How Dental School Admissions Work

The Dental Admissions Test (DAT)

Dental school graduate.
If you want to attend a dental school like the University of Pennsylvania's, make sure that you take the DAT well before the deadline.
William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

The Dental Admission Test (DAT) has been offered by the American Dental Association since 1950. The computerized test offered at testing centers in the U.S. all year long and takes about five hours. Make sure to schedule your DAT early enough to meet any dental school application deadlines. It costs $225 to take the test, and you can retake it up to three times -- paying the fee each time, with a minimum of 90 days between tests -- before you have to reapply. You should take it in April, May or June one year before you plan to apply to dental school. This will give you enough time for retakes if your score isn't up to par.

The DAT consists of a natural sciences segment, a perception test, a reading comprehension segment and a qualitative reasoning segment. The Canadian version of the DAT differs slightly - it also has a segment that tests coordination (you have to carve a specified shape out of a bar of soap). As a result, Canadian DAT scores are accepted by most U.S. dental schools, but the reverse isn't true.


The ADA publishes DAT study guides. Many students find that study guides for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) prepare them well for the science portions of the DAT. However, the ADA's preparation materials include those segments unique to the DAT, such as the perception segment.

The highest possible score on the DAT is a 30; and a score of 20 is considered average. An 18 is generally considered the minimum score for getting into any dental school. If you're looking to get into a more prestigious school or into a specialty program, a score of 21 or higher is a must.