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What Is Covered on the DAT Exam?

by Susan Sherwood

College and university students who are interested in applying to schools of dentistry must take the Dental Admission Test. After making an appointment at a testing center, you complete the exam on a computer. The test has four sections with a total of 280 multiple-choice questions. Some of the topics are academic, while others measure perceptual abilities.

Natural Sciences

In the first section, 100 questions cover three areas of science. Biology questions concern cell theory, taxonomy, systems of living things, genetics, evolution and ecology. The basics of chemistry are assessed, including molecular formulas and equations, gas theories and laws, solutions, acids and bases, thermodynamics, atomic structure, periodic table of elements, nuclear energy and laboratory practices. Test takers are also challenged by organic chemistry. Topics may include the chemical and physical properties of elements, acid-base chemistry, formation of compounds and nomenclature.

Perception

Ninety questions measure six aspects of perceptual ability. Aperture questions assess one's ability to determine what hole a shape fits into, much like a key and keyhole. Proficiency in angle discrimination is determined by having test-takers list a series of angles from smallest to largest. View perception questions display two sides of a three-dimensional figure and ask you to select the third side. The other skills tested are predicting what shapes can be created by unfolding paper, determining the number of painted cubes in a picture and matching two-dimensional pictures with their three-dimensional counterparts.

Reading Comprehension

Fifty questions spread over three passages measure how well you understand what you have read. Though the topics are all scientific, background knowledge in the subject is not required. Instead, you are assessed on how well you understand and analyze new text. This section is presented with a split screen: the questions are at the top, while the passage is on the bottom. You are free to scroll back and forth throughout the passage.

Quantitative Reasoning

Forty questions assess knowledge of algebra, geometry, trigonometry, statistics and probability. Basic computations skills are tested, including calculating fractions and decimals, determining percentages, making approximations and using scientific notation. You may also be called upon to convert measurements of temperature, time, weight and distance into different scales. You have access to a computerized calculator; it appears on the screen during this part of the exam.

About the Author

Living in upstate New York, Susan Sherwood is a researcher who has been writing within educational settings for more than 10 years. She has co-authored papers for Horizons Research, Inc. and the Capital Region Science Education Partnership. Sherwood has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from the University at Albany.

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