Taking the DAT as a Nontraditional Applicant

Meet Andrew Zufall, a happy DAT Bootcamp customer who recently conquered his retake of the DAT as a nontraditional applicant. I’ve asked Andrew to share his DAT retake experience with us.

What did you change while studying for the DAT a second time that led to an improvement in your score?

The first time I took the DAT I hardly did any practice problems. I used another company’s study book and participated in bi-weekly review sessions put on by the same company. While this review was helpful, it made me feel over confident. I assumed since I was reviewing all the information in such a structured manner that I was actually learning it. While using DAT Bootcamp I was getting constant feedback on my actual learning. For example, Mike’s videos were so helpful because I could pause the video, do the problem, and see if I got it right. If I got it wrong I could rewind the video and see where I had messed up. Similarly, using Ari’s study guide to work through DAT Destroyer problems helped me see what types of problems I was getting wrong. After several days of Organic Chemistry problems I realized that I kept missing problems on SN1 vs SN2 mechanisms, so I went back and watched Mike’s videos and figured it out. This method of review and problems at the same time made a huge difference.

The other thing I changed was how I took practice tests. The first time I took the DAT I had done 2 or 3 practice tests before taking the real DAT. With Bootcamp I had the opportunity to take 5 practice tests! One of the hardest parts of the DAT (for me at least) was the time limits. For example, the math problems weren’t particularly hard for me, but doing 40 of them in 45 minutes was tough! Taking the 5 practice tests and many other individuals subject tests (all through Bootcamp) helped me learn how to pace myself. When I took the real DAT I felt completely relaxed and not afraid of running out of time.

Lastly, the first time I took the DAT I would read over my wrong answers on practice tests and moved on. This time I would watch every single explanation video for any problem I missed in O-Chem and Gen Chem sections. Dr. Mike’s explanations were so helpful. For Bio I would look at the subject of a question I missed and then find a YouTube video on the topic. This took several hours, but I believe this is where I did some of my best learning.

How did you manage the stress of studying for the exam in a short period of time?

The stress of studying for the DAT in 5 weeks was real, I’ll be honest. I found that making sure I got plenty of sleep every night made a big difference. When I was well rested I found that it was easier to focus for hours on end and not get stressed. Daily exercise also was important for me. I found that even just a 30 minute bike ride or taking the dog for 2 mile walk really helped me destress. After a run my mind always felt more clear and any stress I had been feeling that day was gone. The most important thing though was to follow a study plan (like Ari’s on Bootcamp) and then when you finished what you had scheduled for the day to STOP STUDYING and not think about the DAT again till the next morning. This is easier said than done, but dwelling on the DAT and thinking of all the work ahead only made it worse. Going to dinner with friends or renting a movie and hanging out at home gave me a fun thing to look forward to each day. You can’t study for the DAT in one day, so relax, and break it up into manageable chunks.

What is something you would have changed to help your study schedule go more smoothly?

Due to school schedules and work schedules, 5 weeks was the most time I could get, but the obvious thing would have been to give myself more time. If it is possible for a student to give themselves 8-10 weeks, instead of 5, do it! Honestly, there is nothing I would have changed. I know that sounds unbelievable, but using Ari’s included study guide (and doing 2 days of the study guide per day) made my study really smooth. Having a list, made by someone else, to just go through and check off took a lot of the stress out of it. I knew I was systematically covering all the subjects and if I just stayed on track I would be ready for the DAT. Some people I talked to found that the sheer volume of information on the DAT to be overwhelming, but having the study guide allowed me to check off one simple item at a time. I literally printed it out and put it in a binder and then would cross each thing off with a big red marker as I completed each task. This made the huge mountain of studying that is the DAT seem like just a bunch of small little steps.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions! You can reach me at abzufall@ucdavis.edu.

  • Biology22 (+5 from first attempt)
  • General Chemistry22 (+4)
  • Organic Chemistry23 (+6)
  • Reading Comprehension27 (+4)
  • Perceptual Ability21 (-3)
  • Quantitative Reasoning23 (+5)
  • Academic Average23 (+4)

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