The Dental Admission Test (DAT) is a standardized exam that all of the dental schools in the United States use to assess an individual’s ability to read, to perform mathematical calculations, to pay attention to detail, and to demonstrate a firm understanding of a variety of different scientific concepts.
The DAT test, which was created by the American Dental Association (ADA), is made up of four separate exams:
- Reading Comprehension, Quantitative Reasoning, Perceptual Ability, and a Survey of the Natural Sciences. The Reading Comprehension test includes 50 multiple-choice questions that ask you to read one of three written passages and use the information from that passage to answer the question.
- The Quantitative Reasoning test includes 40 multiple-choice questions that ask you to solve word, trigonometry, statistics, probability, geometry, conversion, arithmetic, and/or algebra problems.
- The Perceptual Ability test includes 90 multiple-choice questions that ask you to demonstrate your ability to: perceive 3D images, perceive apertures, count cubes, discriminate angles, recognize paper folds, and recognize different views.
The Survey of the Natural Sciences is divided into three sections: a biology section, a general chemistry section, and an organic chemistry section.
- The biology section includes 40 multiple-choice questions that ask you to demonstrate your knowledge of animal behavior, cellular biology, biological development, the biological kingdoms and domains, the systems of the human body, ecology, evolution, genetics, and molecular biology.
- The general chemistry section includes 30 multiple-choice questions that ask you to demonstrate your knowledge of acids, atomic and molecular structure, bases, chemical composition, chemical formulas and equations, chemical kinetics, density, equilibrium, gases, laboratory procedures and protocols, liquids, mass, moles, nuclear reactions, oxidation-reduction reactions, the periodic table, solids, solutions, stoichiometry, thermochemistry, and thermodynamics.
- The organic chemistry section includes 30 multiple-choice questions that ask you to demonstrate your knowledge of aromatics, bonding, the chemical and physical properties of substances, chemical compounds, chemical reactions, energetics, nomenclature, pH, stereochemistry, and the structure and mechanisms of substances.
The DAT is required for all of the dental schools in the United States. It is important to note, however, that dental programs, especially specialized programs, may require you to take other exams in addition to the DAT.
The material covered on the DAT is more complicated than the material covered on most of the other standardized exams that you may be required to take; the average student will select the wrong answer for over 45% of the questions on the DAT. The score for the DAT is scaled, and you will receive a score of 1 – 30 for the Reading Comprehension test, the Quantitative Reasoning test, the Perceptual Ability test, and each of the sections included on the Survey of the Natural Sciences exam. You will also receive an academic average score for the Reading Comprehension, Quantitative Reasoning, and Perceptual Ability tests, as well as a total science score for the Survey of the Natural Sciences.
The National Board Dental Examination (NBDE) is a standardized exam that state licensing boards use to assess an individual’s understanding of a variety of topics related to the biomedical sciences, dental anatomy, dental practices, and dental procedures. This test, which was created by the Joint Commission on National Dental Examinations (JCNDE), is split into two parts, the NBDE Part I and the NBDE Part II. The NBDE Part I includes 400 multiple-choice questions that ask you to demonstrate your knowledge of biochemistry, biology, dental anatomy, histology, human anatomy, microbiology, occlusion, pathology, and physiology. The NBDE Part II includes 500 multiple-choice questions that ask you to demonstrate your knowledge of endodontics, operative dentistry, oral and maxillofacial surgery, oral diagnosis, orthodontics, pain control, patient management, pediatric dentistry, periodontics, pharmacology, and prosthodontics.
It is important to note that you will not be required to take the NBDE to get into a dental school, but you will be required to take the exam to get your license after you receive your degree. This is because the NBDE is not an entrance exam, but rather a licensure exam intended for individuals who have already completed some or all of the courses that they need to obtain a degree. The NBDE, however, is not the only licensure requirement that you must meet; to obtain your license, almost every state will also require you to obtain a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or a Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM) degree, to take and pass the clinical examination for the state in which you are applying, and to meet other similar requirements.
The NBDE is the most difficult exam that a dental student is typically required to take, and most dental schools will require you to complete courses that are specifically designed to help you prepare for the NBDE. In fact, some dental schools will require you to pass a practice exam before you take the actual exam to ensure that you will be able to pass the NBDE. The score for the NBDE is scaled, and you will receive a score of 49 – 99 for each part of the exam. In order to the pass the exam, you must achieve a total score of no less than a 75.