EduReviewerBlogWhen to Take the DAT?
Test Prep

When to Take the DAT?

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The decision of when to take DAT is a pivotal step for aspiring dental students. What is the DAT? This exam, a gateway to dental schools, demands strategic timing for optimal results.

So, when is the ideal time? The short answer: it varies based on your academic and personal schedule, but generally, it’s best when you’re fully prepared. Understanding the DAT’s length and structure is crucial.

Our comprehensive guide on how long the DAT is offers valuable insights into the exam’s timeframe. Here, you will find an in-depth exploration of the best time for taking the DAT, considering various factors such as academic readiness, application deadlines, and personal commitments. Ensure you make an informed decision about your dental school journey. Read on to discover the key considerations and expert tips for choosing your ideal DAT date.

Key Factors: Deciding When to Take the DAT

Choosing the optimal moment for your DAT registration is a decision that requires careful thought. This significant exam should not be approached lightly. A critical aspect of your planning is remembering that the DAT can be attempted only thrice without needing special approval for additional sittings.

Moreover, there is a compulsory waiting period of 60 days between each attempt. This necessitates a thoughtful approach before you decide to register. A widely recommended time to sign up for the DAT is after completing essential science courses such as organic chemistry, biology, and general chemistry. To achieve a high score on the DAT, strong foundational knowledge in these scientific areas is indispensable, given the exam’s intensive focus on scientific content.

Here are some actionable tips and tricks:

  1. Register when your prerequisites in organic chemistry, biology, and general chemistry are completed.
  2. Aim to take it about a year before you plan to start dental school.
  3. Consider registering at the end of the spring semester of your junior year of college when your science knowledge is fresh.
  4. Be aware of your dental school application deadlines and ensure your date aligns with them.
  5. Address stress and anxiety. Recognize that feeling stressed while preparing for the DAT, especially when juggling multiple commitments, is normal. Implement stress management techniques such as setting realistic study goals, taking regular breaks, and engaging in activities that help you relax. Remember, maintaining mental health is as important as your academic preparation.


These guidelines will help you to be well-prepared to choose the optimal time to take the DAT, setting yourself up for success in your dental school journey. Don’t forget to check out our article on DAT scoring for further insights into what scores to aim for.

The Optimal Start: Earliest Time to Attempt the DAT

When do you take the DAT? The earliest opportune moment to take it is at the end of your sophomore year or the subsequent summer break. If you’re highly motivated, this timeframe offers distinct advantages. By this point in your predental education, you will have completed many of the essential classes that cover material, providing a solid foundation. However, keep in mind that some self-study might still be necessary, especially for more advanced topics.

When you take it this early allows ample room for a retake, should it be required. Furthermore, it grants you the freedom to concentrate on essays and extracurricular activities during your last two years of undergrad without the added pressure of squeezing preparation into your schedule.

Also read: dental school advisors

It’s worth noting that dental school admissions are holistic. Admissions committees seek applicants with a well-rounded profile, including volunteering and shadowing experience, in addition to strong DAT scores. Planning your DAT timeline with these factors in mind can significantly reduce stress and help maintain high academic performance. To further enhance your readiness, consider exploring our articles on free DAT practice tests, which can be a valuable resource on your journey to dental school admission.

Deadline Approaching: The Latest You Should Take the DAT

When should you take the DAT, and when is the latest you should consider? The latest advisable test date is during the spring semester of the year you intend to apply to dental school. For instance, if you plan to apply for the 2023-2024 cycle, taking it in January or February would still allow you to submit your application by the earliest open date of May 30th.

It’s important to note that your DAT scores typically take about 3-4 weeks to be returned. This turnaround time should be factored in when considering a later test date. While it’s possible to submit your application and send in your scores at a later date, we don’t recommend this approach. Admissions committees generally do not actively review incomplete applications, and applying early in the cycle, when the largest number of seats are available, is often the best strategy.

At this stage, taking the DAT in your education ensures that you have likely fulfilled most of the predental requirements and encountered a significant portion of the exam’s material. However, it’s essential to be aware that this option leaves limited time for a retake if you are unsatisfied with your score. To further enhance your preparedness, you may want to explore our articles on DAT prep books, which can provide valuable resources for your dental school journey.


Mapping Your DAT Journey: A Structured Timeline

Crafting a timeline for your DAT test date is a crucial step in your journey towards dental school. The process involves strategic planning and an understanding of how much time you’ll need to effectively prepare for the exam. While the flexibility of the DAT being offered year-round is advantageous, it’s important to consider the 90-day waiting period between attempts and the maximum of three takes allowed.

Here’s a typical timeline that we often recommend:

  1. Summer Before Application Year (June–August)

– Begin studying for it.

– Utilize resources like the best DAT practice tests for thorough preparation.

  1. Fall Before Application Year (September)

– Schedule and take the DAT.

– This timing allows for score integration into your dental school application.

  1. Winter of Application Year (January–April)

– Retake the DAT if necessary.

– Respect the 90-day interval between tests.

– Use this time for additional study and improvement based on your first test experience.

Typically, we advise starting your preparation in the summer before your application year, around June to August. This period allows for focused study without the distraction of heavy academic coursework. Once you’ve dedicated these summer months to preparation, aim to sit for the DAT in the fall, preferably in September. This timing gives you a clear window to receive your scores and incorporate them into your application.

If, however, your score doesn’t meet your expectations, its year-round availability provides an opportunity for a retake. In such a case, the winter of your application year, from January to April, becomes a critical period. This window not only respects the 90-day interval requirement but also allows for additional preparation, possibly leveraging different study resources or strategies.

Incorporating a potential second test date into your timeline is a wise move, even if you’re confident about acing the DAT on your first try. This contingency planning ensures you’re not pressed for time if a retake becomes necessary. Remember, balancing your preparation with other responsibilities is key. The timeline should be realistic and flexible, tailored to your unique circumstances and study habits. With a well-thought-out timeline, you’ll be well-positioned to confidently approach the DAT and achieve the scores necessary for a successful dental school application.

Red Flags: When to Postpone Your DAT Test Date



To decide when to take the DAT is as crucial as the preparation itself, given its significant role in your dental school application. There are specific scenarios where postponing the DAT might be more beneficial for your future prospects. Remember, the goal is to be thoroughly prepared, utilizing all available DAT study tools to ensure your best possible performance.

Firstly, if your practice test results, such as those from ADA practice exams, indicate a consistent pattern of missing more questions than you should, it might be a sign to delay your test date. While these practice exams don’t provide a final score, they do offer valuable insight into which areas you are strong in and which ones require more work. This feedback is crucial in determining whether you’re truly test-ready or if you need more time to solidify your understanding of the material.

Another key consideration is the completion of your prerequisites. The DAT covers a wide range of subjects, and it’s generally advised to have completed at least 80% of the prerequisite courses that cover these topics. These courses lay the foundational knowledge essential for the DAT, and taking the test without this background might put you at a significant disadvantage.

Lastly, consider your current commitments. If you’re overwhelmed with other obligations, like classes or extracurricular activities, that significantly limit your study time for the DAT, it might be wise to postpone. The preparation for this test requires dedicated and focused study time, and being overcommitted can hinder your ability to prepare effectively.

Finally, timing your DAT right is about balancing preparation, coursework, and other commitments. Using DAT study tools effectively and gauging your readiness through practice tests can help you make an informed decision about the best time to take the test. The aim is to sit for the DAT when you are at your peak preparedness, ensuring your efforts translate into a score that enhances your chances of admission into dental school.


When should I start studying for the DAT?

Begin studying for the DAT at least 6 to 8 months before your test date. This timeframe allows for comprehensive coverage of all topics and ample practice. Adjust based on personal study habits and academic background.

Can I study for the DAT in 3 months?

Yes, it’s possible to study for the DAT in 3 months, especially if you can dedicate significant daily study time and already have a strong foundation in the test subjects. However, a longer preparation period is generally recommended for thoroughness.


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