Canadian DAT Vs American DAT: Differences & Similarities

If you are torn between taking the Canadian DAT or the American DAT, this article highlights the differences between the two. Dental Aptitude Test (DAT) is administered by the Canadian Dental Association (CDA) while Dental Admission Test (DAT) is administered by the American Dental Association (AMA). Both these tests are fully regulated by both parties.

The Similarities of Canadian and American DAT

Although they have their respective strengths and specialization, the Canadian and American DATs have common features.

  • Exam Availability

The Canadian Dental Aptitude Test and the American Dental Admission Test are both administered at the testing centers of Professional Prometric in Canada and the United States. 

In previous years, the Canadian DAT was offered only 2 times a year, but with these new alterations, the Canadian DAT is given every month. Meanwhile, the American DAT is given several times a year.

  • Exam administration

Both are administered via computer or computer-based exams and the answers are recorded on the computer. Before the major change in 2022, the Canadian DAT is given via examination booklets and computer-based score sheets.

  • Content of the Examination

For Reading Comprehension, Perceptual Ability, and General Chemistry, their exams cover the same content and have the same number of items. The content that is tested on both DATs includes General Chemistry, Perceptual Ability, Reading Comprehension, and of course Biology.

Moreover, the American and Canadian DAT Perceptual Ability tests are very similar. This is evident in the hole-punching section and Apertures. General Chemistry and Reading Comprehension are also pretty much the same.

  • Exam Format

The Canadian DAT has a total of 210 questions while the American DAT has 280 questions. The Table below shows the differences in the presentation of questions:

Test Sections Canadian DAT American DAT
# of Questions # of Minutes # of Questions # of Minutes
Optional Tutorial 15  15 
Survey of Natural Sciences


-General Chemistry

-Organic Chemistry











Optional Scheduled Break 15
Perceptual Ability Test 90 60 90 60
Optional Scheduled Break 15 30
Reading Comprehension Test 50 60 50 60
Quantitative Reasoning Test 40 45
Optional Post-Test Survey 15 5
TOTAL 210 3 hrs & 50 mins 280 5 hrs & 15 mins


  • Length of examination 

In terms of the number of minutes that the student takes the exam, for Canadian DAT the time allotted for the examination is 3 hours and 50 minutes, whereas for the American DAT is longer with a total of hours and 15 minutes.

  • Scoring

The results of both exams are given in scaled scores from 1 to 30. Penalties are not imposed for guessing; instead, the scores are determined by how many questions the applicant successfully answered. Within three to four weeks of the exam date, the official score results for both tests are often made public.

  • Unscored Questions

American and Canadian tests contain unscored experimental questions. The purpose of these questions is to collect data, to make sure they are suitable before they can be considered as scored test items in future tests. Remember that in similar exams, the items which are not scored look exactly like scored questions, so there is no way to tell them apart.

The Differences Between Canadian and American DAT

The Canadian Exam and the American DAT are both standardized tests and dental school admissions, but they have remarkable differences. So, if you are planning to take one of these tests, it is important to understand what makes each one different, this way you can weigh your options. 

Having a decent understanding of their differences can have a major impact on your DAT score. For instance, if you are acquainted with techniques and strategies that are meant for American DAT, you’ll get a very low chance of acing the Canadian DAT.

  • Acceptance

The American Dental Admission Test (DAT) has more acceptance in that all 66 dental schools in the US and at least 10 schools in Canada accept the ADA DAT. The CDA Exams, however, are accepted by ten Canadian dental schools and a few US dental schools.

  • Language

The Canadian DAT is offered in both French and English languages, while the American DAT is only offered in English language.

  • Format of the Exam

The DAT test in Canada has fewer questions and takes less time to finish than the American DAT. Both exams have a maximum score of 30, but the American DAT has 280 questions in total, while the Canadian DAT has only 210 questions. 

What does this mean to you? It would mean that if you are taking the Canadian DAT, your Total Science score will be the average of only two sections, not three sections, like on the American DAT. So, this might end up lowering your overall score.

  • Exam Content

The content that is tested on both the Canadian – American DATs is one of their main differences.

  • Manual Dexterity Test

The Canadian DAT is divided into two: Manual Dexterity Test and the written test. The written test is administered via computer, but the Manual Dexterity Examination consists of soap carving according to precise specifications. The American DAT does not have this Manual Dexterity Test.

  • Biology

Both examinations include a section on biology, however, the topics the applicant is expected to know and be evaluated on differ. For example, the Canadian DAT administers exams on Developmental Biology, but this part of the exam was removed from the American DAT as of 2022, so it is no longer tested.

Additionally, certain additional subjects that are not included in the Canadian DAT have been introduced to the American DAT. In the category of diversity of life, these themes include viruses and archaebacteria; in the category of genetics, they are genomics, gene expression, and epigenetics.

These are just some examples. Keep in mind that there are many other variations between the Biology topics covered on either exam.

  • Organic Chemistry

Canadian DAT students do not need to know Organic Chemistry, and it is not a prerequisite for taking the exam, as it is for the American DAT.

  • Quantitative Reasoning

The Canadian DAT does not have the Quantitative Reasoning portion because there is no math.

  • Score Report (Unofficial)

The student receives an unofficial score report for the American exam immediately following the testing hours, right there at the testing facility. In this approach, you may get a general impression of your test-taking performance before the official result report is released in around 3 to 4 weeks. The Canadian test does not give an unofficial score after finishing the exam. You just have to wait for the official results.

  • Level of Difficulty 

The American DAT is usually seen as a bit easier and more consistent than the Canadian Dental Aptitude Test. Especially for Biology, the Canadian DAT can use very confusing language. Also, there are many questions in this area that might be strange to you unless you studied Biology extensively. So, if Biology is not your strong suit, you will do better on the American DAT, which is clearer, and you can easily eliminate wrong answers.

  • Applicability level

The good thing about the Canadian DAT is that the result can be used for both Canadian and US dentistry institutions. On the other hand, the American DAT is not accepted by most Canadian dental schools.

How to Choose Between the Two?

Choosing between the two examinations depends on your personal preferences, strengths, weaknesses, and career goals. You should consider the following factors when choosing between the American DAT and the Canadian DAT:

  • Which exam is accepted by the dental schools you are applying to?
  • Which exam covers the content areas that you are more comfortable with?
  • Which exam format suits your test-taking style better?
  • Which exam has a scoring system that favors your performance?
  • Which exam has a test availability that fits your schedule better?

You should weigh the pros and cons of each exam and decide which one is best for you.

Bottom Line

The bottom line is whether you take the Canadian or American DAT, ample preparation is the key. However, if you are based in Canada  and would like to establish your profession in Canada, I would recommend that you take the Canadian DAT. Otherwise, if you think that Canadian DAT is too difficult for you, you may settle for American DAT.  Just remember that most Canadian schools do not accept American DAT. I wish you the best of luck!


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