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How is the DAT Scored?

How is the DAT Scored?

Learn how the Dental Admissions Test (DAT) is scored.
Article last updated: 6/2/2021

If you are interested in the profession of dentistry, then the DAT will be one of the obstacles that you will have to go through. Admissions into dental school is a stressful and competitive process for everyone and in order to be set apart from other applicants, you should prepare and score well on the DAT. Naturally, questions like “what score should I aim for?” or “what is the average DAT score?” will pop into your mind. Today we will answer some frequently asked questions regarding DAT scoring: What is an ideal score that test takers should aim for? What is the average DAT score? And even some trends with DAT scores.

How does DAT scoring work?

The DAT is a standardized test that composes of multiple sections: Biology (BIO), General Chemistry (GC), Organic Chemistry (OC), Quantitative Reasoning (QR), Reading Comprehension (RC), and Perceptual Ability Test (PAT). Each of these sections will be scored between 1 through 30 based on how many questions you answer correctly. You will also have a Total Science (TS) score and Academic Average (AA). Your Total Science score is also based on how many questions you get correct overall in the entire science section, whereas your Academic Average is the average of all your sections excluding the PAT score.

Below, you will find the 2009 DAT Standard Score to Raw Score conversion. Using this chart, we are able to see how many questions you must answer correctly to receive a certain score on this particular exam. For example, if you were to answer 32 questions correctly on the Biology section of the 2009 DAT, you will receive a 20 for BIO. However, you keep in mind that different test forms will have a slightly different scoring chart based on perceived difficulty by the test makers. In other words, a test might grant you a score of 21 for BIO based on 32 correctly answered questions while another test may grant you a score of 19 or 20 for the same number of questions answered correctly.

DAT Score Statistics

Lastly, you must know that each score corresponds to a percentile based on how the test-takers test form. For example, a student who took the 2009 test and score a 20 AA can be considered 90th percentile but another student with the same scaled score 20 may be a different percentile. Each test version has its own percentile based on how students score and unfortunately, those individual stats are not released to the public.

With the above said being said, the American Dental Association will release a DAT User Manual every year that compiles an average percentile for all the tests taken in that given year. Once released, test takers will be able to see how well they scored along with other data such as the average scores for all sections, corresponding percentiles, and even demographics. Unfortunately, the DAT user manual lags by a couple of years with the most recent one being the 2018 manual. The 2019 DAT User Manual will be released at the end of 2021.

What is the average DAT score?

Prior to reading this, you may have already visited a couple of websites to look for what the average DAT score is. Most websites give an average of 17-18, but without a source, it is tough to completely trust those numbers. In this post, we will use trusted sources such as the ADA to give you the most accurate picture of what the average DAT score is.

As stated previously, the DAT User Manual will contain all of the statistics and percentiles that you are looking for. According to the most recent version of the manual, the average AA of 12454 test takers in 2018 was an 18.98 with a standard deviation of 2.84.

The user manual also details the average for years 1988, 2008, and 2013, which were 15.53, 17.35, and 18.36 respectively. As you can see, the average DAT score is on a clear rise over the years and the average for 2018 is nearly a 19. Although the data for 2019 and onwards is not released, we can estimate that the average DAT score will be around a 19 or higher.

DAT Score distribution

What is a good DAT score to apply to dental school with?

With the average DAT score having risen almost 2 points in a decade from a 17 to nearly a 19, it is quite clear that applicants are putting more time and effort into studying and scoring well. This begs the question, what should you be aiming for and when should you retake? Fortunately, the American Dental Education association, or ADEA, releases statistics each year on average applicant and matriculated scores.

As you can see below, the trend for first year enrollees has also been on the rise, with the entering class in 2019 scoring an average of 20.7 AA and 20.4 TS. With the average score being a 19 AA and the average enrolling student scoring over a 20, any test taker should aim for a 21 or above in order to have the best chances to enter dental school. Naturally, the better you score, the better your chances are.

DAT Statistics First-Time Enrollees

Final Thoughts

While dental schools may look at your application holistically, the DAT remains an extremely important metric for any applicant to gain acceptance into dental school. Many admissions committee will place a large emphasis on your DAT scores and many schools have minimum requirements. To get the best scores, make sure you take the appropriate amount of time to prepare and use the appropriate resources. With the correct resources, you can without a doubt achieve your desired score.

Written by Eddie Mo
NYU Dental Student

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