DAT Study Plan Suggestions

study-planI 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.


For me it was 4-5 years since I had general chemistry. Needless to say, this was one area of focus for me while studying for the DAT. I went from knowing absolutely anything about general chemistry to scoring an 18. If you have had general chemistry at any point in the last 1-2 years this study pattern should get you to where you want to go.

1) The first thing you are going to want to do is finding your weaknesses. If you have Top Score pro, or something similar, take the first test and find out your weaknesses.

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
  • Stoichiometry
  • States of Matter / Solutions
  • Energetics
  • Dynamics
  • Equilibrium
  • 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.


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.

ADA Biology Outline
ADA Biology Outline
For the biology section, I am going to recommend starting at the beginning of this outline. However, it is important that you recognize your weaknesses. Some may already have a good feel for what they are weak in and others may want to take a practice test in order to find weaknesses. This is going to be key in managing time and being successful on the biology section. If you are strong in an area you may want to read over that section and take some notes in order to keep it fresh. If you are weak in an area you are going to want to not only read and take notes but spend time understanding and memorizing. How much time you spend on each section is going to be up to you. If you have already taken anatomy and physiology it may only take a quick review to get that solid but if you have not it may take a little longer and some more memorizing for you.

1) Start at section I “Cell and Molecular Biology”

2) Begin reading and outlining each of the subcategories. The first subcategory is the origins of life. Create an outline using Cliffnotes AP Biology which, in my humble opinion, is by far the best-condensed outline for biology.

3) If a subcategory is not covered in Cliffnotes AP Biology use another resource to fill in the gap. Another decent resource includes the Kaplan Blue Book if you have it, Schaum’s Biology Outlines, or your class textbook/notes.

4) Memorize any charts or key points created in your outline. Sometimes this may take 5 minutes and other times you may spend an hour. Once again this depends on your background and the size of the topic.

5) After completing the first subcategory continue on to the second subcategory which is cell metabolism. Repeat steps 2-4 for this subcategory and any following subcategories for Section I.

6) No step is more important than another, however, completing this step will immensely improve your ability to retain the information for the DAT. With your outline complete for Section I, take blank paper or a white board and list out each of the subcategories. Now write out everything you can remember about each subcategory. Force yourself not to look at the notes! When you are finished writing out everything for each subcategory compare it with your notes. If you truly memorized the material or felt that you were solid in the areas you should be able to write out just about everything from your outline. Not necessarily word for word but the content would be the same. Use pictures, charts, and colors to enhance your outlines and help you remember it. Explain the material out loud as if you are teaching it when you write it on the whiteboard. All of this will help with retention.

7) If you struggled with writing out your outlines in step 6 then go back to the subcategories that tripped you up and memorize the outline you created. Strive to understand the information you are memorizing and try to make connections with things that you already know. If you struggled with many of the subcategories this means you need to SLOW down while going through step 4.

8) Find questions pertaining to the information in section I. At this point you should be able to answer most of the questions you find pertaining to this section. There are questions in Cliffnotes AP Biology, DAT Destroyer, Kaplan subject tests, or any textbook that you own. This is what step 8 is all about, checking that you can apply your knowledge to questions!

9) MOVE ON! Go to section II “Diversity of Life” and repeat steps 2-8 for this section. This section is less conceptual and more memorization than many of the others. Take your time and memorize the material. You are going to need it memorized before the DAT  anyways! The tendency is to read it and halfway memorize it. Just get it done with and memorize it! This means focus on step 4…

10) Repeat steps 2-8 for Sections III-VI. After you complete section III repeat step 6 for Sections I-III and then move on to Section IV. After completing section VI repeat step 6 for Sections IV-VI.

11) YES! You have now completed the biology section. But wait there is more! Now repeat step 6 starting with Section I all the way through Section VI. By this point you may have forgotten some of the material in section I-III so this will be a good review.

12) Do lots of problems! Go through any biology problems you can get your hands on. Use the practice test programs (Top Score, Dat Achiever), Dat Destroyer, Kaplan Subject Tests, Cliffnotes AP Biology, and whatever else you can get your hands on. If you only have time for one I would suggest doing the problems in Destroyer because they have really good explanations and test your knowledge. Don’t worry if you are missing some questions. Learn from your mistakes! Know why each answer choice is either right or wrong.

This is a hefty study plan! Some of you will breeze through this because the material is still fresh from your classes and others will struggle through much of the material. Either way, by the time you complete the steps you will be ready for the DAT!

(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
c) Top/Front/End
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!


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.