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
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
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?
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?
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.