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The Dental Admission Test (DAT) is a multiple-choice standardized exam taken by potential dental school students in the United Statesmarker and Canadamarker (although there is a separate Canadian version with differing sections, both American and Canadian versions are usually interchangeably accepted in both countries' dental schools. This article will specifically describe the American DAT). The DAT is a computer based test that can be administered almost any day of the year. Tests are taken at Prometric testing centers throughout the United States after the preliminary application through the American Dental Association is completed. Each applicant may only take the test a total of three times before having to ask special permission to take the exam again. After taking the exam you must wait 90 days before repeating it. Each exam costs $205.

Test Sections

The DAT comprises four sections: survey of the natural sciences (90 minutes), perceptual ability (often called the PAT, 60 minutes), reading comprehension (60 minutes), and quantitative reasoning (45 minutes). The mathematics of the quantitative exam is similar to that of the SAT. The first section is divided into questions about biology (40 questions), general chemistry (30 questions), and organic chemistry (30 questions). The second section is divided into six different problem sets designed to test perceptual ability, specifically in the areas of three dimensional manipulation and spatial reasoning. The third section of the DAT is divided into three academic essays, each of which is followed by questions about the passage's content. The final section tests basic mathematics skills, with emphasis placed on algebra, critical thinking, fractions, roots, and trigonometric identities.

Scores

Immediately after completion of the test, eight standard scores on a scale of 1-30 are calculated and passed on to the test taker. The first six scores come directly from the test: perceptual ability, reading comprehension, quantitative reasoning, biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry. The remaining two scores reported are summaries of the previous six: the Academic Average is the average of five scores rounded to the nearest whole number: quantitative reasoning, reading comprehension, biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry. The Total Science score is a standard score based on all 100 questions in the biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry tests. Dental schools frequently summarize their applicant's scores by listing the academic, science, and perceptual ability (PAT) scores they typically see in their matriculating classes. Schools tend to emphasize the importance of high perceptual ability and biology scores, though the competitive applicant earns high marks across all sections of the test.

The mean (average) score for any scored section is set at 17. Scores above and below this represent fractions of standard deviations from the mean. This probabilistic scoring system results in the maximum not occurring for the compiled section scores (natural sciences and academic average) in a given year. For example, in 2003 a 25 academic average was labeled as 100.0th percentile, such that less than 8 people received this score, and none higher (approximately 8,000 people take the DAT per year).

The mean academic average score for admissions is commonly 18. A score of 20-22 will likely lead to admission although it is getting progressively more difficult to gain admissions. There are varying perspectives on the relative importance of sections, wherein the PAT or reading comprehension can be viewed as the most important or conversely, ignored. The PAT in particular is most often viewed as a threshold score, and therefore is the only score not included in the academic average; the threshold varies between 16 and 18.

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