DAT Score: Understanding DAT Percentiles

At first glance, it can be difficult to determine what a good DAT score is. This post will give a breakdown of the difference between raw scores, scaled scores, and percentiles for the DAT. It will also look into the DAT score chart to determine the difference between an average score, a good score, and a high score to help you determine which schools to apply to or if you should consider retaking your test.

How is the DAT Scored?

Like many standardized tests, the DAT will not release your raw score (the percentage of questions you got right in each section). Since the difficulty of the test may slightly vary depending on what day you wrote it, your score must be adjusted for difficulty so that it can be compared with tests taken on any day. The exact adjustments made during this standardization process are unknown. Instead of a raw score, the DAT grading scale consists of a scaled DAT score that is scored out of 30: Ranging from 1, the lowest DAT score, to 30, the highest score on the DAT. You will receive a scaled score for each of the 4 or 6 sections of the DAT, for the Canadian DAT and American DAT respectively.

All science sections (biology, chemistry, and organic chemistry) can further be averaged out to create an overall “survey of natural sciences” score. This can further be combined with the reading comprehension and quantitative reasoning scores to create an “academic average score”. Typically dental schools will first look at the academic average and perceptual ability scores when making admission decisions.

Below is an example of an DAT Score report that you will receive upon completion of the DAT. Outlined in red is your scaled scores. The score for each individual section of the DAT is highlighted in yellow, the survey of natural science score in green, and the academic average is highlighted in blue.

DAT Score Percentiles

It can be hard to understand if the score you received was good or not using just your scaled score. This is where your DAT score percentiles come into play. The DAT percentile ranks provided here by the ADA will show you the percentages of test-takers who received the same scores or lower scores on the exam than you did. The higher your overall percentile the better you did in comparison to all other test-takers.

The example below is a percentile distribution for the academic average score for all test takers. Our unofficial score report, shown previously, tells us that we received a 28 academic average. That means that we scored in the 99.9th percentile on the DAT, better than 99.9% of all test takers.

What is a Good DAT Score?

Many dental schools have different requirements for entrance to their program. You can read more about the American dental school requirements and Canadian dental school requirements at these links. Some weigh the DAT more heavily than others and will have higher DAT cutoffs. Others may be more lenient when it comes to DAT scores and may focus more heavily on extracurricular activities, shadowing, or GPA. It is therefore important to first and foremost check the requirements and averages for the dental school you are thinking of applying to and determine if your score is good enough for admission.

That being said, the ADA has released various reports detailing the overall scores of test-takers. The average DAT score, aka 50th percentile, is an academic average of 18.66 with a perceptual ability score of 18.86.

However, an average score is usually not enough to get into most dental schools. Only a few dental schools will accept applicants that have the average DAT score.

A “good DAT score”, which will generally give you a good chance of getting into dental schools, has a score ranging between 20-23 academic average. A “high DAT score”, which gives an excellent chance of getting into dental school, has a score ranging around 24+.

Please remember that admission to dental school is done through a holistic evaluation of students. There are various admissions factors taken into consideration when accepting students including, GPA, DAT, ECs, shadowing, volunteering, etc. Having a super high DAT score does not mean you are guaranteed admission and having a super low score does not mean it is impossible to be accepted. Applicants should be well-rounded when applying to dental school.

Should I Retake the DAT?

If you have received your DAT score and are wondering if you should retake the DAT there are some things you should first keep in mind. Please remember that these are general suggestions made by past DAT test-takers, and may not work for all situations:

DO consider retaking the exam if:

  • You scored lower than a 17 on one or more of the DAT sections
  • You scored lower than an 18 academic average
  • Your score is below the median of the dental schools you would like to be accepted to
  • You would be substantially more competitive if your score increased by 2 points
  • There were major distractions on your test day
  • You left more than a few questions blank during the test
  • You know you did not sufficiently prepare for the exam
  • You scored significantly below your practice exam scores

DO NOT retake the exam if:

  • You scored above the 80th percentile
  • Your score is at or above the median of the schools you plan on applying to
  • You do not have the time or energy to increase your score significantly

If you’re looking to improve your DAT score check out our free data practice tests!

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