How Long is the DAT?

The DAT is, at the very least, 4 hours and 15 minutes long.

We put the answer at the very start of this guide in case a short answer is simply what you need. Maybe you’re arguing with someone about this same question, and you’re googling for the answer to settle the argument. So, here’s the answer.

But if you’re taking the DAT, the whole matter of the DAT length is more complex. So you’ll need to know more details to prepare for the test.

Time Limits by DAT Section

Not counting the breaks, the whole DAT takes 4 hours and 15 minutes of the DAT. This is the combined time limit of all the test sections. Let’s take a closer look at the time limits of each section: 

Survey of Natural Sciences: 100 Questions, 90 Minutes

The DAT starts the Survey of Natural Sciences section. This section has 3 topics:  both General Chemistry and Organic Chemistry have 30 questions each, while Biology has 40 questions. Evidently, dentists need a solid foundation for these subjects. 

That’s a total of 100 questions for the Natural Sciences, but the whole section has a total limit of just 90 minutes. Do the math and that’s less than a minute on average for each question. In other words, you have less than a minute for each of these steps: to read the question, understand what’s being asked, read the possible answers, and pick the right answer. 

So, you can’t take your time here (or for any of the sections, for that matter). If you need an entire minute to calm down and understand the question, then you’re in deep trouble. 

The good news is that it’s a multiple-choice test. You can always guess if you’re not sure of your answer. There’s no need at all to skip any of the questions, as there’s no penalty for guessing wrong. 

Each question is independent of one another. There’s also just one right answer for each question. 

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Perceptual Ability Test: 90 Questions, 60 Minutes

This is the notorious part of the DAT that tests spatial ability and reasoning. You’re tested on your ability to imagine what objects will look like from various angles, for one thing. The test includes paper folding, cube counting, angle ranking, apertures, and other unique visual problems. 

This isn’t a very common type of test at all. As a result, it can be very intimidating if you haven’t encountered this type of test question before. There’s no stock knowledge or memorization for this type of question. You can either picture the correct image in your mind, or you can’t. 

But you can still prepare yourself for the PAT. At the very least, you can familiarize yourself with the format. You can even practice the visualization skills you need for this question, with the right type of DAT prep course. It’s a bit like becoming a master at a game like Tetris. 

And you better be an expert after you’re done with your PAT review. This section has a total of 90 questions, with a time limit of only 60 minutes to answer them all. That’s exactly 40 seconds per question. 

You get 15 questions for each of these types of PAT sections: Keyhole, Top/Front/End Visualization, Angle Ranking, Hole Punches, Cube Counting, and Pattern Folding. 

Reading Comprehension: 50 Questions, 60 Minutes

This section might seem relatively forgiving, as you have more minutes than questions. However, you’re actually getting more than a minute per question!

But again, it’s not that simple. You’ll first have to read several passages to get the correct answer to those 50 questions. Each passage has several paragraphs, and then the answer to the questions for each passage will depend on the information you get from the passages.

The passages might cover any sort of topic, such as economics. And your stock knowledge on that particular topic won’t matter because only the information given in the passages is relevant.

The passages might also contain visual information, such as graphs. That adds another wrinkle to the test.

Quantitative Reasoning: 40 Questions, 45 Minutes

This is basically the math portion of the DAT. But you’re not just being tested for your computational skills or your ability to remember basic math formulas. You’re also being tested on your comprehension, as the section includes several word problems.

This means you need to read the questions carefully and understand what’s being asked of you with each question. This will let you determine which math formula to use for any question.

This is one of the most difficult parts of the test, and a large part of that is because you’re most likely fatigued at this point. It’s the last section of the DAT.

Optional Portions of the DAT

These are the parts of the DAT that, strictly speaking, are optional for you. But you’re well-advised to make use of them, nonetheless.

Here’s the Actual Time Table for the Entire DAT

    Tutorial (Optional) 

15 minutes 

  Survey of Natural Sciences 

90 minutes 

  Perceptual Ability Test 

60 minutes 

  Scheduled Break (Optional) 

30 minutes 

  Reading Comprehension Test 

60 minutes 

  Quantitative Reasoning Test 

45 minutes 

  Post- DAT Test Survey

15 minutes 

 Total Time  : 5 hours, 15 minutes

Tips for the DAT

  1. Don’t stress your brain the day before the DAT. A few quick questions might relax you, but this isn’t the best day for a full-length practice test.
  2. Get a good night’s sleep the night before the test. Don’t drink alcohol to help you sleep, as the alcohol will disrupt your sleep quality instead.
  3. Wake up early, and get a good breakfast. Avoid sugar-heavy breakfasts that might lead to a sugar crash in the middle of the DAT. Try whole-grain cereal and fresh fruits; eggs and toast with yogurt; oatmeal with fresh fruit.
  4. Prepare your supplies for the test. Bring a healthy snack and some water, along with 2 forms of ID. You need a government-issued ID with a photo to bring either your driver’s license or your passport. Then you’ll need an ID with a signature, and you can bring your Social Security card or a credit card (or even a library card).
  5. Get to the test site early, at least an hour early. That way, you have lots of time to check in with the staff, find a locker for your stuff, use the restroom, and relax.

Good luck with the DAT!

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