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How Long is DAT and What to Expect: The Timeline

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Setting out on the path to dental school? The Dental Admission Test (DAT) is a crucial milestone on this path, but how long is the DAT? This essential question weighs heavily on the thoughts of people who want to become dentists.

We go into great depth in this article about the DAT timeline, giving you a clear picture of what to expect. We give you all the information you need to plan and study for this critical test, from how long it is to how it is broken up into parts. Follow along as we explain the DAT’s many parts and set you up for success.

Duration of the DAT

The DAT, in its entirety, spans approximately 4 hours and 15 minutes. This time frame of how long is the DAT exam includes four key sections:

  1. Survey of Natural Sciences (90 minutes): This segment tests your biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry knowledge.
  2. Perceptual Ability Test (60 minutes): Focused on assessing your spatial reasoning and problem-solving skills.
  3. Reading Comprehension Test (60 minutes): Involves understanding and analyzing scientific texts.
  4. Quantitative Reasoning Test (45 minutes): Measures your mathematical skills and reasoning abilities.

Beyond these sections, there are optional segments, including a 15-minute tutorial, a 30-minute break, and a 15-minute post-test survey, pushing the total experience to approximately 5 hours and 15 minutes.

Length of All DAT Sections

dat exam sections time

To prepare well for the DAT, you need to know how long each part lasts. The time limit for each part of the DAT is shown below. This will help you figure out how long is the DAT test and plan your strategy for getting ready. Furthermore, for more detailed insights on DAT scoring, don’t forget to check out our dedicated article on the topic.

Quantitative Reasoning Test

The Quantitative Reasoning Test on the DAT is an essential component that checks how well you can solve number problems, which is very important if you want to become a dentist. This part lasts 45 minutes and has 40 questions, so you need to answer them quickly — about 67 seconds per question.

Algebra, basic calculations, word problems, and a bit of geometry, trigonometry, statistics, and probability are some of the things that are taught. This part tests not only how good you are at math, but also how well you can use your time when you’re under a lot of stress. It’s significant to come up with good test-taking methods for this part, especially since it comes at the end of the test, when you might be tired.

Focused practice is needed to get ready for this area, especially when it comes to quickly solving different kinds of math problems. Don’t forget that being able to think quickly and correctly about numbers is an important skill for people who work in dentistry.

Reading Comprehension Test

The DAT’s Reading Comprehension Test, which lasts an hour, checks how well you can read, understand, and interpret science texts. There are three reading passages and 50 questions in this part. You have a little more than a minute to answer each question.

The passages talk about a lot of different scientific topics, so it’s hard to say what they will be about. So, as you study, you should focus on getting better at quickly understanding important ideas and details from long scientific books. It is very important to be able to skim well, make plans, and use your time well. The fact that this section is near the end of the DAT means that it tests not only your thinking skills but also your endurance and ability to focus.

For people who don’t speak English as their first language, extra practice may be needed to make sure they can understand science English.

Perceptual Ability Test

The Perceptual Ability Test is a separate part of the DAT. It lasts for an hour and has 90 questions. Different types of subtests, like angle discrimination, paper folding, and 3D form development, are used to test your spatial reasoning and visual awareness skills.

This part isn’t so much about academic information as it is about natural perception skills, which are critical in dentistry for things like reading X-rays and making models of dental structures. These questions are like puzzles and require you to pay close attention and think quickly. A lot of practice with spatial reasoning exercises from DAT prep books is needed for this part because they help you see and move things in your mind. One of our post talks about these books, so we suggest that you read it.

Survey of Natural Sciences Test

The Survey of Natural Sciences Test, which lasts 90 minutes, is the longest part of the DAT. There are 100 questions that test your understanding in biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry.

For this part, you need to have a deep understanding of basic science concepts and be able to use these concepts to solve problems. There are an equal number of questions from each of the three sciences: chemistry, organic chemistry, and biology. Each has 30 questions, and biology has 40.

This part isn’t just a memory test; it’s also a test of how well you can combine ideas from different areas of science. For this test, you should carefully go over the basic ideas in all of these areas and do a lot of practice problems with different types of answers to improve your speed and accuracy.

How Long to Study for DAT

How long does the DAT last? That could be one of the first things you want to learn as you prepare. But you might also think about how long you should study to get the answer.

Recommended Study Duration

Most experts say that you should set aside at least 250 hours spread out over 2 to 3 months. This time frame gives you enough time to carefully go over everything that was on the DAT. Here’s how to divide up your work time:

  • Initial Content Review: Focus on the main subjects like biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry for about 120 hours.
  • Perceptual Ability Introduction: Allocate approximately 30 hours to get familiar with this unique section.
  • Full-Length Practice Tests: Spend about 50 hours on practice tests to simulate the actual test conditions.
  • Secondary Content Review: Dedicate 50+ hours to review areas you found challenging in the practice tests.

Key Considerations in Your Study Plan

  1. Know Where You Stand: Think about how much you know about each topic right now and change your study plan to fit.
  2. Keep Other Responsibilities in Check: When making a study plan, you should think about your daily routine and responsibilities.
  3. Maintain Mental Health: Take breaks often to keep your mental health in good shape and avoid stress.

Utilizing Resources

Make the most of available resources. For instance, free DAT practice test materials can be found on various educational websites. We wrote an entire article about this topic. These practice tests are essential for getting a real feel of the exam’s structure and timing.

Breaks During DAT

Not only is it important to know how the DAT is set up, but it’s also important to know how breaks work. Breaks on the DAT are critical for keeping your energy and attention up while taking this tough test.

The DAT has a 30-minute break, and that is the only real break during the test. This break isn’t required, but it’s strongly suggested. Before starting the rest of the test, it gives you a much-needed break to breathe, eat, drink, and clear your mind.

The break needs to be a part of your test. Please make good use of this time to recharge and keep performing at your best. To do well on the DAT, remember that managing your time well is essential.

Think about other things while focusing on breaks:

  • How Long Are DAT Scores Valid: If you want to get into dental school, you need to know how long your DAT scores are valid.
  • When to Take the DAT? Critical is picking the right time to take the DAT. Thoughtfully consider how ready you are, the deadlines for your applications, and your own plan. This subject was covered in our another post.
  • How Hard is the DAT? A lot of people worry about how hard the DAT is. If you want to learn more about this, we have pieces that go into detail about how hard and complicated the DAT is.


How long are the DAT sections?

The DAT is split into four parts. The Perceptual Ability Test is 60 minutes, the Reading Comprehension Test is also 60 minutes, and the Quantitative Reasoning Test is 45 minutes. The Survey of Natural Sciences Test lasts 90 minutes. Look into the best DAT prep courses to get the most out of your preparation. We have an article about these classes that can help you pick the right one.

How many questions are in the DAT exam?

There are a total of 280 questions on the DAT. The Perceptual Ability Test has 90 questions, the Reading Comprehension section has 50 questions, and the Quantitative Reasoning section has 40 questions. The Survey of Natural Sciences has 100 questions and covers biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry.

Can I study for the DAT in 3 months?

Yes, you can study for the DAT in 3 months if you put in enough time and effort. Key is a well-organized study plan that usually takes 200 to 250 hours of work. Check out the best DAT tutoring service for personalized help and useful tactics. We have pieces that compare and review different tutoring services in great detail.


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