sheets in the air and waiting. In my personal experience, save as many sheets as you can. You get double-sided laminated paper and it is dry erase. I ended up using my jacket to just erase my sheet and that saved me the worry of having my time wasted waiting during the test (you can use your hand too). Just throw your jacket in the washer or go wash your hands afterward. Note: In June 2023, some exam centers stated you cannot erase the laminated paper and would have to document it.
  3. Once you are done with your exam, you will fill out a survey (15 questions) and your score will be displayed on the screen. You are done!
  4. Go up to the front and they will sign you out as well as print your scores on paper for you. Collect your belongings and relock the locker, leaving the key in the keyhole.


You are finally finished! No matter what score you got, you have worked so hard. Go relax and celebrate!

In case you are wondering whether you did well or if you should retake, I would recommend checking out some other useful articles on DATBooster, such as What Is a Good DAT Score? or How to Prep for a DAT Retake?

That said, I know when I took the DAT, I did not really know what to expect at all. I had to scour the forums for advice on what to do/expect on test day. With the help of my own experience, I hope that I was able to give a clear and complete idea of what to expect on the day of the DAT!