Have you recently received some upsetting news about your DAT score? Hopefully, the bad news is that you got a low score on a practice DAT test. But you may have gotten the worst news: that your DAT score has come back and it’s lower than the number you need to be competitive for dental school admissions
What can you do about your low DAT score?
Getting bad news about your DAT score is one of the worst things that can happen to you as a pre-dent. I’m sorry you’ve received such disappointing news, and I know that you must feel like all the hard work you’re putting into DAT prep isn’t paying off. I know how bad that feels.
You might feel like you’ve already giving it everything you have, you’ve tried your hardest, and your dream of becoming a dentist might be at risk.
Have hope, because the four tips I share with you in this article will give you some of the most effective ways to deal with a low DAT score and still remain a competitive dental school applicant.
Should You Retake the DAT?
The most obvious advice — and the most difficult advice to hear — is that you should retake the DAT. Thinking about retaking the test after receiving a low score is probably the last thing on your mind, and nobody wants to start over.
Starting the entire studying process all over again feels like treading water, but I have some suggestions that may have a huge positive effect on your decision to retake the DAT.
If you’re like most pre-dents who take the DAT, it’s likely that you experienced what I call “DAT panic” — the fear and anxiety that causes you to doubt your abilities on standardized tests. Can you recognize any of the symptoms of DAT panic in yourself? If you do, it’s encouraging news. That means that your problem with the test is more to do with a shock of short-term panic rather than a lack of knowledge or understanding of the test material.
Another low DAT score solution is to recognize that you may be using the process of elimination in a way that doesn’t work well on the DAT. If you’re using it the way you were taught in K-12, you’re probably eliminating all but two answer choices and then selecting the choice that “feels” right but is logically flawed.
Re-evaluate your test-taking strategy by reviewing the advanced DAT strategies inside DAT Test-Taking Tips and Techniques.
Change Your List of Schools
It would be nice if you could put your DAT score aside and continue with the application process, but dental schools won’t ignore your DAT score, so neither should you. You may still be able to apply if your score is only slightly below average for the schools you’re applying to.
The first thing you need to do is check to see if your GPA, particularly your science GPA, meets or exceeds the schools requirements. If it does, then a DAT score that is only a few points low won’t make much of a difference. If your GPA is below the average GPA of admitted applicants, you should change the list of schools you plan to apply to. Changing your expectations to match the expectations of dental schools is the best way to improve your odds of acceptance without having to retake the DAT.
Don’t Apply Late!
Many of you reading this article may have been rejected by a dental school and you think that your DAT score is to blame. Applying to dental school is a race, so if you applied too late your DAT score may not be to blame.
The timing of your application is a big reason why you may not have been accepted. Any delay — a late letter, a late transcript, or delayed secondary essays — all can prevent dental schools from moving you along to the interview stage of the process.
Often, your DAT score is competitive, but other applicants who were just as qualified completed their applications before you did and dental schools selected them first. It’s more convenient for dental schools to do it that way when there are so many applicants to consider.
If you think your timing was off, continue by reapplying and making sure to do everything possible to have all of the application components submitted as early as possible
What About Early Decision Programs?
Early decision programs are tempting when your DAT score is low. I don’t recommend this option because it’s too restrictive. Early decision is only useful if you have a very unusual circumstance.
Your best strategy is always to apply as early as possible and use your application (personal statement, secondaries, interview) to highlight your very best features.
Seeing how your application measures up compared to other pre-dents is a good way to fill any gaps in your application. Take my free self assessment for pre-dents to see how you can improve your application now.