COVID19: What’s it like to take the DAT during a pandemic?

The global pandemic has impacted all aspects of everyday life, and this includes the process of taking the DAT. Aside from the many test postponements and cancellations that have occurred as a result of COVID-related Prometric Center closures, there have been some changes to the test-taking process as a result of the pandemic. This includes social distancing measures being put in place, testing centers operating at 50% capacity, a requirement that test-takers wear masks throughout their time at Prometric, and the replacement of the standard laminated graph paper with plain white scrap paper.

Naturally, many of our students have questions about what it’s like to take the DAT during the era of COVID-19. So, I’ve asked several students who successfully took their DAT during the COVID-19 pandemic to give some insight into what taking the DAT is like during this unique time. Check out their responses for some insight on how to stay on top of your studying when your exam has been postponed, what the experience of taking the exam is like right now, and other helpful tips.

How did you deal with the challenge of staying on top of your studying and keeping up your knowledge while your test was postponed due to COVID-19?

“My test was postponed over a month because of COVID-related test center closures. As discouraging as having the test postponed was, I found it most helpful to make an effort to view things in a positive light. I now had an extra month to review topics, utilize different resources, and really be sure that I felt comfortable doing even the most challenging question types. At the end of the day, having the additional time to review and to really focus on the DAT was beneficial.” – Lauren

“It was really hard for me to remain motivated for a test date that felt like it might never actually come. I had to practice being patient with myself and giving myself rest days from studying when I needed them. Looking back, I’m so glad I did, because I would have burned myself out if I tried to study at full intensity for 3 extra months! I tried to make sure I did a little bit of practice in my weakest subjects every day if I could, and looked at the postponement as bonus studying time for my weaker areas.” – Estella

“At first, I was very discouraged. I was supposed to take my exam the same week everything shut down and I felt like I was ready. When my exam got canceled the first time I wasn’t expecting it and was already very nervous due to the proximity of my exam date. I took a two week break from studying since I have been preparing for this exam for 2 months prior to the cancelation. By the time I got back to studying, my second date was canceled as well. I realized that this was probably going to happen several times before I would be able to take my test and I wouldn’t be able to keep taking two week breaks without forgetting everything I’ve learned (especially biology since it is so broad). I started to decrease my hours of studying per day but made sure that I was always reviewing my notes to ensure that I solidify my knowledge so that when my test day approaches I don’t feel like I’m studying from scratch. Finally, when I began to see other’s starting to take their exams, I began the grind again a month before my exam. Having my exam date moved so many times was a blessing in disguise. The extra time I got to study helped me achieve scores I definitely would not have gotten if I had taken it in March. If you use your time wisely and keep at it, it will all be worth it. I spent the extra time practicing the things I thought were too hard and thought I could “wing” like TFE and QR. I noticed a great difference in my scores once I took the time to go through them thoroughly while I was stuck at home.” – Anonymous

What was it like taking your test at Prometric with social distancing measures in place?

“It wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be! I was super stressed about the scratch paper we’d be provided during the test, but I actually think I preferred getting physical pieces of paper and a pen as opposed to a whiteboard and a dry erase marker. Definitely practice gridding your squares for hole-punching on a blank sheet of paper beforehand if you can! Aside from this, social distancing measures weren’t too invasive–I practiced taking some of my practice tests with a mask on, so I could figure out what type of mask felt most comfortable (and wouldn’t fog up my glasses) on exam day, and would definitely recommend that!” – Estella

“Frankly it was horrible: check-in felt like a TSA security check-point, and we had to wear a mask the entire length of the test. I wear gas permeable contact lenses, so after the first hour they were completely dried out. That made going into the perceptual ability portion terrifying, because dried out hard lenses distort vision immensely. My best advice is that if you wear contacts, bring your re-wetting solution and warn the proctors that you’ll be needing it often. That being said, the staff understood the heightened stress and did everything in their power to make me feel comfortable.” – Sean

“Taking the exam with social distancing measures was not as bad as I thought it would be. The most important thing is to be mindful of others and keep distance between you and everyone else, which isn’t that hard since they have the sites at half capacity. Everyone is in their own little cubicle taking their exam and every other seat is empty. I would suggest wearing a comfortable mask that will protect you while also allowing you to breathe without difficulty since you are required to wear it throughout the entirety of your time at Prometric.” – Anonymous

Do you have any advice for other students preparing to take their test right now?

“Take advantage of the extra time you have. This time will either work with you or against you. If you leave the material and have the mindset that you have time to review before the exam, you are only harming yourself. The material for the DAT needs to [be] practiced and applied in order to solidify it in your memory. Spend this time to rewatch chemistry videos. Each time you watch the videos you learn something new that sticks with you. Spend this time going over biology concepts you rushed through because you thought were [too] detailed. Spend this time learning how to do the PAT sections that you just couldn’t get. At the end, if you utilize your time wisely and tackle your weaknesses with the time you have, it will show in your scores.” – Anonymous

“Find a way to maintain your study momentum without burning out. I found activities I enjoyed (like cooking, baking, and exercising) and incorporated them into my days so I could be more efficient and positive during my DAT studying. And focus on what you can control! Test cancellations and site closures are outside of our control and are affecting countless students, so others will be understanding of that. You aren’t alone, and this obstacle won’t stop you from pursuing your dream. I regained some control over the situation by re-adjusting my study plan to determine how I could best utilize my time after my test was delayed.” – Lauren

“Regardless of all else, KEEP YOUR COOL. None of these COVID precautions can take away how hard you’ve prepared; no-one can take that from you. Stay strong, DO NOT let it get in your head, and walk into the test telling yourself “I’m going to DESTROY this exam”. They can throw whatever they want at you, but you’re still prepared, you still studied hard, and nothing can beat you down. Confidence is key.” – Sean

Whenever you take your exam, know that you will get through it, and we at DAT Bootcamp are here to help along the way. Thank you to our students who shared their experiences, and congratulations to you all for getting your DAT over with, especially during this crazy time!

Was your test postponed due to COVID-19? Check out some of our tips for how to maintain your study schedule and your sanity here.
Wondering about changes to dental school admissions as a result of COVID-19? Check out our blog post on that subject here.