I will add each of the sections of the DAT to this post as I find time to do so. My goal is not to tell you how long to spend studying each section of the DAT because this will vary person to person depending upon how strong you are in the section and how recent you have taken the course. However, my goal is to provide you with a way to study that will help you retain the information for the test and allow you to feel confident in each section.
(1) GENERAL CHEMISTRY
2) Use the ACS general chemistry book to do problems relating to the area you are having difficulty. There are about 5-10 example problems per section and 30 practice problems. You can buy the book from Amazon.com. If you do not have this and already have the Kaplan subject tests then those will probably work too but having not used them I could not tell you for sure.
I like the ACS general chemistry book because it is broken down into easy to study sections:
Content is derived from both semesters of General Chemistry and includes:
- Atomic Structure
- Molecular Structure and Bonding
- States of Matter / Solutions
- Electrochemistry / Redox
- Descriptive Chemistry / Periodicity
- Laboratory Chemistry
3) If you still feel uncomfortable with that material take out your textbook and do more problems related to the material.
4) Find another area that you are struggling in and repeat steps 2 and 3
5) Repeat this process until you’ve gone through the entire ACS general chemistry book
(I would suggest writing out solutions on paper to each of the questions. ESPECIALLY if you had difficulty figuring them out. This will allow you to try the problems over again and save time on trying to figure exactly what you are doing wrong or the correct solution)
6) Once you are finished with ACS general chemistry through the general chemistry portion of DAT Destroyer, use problems from the ACS book and textbook that you have previously completed in order to see how to do the problem correctly. Whenever you miss a problem figure out why you missed it. I would repeat the DAT Destroyer. You will generally get about 60% correct depending on how much work you need or don’t need. However, by the time you repeat it you should be getting 85% + correct. Once again this is dependent upon one’s background. If you are still missing quite a few when you go through it a second time I would start the ACS book over again and go through the study plan a second time. By the time you repeat the DAT Destroyer general chemistry section a third time you should have it nailed down!
***Don’t forget to slow down and write out formulas that you need to know. Memorize them and use them as you practice.***
Go through the ACS general chemistry and the DAT destroyer as many times as needed. For some, it will be one and for others, it will be 3-5 times. You may also use Kaplan subject tests for extra sample problems. After doing this only one time you should see an increase in your Top Score/Dat Achiever practice scores. If not you may need to slow down in your weaker areas your second time through. I did not score great on this section but I went from knowing nothing about gen chem to scoring an 18! If you are struggling in this section you are simply going to have to sit down and do problem after problem to get the formulas to stick.
(2) ORGANIC CHEMISTRY
The study plan for organic chemistry is virtually the same as the general chemistry study plan. Use the same steps but instead of using ACS general chemistry, Dat Destroyer general chemistry, and a general chemistry textbook, use the organic chemistry versions of the books! I would highly recommend getting a blank piece paper and writing out any and all reactions you come across (Diels-Alder reaction, aldol condensation, free radical reactions, etc…). You can use this as a quick reference in case you forget it down the road.
This section is all about memorizing and becoming familiar with a broad range of topics. You will need to be thorough in your study but do not get carried away with the details. I have provided a general outline from the ADA Dat user manual. The number located in the parenthesis represents and estimate of how many questions are from each section and may help you to know what to emphasize while studying. Become familiar with this outline and make this the basis for what you study.
(4) Perceptual Ability Test (PAT)
This section is new to everyone taking the DAT! Some of you are going to be naturals and others are going to have a little bit of trouble with this section. If you fit in the latter category, then don’t worry! This section is learnable. You do not have to be naturally good in order to do well on the exam. It is like sitting down with a mirror and a drill. Eventually, everyone gets the hang of it!
There are 5 sections within the PAT:
a) Key Hole
b) Hole Punch
d) Cube counting
e) Pattern Folding
It will be essential that you become efficient in all of these areas if you want to do well. The following are steps that will help you to study the PAT section.
1) Before you do anything, become familiar with ALL the rules for each section. Sometimes you may get one correct but for the wrong reasoning. To eliminate this know the rules. There are a few good resources for the rules including but not limited to Kaplan Blue Book, Studentdoctor.net (use the search feature), Barron’s, and Crack DAT PAT.
2) Now that you know the rules you can practice and practice and practice. In general, Kaplan’s resources are the easiest for this section, so you may want to start out with these. Just do a few at a time until you get the hang of them.
3) With a good foundation, you can now begin testing yourself! I would suggest starting out with Crack DAT PAT because they offer a large number of tests. I would save the Top Score Pro and DAT Achiever tests for when you do full-length practice tests (meaning all the sections together just like you would on the real DAT). I believe Crack DAT PAT has 10 tests total but you can also randomize the tests.
(Take a look at my DAT Breakdown in order to see how my real scores compared with my practice scores.).
4) Start by completing one Crack DAT PAT test. You will quickly find your weaknesses and find that timing can be difficult. Don’t worry so much about timing at this point. With all the practice you are going to get it will not be a problem by the time the DAT comes around.
5) After finding your weakness go back and look at your score breakdown. What type of questions did you get incorrect? Was it key holes? If it was in order to figure out what you did wrong, then go back and practice, practice, practice. Crack DAT PAT comes with several bonus keyhole problems that you can do separately from the tests. Do a lot of these. Do the same thing for any other section that you struggled with.
6) Now you can move on to Crack DAT PAT test number two. Repeat step 5 for this test. This process will continue all the way until test number ten. I would not do them all in one day or even in a week or two weeks. Spread them out with your other studies. If you plan on studying for 3 months then find out how often you need to do the tests in order for them to get you about 3 months. Note that just because you are only going to take one of these a week, that does not mean you skip studying for the PAT the remainder of the days. Between tests is when you should be doing practice problems and reviewing rules on sections that you did not accelerate at.
7) It is going to be important that you take full-length practice tests such as those sold by Top Score Pro or DAT Achiever. If you struggle with this section during the full-length test do step 5 for each of those tests also.
8) If you complete all of Top Score Pro, DAT Achiever, and Crack DAT PAT and you still do not feel comfortable then I would suggest taking randomized Crack DAT PAT. However, this should not happen if you took your time learning the rules and analyzing the problems you get wrong on each test!
(5) READING COMPREHENSION
There is not much you can do to improve your ability to read over the next month or two. However, you can improve your reading comprehension score! There are not really any steps to studying this section but in an attempt to keep this post coherent and complete I have come up with the following;
1) Take a practice test from either Top Score, Dat Achiever, or Kaplan. If you did well on this section you should be set. Continue to take the remainder of the reading tests as you take the complete tests. As long as you consistently get high scores you should be fine. If you don’t do well on the practice test there is still hope.
2) Start searching for (on studentdoctor.net) different strategies posted for the reading comprehension section. Take those strategies and modify them to your liking.
3) Begin taking more practice tests. I would recommend Crack DAT reading. Not because these tests most accurately represent the real DAT but because there are about five or so tests. Use the strategy that you think best fits you. If you improve your score and feel comfortable with that strategy then use it. It will take a few more practice tests for you to get the strategy down but stick with it and modify it until you feel like you are where you would like to be.
4) If you did not score well or feel comfortable with the first strategy then either modify it to your liking or try a new strategy. If that strategy does not work keep modifying and finding new strategies until you find one that you like. You should be able to find a strategy that works before you complete the five tests.
5) Now that you have a strategy that works for you use that strategy while taking your full-length practice tests by Top Score Pro, DAT Achiever, and Kaplan. Your scores should be fairly consistent throughout those tests.
The strategy I used:
For Section I, would read 2 or 3 questions. I would then begin reading the passage until I answered all three questions. Usually only have to read a few paragraphs but sometimes almost all of the paragraphs (just depended on the test). As I read I wrote down key words for each paragraph. I then read questions 4-6 and answered the ones that I already came across. If I did not already come across the answer I continued reading where I left off and continued writing down key words for the remaining paragraphs. Once those were answered I read questions 7-9 and answered them. By this time you usually have read the entire passage. It is now up to you to remember the answers or at least remember where to find the answer. This is where the keywords should help out. You may end up doing a little skimming but this should be mostly eliminated if you really read the paragraphs as you went.
* This strategy worked for me but may not work for you. In a future post, I will include a detailed description of different strategies used for the reading comprehension section.