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Should I retake the DAT?

If you go on the Student Doctor Network DAT forum, one of the questions you see the most is :

Should I retake the DAT? Here are my scores:

RC: 21, Bio:20, Chem: 22, OChem: 18, PAT:19, AA: 21

GPA: 3.7, Science GPA: 3.6

In fact, this is a really common concern among students. It takes a lot of effort, energy, and studying to take the DAT. Many of our students dread at the idea of taking the DAT again. So, today we tackle the dreaded question “Should I take the DAT again?”

We always hear that the dental school admission process is a “holistic” process. In fact, it usually is. But, your GPA and DAT scores are heavily weighted in the admissions process. Therefore, as a student, you want to get the best DAT scores you can get. Not only a higher DAT score increases your chances of getting accepted to a top school, but it also increases the odds of getting a good scholarship. For example, my close friend Dr. Mariam Naeem got a half-tuition merit scholarship at Penn Dental because of her high DAT score.

Let’s jump right into answering some top questions:

Does retaking look BAD?

No! It does not look bad if you retake the DAT. In fact, it’s advised to retake the DAT if your score isn’t ideal or competitive. Even schools will ask you to retake the DAT if they feel that you are a good candidate and can improve your DAT. Taking the DAT second or third time is completely fine. It only looks bad if you cannot improve your score the third time around and continue to take the test again.

How many times can you retake the DAT?

You can take the DAT up to 3 times. After that, if you want to retest, you need permission from ADA. After taking the test three times, you can only take it once per 12-month period.

What is a good score to shoot for?

The current national DAT average is 20.7. Even 4-5 years ago, this average was 19.4-19.6. However, in recent years, students are scoring better on this exam. That means that to get accepted to a program, you should at least have a 21 or above. It’s good to shoot for a 21+ for gaining an edge over the admissions process. If you want to get a scholarship, you need at least a 23+.

How are multiple DAT score validated by adcoms?

Usually, the admissions committee take the highest scores of the tests a student takes. Sometimes, schools can decide to take the highest scores for each sub-section, although that is rare.

It really depends on the schools. So, you may want to check in with your schools of choice

When should I retake my DAT?

you should consider retaking it if :

A) you scored at or below 19 Academic Average and Total Science: given that the national average is 20.7, you should strive to score higher on the exam.

B) You scored 17 or below on any subsections: some schools have a cutoff point of 17 (e.g. UCSF). If you get any score below 17, you risk getting rejected before you even get an interview from the school.

C) If you had a bad day during the exam day. However, you feel quite ready and have been scoring 20+ on the DAT Bootcamp Practice Test, you should retake

When should I not retake the DAT?

A) If you have scored 21+ and just want to take it again for scholarship purposes. There’s nothing wrong with retaking it, but I’d not recommend it since it entails a lot of dedication. Plus you have to wait 90 days before retaking this exam; you may forget some of the materials and may even do poorly in the test.

B) If you have scored between 17 to 19 in one or two sections, but have done pretty well in other sections, especially the science sections

Let’s look at some example:

AA: 21, TS: 20, Bio: 16, GC: 23, OC: 23, QR: 21, RC: 21, PAT: 21 (RETAKE)

You should retake because biology is below 17. It’s an important subject in the DAT and will be important to determine your success as a future dental student.

However, if you got a 16 or 17 in QR and RC while getting similar scores to above, you should be less worried and may not need to take it because QR and RC are not core components to the profession of dentistry. Don’t get me wrong. They are still important to get an overall great score. But, if you score lower in these sections, it’s not a big deal.

What about PAT? If you get a 17 or below on PAT, you should consider retaking the DAT. PAT is an important section of the DAT and also to your success in dental school. So, adcoms look at students’ improvements on this part of the DAT.

Can I be successful retaking the DAT?

Absolutely. In fact, DAT Bootcamp features a profile of students who were successful in retaking the DAT. Check out the profiles here to see what they have done differently in their second or third try. I gotta say some of the profiles are quite awesome.

Finally, if you have any question about taking the DAT or retaking the exam, email us at

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