DAT vs. MCAT: The Biggest Similarities & Differences

MCAT vs DAT - image by Magoosh
Medicine and dentistry are very different career paths for pre-health students. The requirements for admissions to each professional school differ as well. You might have heard that pre-medical students take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and pre-dental students take the Dental Admission Test (DAT). The tests are similar in some aspects but also very different in others. In this post, we compare the two exams: DAT vs. MCAT.

DAT vs. MCAT: Similarities

  • Graduate School Admissions: This is an obvious one. If you want to go medical school, you need to take the MCAT. If you want to go to dental school, you need to take the DAT.
  • Expensive Exams: The tests do not come cheap. You will have to pay $305 to take the MCAT and $430 for the DAT. Note that these prices tend to increase year by year.
  • Long Exams: Both tests are extremely long and will require mental stamina to obtain a good score. The DAT is five hours long and the MCAT is a bit longer at seven and a half hours.
  • Computer-Based Tests: Both exams are taken on the computer. There are no paper and pencil versions of the exams available.
  • Similar Content: Much of the content tested on the exams are the same, especially for biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry.
  • Reading Comprehension: Both exams have a reading comprehension section that will require you to read, comprehend, and analyze passages in order to answer the associated questions. As with most reading comprehension tests, this section does not require any prior knowledge of the facts or information presented in the passage.

DAT vs. MCAT: Differences

  • Science Passages: While the MCAT contains passages in each section of the exam, the DAT only has passages in the reading comprehension section. This makes many of the questions on the DAT easier, as you do not have to understand a passage to answer the questions.
  • Physics: Pre-medical students will have to answer physics questions on the MCAT but pre-dental will not have to on the DAT. However, DAT students will still have to take physics classes to apply for dental school.
  • Quantitative Reasoning: There is a lot more math on the DAT than the MCAT. The MCAT has some science questions that will involve math but not much. The DAT has a quantitative reasoning section dedicated to math. The good news is that pre-dental students will have access to a calculator on the DAT but pre-medical students will not on the MCAT. To learn more about math on the MCAT, we recommend that you read How Much Math is on the MCAT and Do You Need a Calculator for the MCAT. If you think you may need additional help for the MCAT’s quantitative reasoning then check out Magoosh’s MCAT prep.
  • Perceptual Ability: The DAT is unique among all standardized exams in testing the spatial visualization skills of test-takers. Pre-dental students will have to demonstrate their visual acuity by answering questions on two- and three-dimensional perception.
  • Test Dates: Pre-dental students can take the DAT on just about any day of the year. The MCAT, on the other hand, is offered only about 20-25 times each year.
  • Score Delay: Pre-medical students have to wait about a month to get their MCAT score report. Pre-dental students will get an unofficial score report right after they finish taking the test.

Hopefully, this post gives you a better idea about the differences between the two exams. If you are considering other professional schools, we recommend that you read our previous posts on MCAT vs GRE and MCAT vs. LSAT.

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  • Ken

    Ken is a former blog writer for Magoosh who left to focus on developing novel and effective ways to help students achieve success on the MCAT exam.

    Click here for Magoosh's free MCAT practice test

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