Is the DAT Harder Than the MCAT

Is the DAT Harder Than the MCAT?

For students deciding whether they want to go to a dental school or medical school, the following question may be on their minds:

“Is the DAT harder than the MCAT?”

Check out our post on the Best MCAT Prep Courses so you can make your choice on what’s the best for you.

The MCAT is primarily for pre-med students, while the DAT is for pre-dental students. However, depending on the path the student wants to take, they may be able to take either one to achieve their career goals. In this guide, we will review both exams and their levels of difficulty. After reading, you will know everything necessary to decide which exam they would like to take.

Overview of the DAT

overview of the dat

The DAT (Dental Admissions Test) is an exam that is part of the admissions process for dental school. Educators give students this exam to assess their potential for success in a dental school program. The test measures academic ability, comprehension of scientific information, and perceptual ability.

Prometric administers the exam at test centers in the United States and Canada year-round, but there may be restrictions due to COVID-19.

The test consists of several multiple-choice questions in four sections:

  • Survey of Natural Sciences
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Perceptual Ability

There are typically 5-10 hard questions and 30 in the easy to medium range. The maximum score you can get on the DAT is 30, but the average performance is 17-18. Most applicants admitted to dental school average scores around 20.8.

All dental schools in the United States require their students to take the DAT. You can take the exam up to three times, and each attempt costs $360.

Overview of the MCAT

overview of the mcat

The MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) is an exam given to students preparing to enter medical school. Several countries administer the test for their medical students (United States, Canada, Australia, and the Caribbean Islands). The exam tests knowledge of scientific principles and concepts.

The current version of the MCAT exam reports scores in four sections:

  • Biology and Biochemistry (Foundations of Living Systems)
  • Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
  • Physical and Chemical Foundations of Biological Systems
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

The maximum score you can get on the MCAT is 528 for all four sections combined. A good score is at least 508. The cost of the MCAT currently stands at $320.

Almost all medical schools in the United States require you to submit MCAT scores no older than three years old. You can also see our post on How Many Times Can You Take The MCAT for more information.

If you want to have a study plan for the MCAT our post on How Long Does It Take to Study for the MCAT will definitely help you.

How Are the DAT and MCAT similar?

How Are the DAT and MCAT similar

There are a few similarities between the two exams:

  • Graduate School Admission — If you want to go to medical school, you will need to take the MCAT. If you want to go to dental school, you need to take the DAT.
  • Price — Both exams are expensive; the DAT is $360 while the MCAT is $320. Remember that the cost of the exams tends to increase every year.
  • Duration — Both exams are very long. The DAT is five hours long, and the MCAT is 7.5 hours long.
  • Method — Both tests are on the computer.
  • Content — Both tests have much of the same content, especially for biology and chemistry.
  • Reading Comprehension — Both exams have reading comprehension sections.

How Are the DAT and MCAT different?

Although the exams have similarities, they also have quite a few differences:

  • Science Passages — The MCAT has passages in each section of the exam, but the DAT only has reading passages in the reading comprehension section. It arguably makes the DAT easier, as you do not need to read a lot to answer questions.
  • Physics — Pre-med students need to answer physics questions on the MCAT, but pre-dental students do not have any physics questions on the DAT.
  • Mathematics — There are a lot more math questions on the DAT than there are on the MCAT. However, pre-dental students will have access to a calculator when taking the DAT. Pre-med students will not have a calculator.
  • Perceptual Ability — The DAT tests perceptual ability and spatial visualization with questions on two- and three-dimensional perception.
  • Test Dates — The DAT is available year-round, while you can only register for the MCAT 20-25 days per year.
  • Viewing Results — You must wait at least one month to see your MCAT scores. DAT scores are available immediately after testing.

You can also visit our post on How Long Are MCAT Scores Valid here.

DAT vs. MCAT: Which Exam Is Harder?

DAT vs MCAT Which Exam Is Harder

Most test-takers believe that the MCAT is more difficult than the DAT. The MCAT focuses on lengthy passages and areas of science such as physics. The DAT does not contain biochemistry or physics questions, and the most challenging part is the perceptual ability section. You can also see our When Should You Take The MCAT here for more guidance on taking the MCAT and How Hard Is The MCAT for our full review.

Conclusion — DAT vs. MCAT: Which Should I Take?

The difficulty of the exam should not be the #1 factor to consider when choosing which one to take. If you want a career in dentistry, you should take the DAT. If you want to attend medical school, take the MCAT.

Every career in the medical field requires diligence and hard work. Analyze both paths and decide which one is best for you.

How Long Does It Take to Study for the MCAT

How Long Does It Take to Study for the MCAT?

Applying for medical school? Congratulations! This move is a big step in forging your career and ultimately making the world a better place.

As you’re probably aware, there’s a lot that goes into the application process. You must decide where to apply and gather your transcripts, extracurriculars, and relevant experience.

Perhaps most importantly, however, are your MCAT scores. You will need excellent scores to stand out from the competition and claim your spot. See also our post on How Long Are MCAT Scores Valid here.

Like many applicants, you’re probably wondering “How long does it take to study for the MCAT?” You want to give yourself plenty of time to ensure you get the best score possible. Read on for expert advice on how long you’ll need to study for the MCAT.

The Importance of the MCAT

importance of MCAT

MCAT stands for Medical College Admission Test. Most medical schools require students to take this standardized exam as part of the application process. By getting a good score, you will increase your chances of acceptance.

The fact that the MCAT is a requirement should be enough to get you to take it seriously. However, you should also realize that it is one of the hardest admissions-style exams out there. The 7.5-hour test gauges your critical-thinking skills and practical knowledge of different medical domains. 

Seeing how challenging the MCAT is, it’s not something you can cram for and hope to pass. You need to come up with a study plan well in advance of your test date. So, let’s look at how many hours you’ll need to put in during that time.

How Many Hours Should You Spend Studying for the MCAT?

Students who perform well on the MCAT dedicate around 200-300 hours to studying. This number serves as a good starting point for creating your plan.  However, realize that you don’t need to follow it exactly. Also, if you’re wondering How Many Times Can You Take The MCAT, then see our post here.

Take a Practice Exam

take a practice exam

Everyone will have different study requirements. For instance, if you excel in a specific subject, you may not need to commit as much time. Conversely, if you find yourself struggling with a topic, you may need to put in more hours.

To get a gauge of your strengths and weaknesses, take a free online practice exam. Your score will help you determine just how much studying you need. More importantly, it will help you take study time away from your high-performing topics and put it towards areas where you’re struggling.

Schedule an MCAT Date

Now that you know about how many hours you need to put in and the subjects you need to focus on, it’s time to create a study plan.

The easiest way to do this is by scheduling an MCAT date and working backward. Knowing when you’re taking the test will let you plan accordingly.

When to Start Studying For the MCAT

when to start studying

Most students start studying 3-6 months before their test date. This period gives them plenty of time to review content, take practice exams, and participate in prep courses.

Again, this timeframe is just a rough guide. You will need to take your situation into account when deciding the ideal start time.

Consider Your Other Commitments

You cannot underestimate the work that goes into studying for the MCAT. If you don’t make the time for it, you won’t be able to retain the content. So, it’s important to consider your other commitments. Let’s use an example.

You’re a student who estimates that you need to study for around 250 hours. You decide to start studying 3 months before your test date. To reach your goal of 250 hours, you will need to put in around 21 hours each week.

But, you failed to realize that you are a full-time student and have a part-time job. You do not have the time to set aside to study for 20+ hours every week.

Let’s revise this schedule based on your other commitments. If you had started studying 6 months before your exam, you would only need to study for 10.5 hours a week to reach your goal of 250 hours. This amount is much more manageable.

You can also see our post on How Hard Is The MCAT here for more guide.

Schedule Breaks

Throughout the process, remember that there is such a thing as overdoing it. Starting too soon or putting in too many hours could potentially lead to burnout. 

An unfortunate burnout can set you back and lower your productivity, so it’s crucial to schedule breaks. Make sure to get up and walk around every couple hours. Also take time to eat proper meals instead of studying through your dinner.

How Long Does It Take to Study For the MCAT? — The Bottom Line

How Long Does It Take to Study For the MCAT

In short, there’s no direct answer to this question. An average of 200-300 hours total is standard. However, how long you’ll need will depend on your unique situation, including your other commitments and what topics you need to study

When making your plan, be reasonable. By keeping things realistic, you will ensure that you make the most of your efforts and maximize your chances of getting a good score. Another important thing to note is When Should You Take The MCAT, so see our full post here.

Do You Get a Calculator on the MCAT

Do You Get a Calculator on the MCAT?

The medical school entrance exam, also known as the MCAT, finds many students diligently preparing in the weeks leading up to test day. As students are cramming and hoping for the best, it’s not uncommon for them to ask, “Do you get a calculator on the MCAT?”

With test day around the corner, you might feel confident that you know everything you need to know to pass the test: verbal and written reasoning skills, sciences, and a bit of math. But can you lean on a calculator during your test for the math portion of the exam?

Check out our post on the Best MCAT Prep Courses as well for you to know what’s best for you.

In this article, we’ll answer this question and explain what it means for you. We’ll share what that means for future test-takers and some tips to approach the MCAT when the time comes.

Are You Allowed to Use a Calculator on the MCAT?

Are You Allowed to Use a Calculator on the MCAT

Do you get a calculator on the MCAT? The short answer is no.

The AAMC does not allow test-takers to use a calculator while taking the test. The reason is that the MCAT is testing your mathematical problem-solving skills based on what you know about statistical reasoning, chemistry, physics, and more.

While you may wish you had access to a calculator, all the questions are of a design so that you don’t need one.

Why Does the MCAT Not Allow Calculators?

Many people get hung up on the fact that the MCAT does not allow exam takers to use a calculator. But the reason is simple: the MCAT is not a mathematics test; it’s a test of reasoning.

The AAMC wants to see how you can work through a problem using logic, reason, and accumulated knowledge rather than how you can press buttons on a calculator.

The exam evaluates how well a student can read the question, analyze it, and approach the problem with rational thinking and logic. Knowing whether someone can type numbers into a calculator to get an appropriate number isn’t what they’re determining.

While it is not a mathematics test, some questions require strong mathematical thinking strategies and skills. One great example would be a question around acids and bases. Perhaps it asks the test-taker to identify the pH of a specific solution. To find this answer, the test taker would need to find a square root. It would be much easier with a calculator, but the point is to show your approach and how you arrive at the correct answer.

Ultimately, medical schools want to see that you can approach conceptual questions with reason and past knowledge. They want to see you demonstrate the practical and analytical reasoning you’ll need when practicing medicine.

Preparing Yourself for the MCAT

Preparing Yourself for the MCAT

If you’re taking the MCAT and found yourself wondering, “Do you get a calculator on the MCAT?” don’t distress.

The best trick to overcoming a tricky math question without a calculator is leaning on mathematical strategies. You can apply these fundamentals to even the most complex seeming numbers.

The thing to know about the MCAT is that the test creators have designed the questions so that applicants can solve them using mental math and scratch work rather than a calculating machine. The key to finding the correct answer is thinking of the most straightforward and short way to arrive at the solution.

All the questions involve numbers that you can calculate by hand — in most cases, you can convert them into simpler figures such as decimals or fractions and work through them mentally.

If a student practices enough without a calculator, it should feel like second nature when you get to the actual testing center. You won’t even find yourself wishing you had a calculator.

You can also see our How Many Times Can You Take The MCAT for you to know more about the MCAT

How to Study for the MCAT without a Calculator

Solving a bunch of math problems without a calculator by your side may seem daunting at first, but it won’t be as difficult as you imagine it. Keep in mind that you’ll be able to use scratch paper to see your work as you think it through, which is helpful for many.

If you’re still worried about handling these mental math problems, you’re best off practicing similar questions in the weeks leading up to the test. Don’t practice crazy equations — practice simple tricks and basic skills that you can use to manipulate any seemingly complex problem into a more digestible form.

Our article on How Long Does It Take to Study for the MCAT will surely help you on creating a study plan for the MCAT.

There are many test prep resources you can use to train with as you prepare for the exam. You can even utilize the MCAT Sample Question Guide through the AAMC. Also, it is very important to know When Should You Take The MCAT, so check our full post here. If you want to know how hard the MCAT is, see our post on How Hard Is The MCAT here.



The biggest key to overcoming the mental barrier of not being able to use a calculator when taking the MCAT is practice. While you might be nervous now, you can get the hang of solving mathematical problems with reasoning and math tricks. You’ll come to realize that you can handle anything the test throws your way.

how hard is the mcat

How Hard Is the MCAT?

Studying to get into medical school can be an arduous process without adequate preparation. An integral part of admission is the MCAT, otherwise known as the Medical College Admission Test. You need to pass the MCAT to earn your place in medical school. The pressure to succeed is high for all students that take the test.

You can also check out our post on the Best MCAT Prep Courses here to know which one is the best for you.

It isn’t uncommon to wonder ‘how hard is the MCAT?’ when preparing for it. There are plenty of horror stories on the internet and maybe even among your peers about how difficult it can be. The good news is, most of these stories are exaggerations. Don’t get us wrong — the MCAT is challenging. However, thousands of students pass their MCAT every year. With the proper determination and preparation, you could be one of them! But if you’re interested, you can also check out our How Many Times Can You Take The MCAT article here.

In this guide, we’ll be walking you through everything you need to know about the MCAT. Hopefully, once you finish reading, you’ll feel a little more equipped to face the test head-on. Let’s get into it.

What Is on the MCAT?

Although we can’t give you an insight into exactly what questions will be on the test, we can give you a breakdown of what you should expect structurally.

The first thing you should know is that the MCAT is long. It takes around seven and a half hours to complete. You should expect to spend your entire day at the testing site. However, you won’t need to complete your MCAT all in one sitting. You get a lunch break and further scheduled breaks throughout the testing period.

There are a total of two hundred and thirty questions on the MCAT, broken down into four sections. These sections test your understanding of biology, biochemistry, chemistry and physical properties, behavioral analysis, and critical thinking and reasoning.

When asking ‘how hard is the MCAT?’ you must first recognize that, unlike other tests, there are many topics you must master as opposed to one subject. However, you don’t need to become a walking encyclopedia. There are specific strategies you can employ to retain the information you need.

How Should You Prepare for the MCAT?

How Should You Prepare for the MCAT

Preparing for the MCAT requires commitment, time, and test-taking savvy. To put yourself in the best position to succeed, consider the following:

Develop a Personalized Study Plan

The importance of creating your own personalized study plan is hard to overstate. There are plenty of online templates available from previous students to give you a start, but ultimately everyone studies differently. What works for you may not work for another, and vice versa. Designing your study plan is the best course of action. Our article on How Long Does It Take to Study for the MCAT will definitely help you design a study plan.

How do you do this? Well, first, you need to know which areas you struggle with most. Where are the holes in your current knowledge? To identify this, you should take a practice MCAT test. This will give you the best insight into what you need to review further and which areas you have down comfortably.

Just remember, don’t freak out if your first practice run goes badly. That’s why these practice exams exist! It’s a learning process. Be patient with yourself, review what you need to, and move on.

Practice Smart Time Management

When estimating how much time you need to study for the test, this may be anything from a few weeks to several months. It depends on your schedule, the test date, and the areas you need to study.

On test day, try to stay as balanced as possible with time management. Seven and a half hours sounds like all the time in the world, but it can sneak up on you. If you can’t get your head around a question, move on and return to it later if possible. We don’t recommend leaving anything blank, but you don’t want to miss half the test for the sake of one question.

Know Test Day Rules

Another good way to prepare is to familiarize yourself with the general code of conduct on test day. There are specific rules you must abide by during the testing process. These will often vary based on where you take your test, but they generally apply to:

  • Items allowed on your person during designated breaks
  • Items allowed on your person during the test itself
  • The identification you need with you
  • Provision of notebooks and a fine-point pen

There are some items you can’t bring, such as a calculator. Other items can vary between institutions, so make sure to double-check before your test date arrives. You can also check our our Do You Get a Calculator on the MCAT article here to know more about this matter. It is also important to know When Should You Take The MCAT so see our post here.

Final Thoughts: How Hard Is The MCAT?

final thought

There is no getting around the fact that the MCAT is tough, but it isn’t impossible. You are capable of passing if you put the proper work in beforehand. Above all, try to stay calm and get a good night’s rest. All-nighters can be tempting, but falling asleep during the test helps nobody. Be kind to yourself, and good luck! If you want to compare the MCAT and DAT, see our post on Is the DAT Harder Than the MCAT here.

How Long are MCAT Scores Valid

How Long are MCAT Scores Valid?

Any prospective medical school student needs to have a plan in place regarding their admissions timeline. It’s essential to make sure you’ve taken the MCAT within an appropriate amount of time before applying so that you qualify for the program. This timing requires applicants to be especially careful when registering to take their MCAT exams.

See also our post on the Best MCAT Prep Courses so you can choose the right one for you.

Of course, most medical school applicants hope to continue their academic careers as soon as possible after taking the test, so the threat of MCAT scores expiring may not occur to them. But for prospective students who have had to delay their medical school applications due to extenuating circumstances, MCAT score “expiration dates” are crucial pieces of information.

This begs the question: How long are MCAT scores valid? Read on below to find the answer! We’ll discuss MCAT score validity periods, how medical schools perceive older scores, and what reasons for delaying medical school entrance might need consideration.

How Long Do MCAT Scores Last?

How Long Do MCAT Scores Last

MCAT exam scores on their own are not inherently temporary. No expiration date comes with your MCAT scores that limit the length of time for which they are valid. Instead, the time constraint is on applicants according to each medical school, not the MCAT institution itself.

Each medical school has its guidelines and admissions criteria, and they can enforce these on applicants how they see fit. This means that each prospective medical school gets to decide on its own how recent a prospective student’s MCAT scores need to be to qualify for admission.

Luckily, most medical schools tend to be on the same page when deciding how long the MCAT score acceptance period should be. The majority of medical schools will accept MCAT scores from the previous three years before the date of application. More competitive or elite medical schools will probably limit this period to two years.

To ensure that your prospective school will accept your scores, you’ll need to be familiar with that school’s policies regarding MCAT scores and adhere to those guidelines. If the school to which you are applying will not accept your scores because they are more than two or three years old, you will need to retake the MCAT exam to receive a more current score.

You can also check out our article on How Many Times Can You Take The MCAT here.

Do Medical Schools View Old Scores and New Scores Differently?

A common question that medical school applicants have is whether a prospective medical school will look unfavorably upon MCAT scores that are older but still within the acceptable range. Luckily, this has not proven itself to be the case. As long as your scores are recent enough to fall within the appropriate period as decided by the school, they should be perfectly acceptable.

However, there has been a recent trend of medical schools that used to allow three years for MCAT score submission revising their standards to restrict this period to only two years. Therefore, you must keep up to date with your prospective school’s policies, especially if your scores are more than two years old.

To err on the safe side, students should apply for medical school programs while their MCAT scores are still less than two years old. This promptness provides a form of insurance in case the university changes its guidelines during your application process. Scores that are more than two years old may indicate to schools that your knowledge is out of date and could stand updating.

The other reason that some students may have older and newer scores is if they’ve retaken the MCAT to get a higher score. In this case, the schools will look at the score more so than the date you took it, so long as the oldest date is not more than two or three years old.

Should I Put Off Going to Medical School?

Should I Put Off Going to Medical School

Of course, rather than rush into a challenging academic career to avoid retaking the MCAT, there are plenty of valid reasons to delay your application to a medical school. You can do a lot after finishing your undergraduate degree that will help your medical school application appear stronger.

If you can find a work opportunity in the medical field, having some on-the-job experience will undoubtedly make you a stronger applicant than someone who has never worked in medicine or health services. You might even decide you want to pursue a master’s degree first before continuing your academic career in medical school.

Or, maybe you want the opportunity to take the MCAT exam as many times as you need to earn a score that you feel confident about when applying for medical school. Whatever your reasons, there’s no rush. The most important thing is that you feel ready.

If you’re still a bit hesitant on taking the MCAT, see our post on When Should You Take The MCAT here.


There you have it! Everything you need to know about MCAT score validity. Make sure to keep up to date on your prospective medical school’s application and exam score requirements, and you should be all set to get started on your path to your medical career. Good luck!