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Is The DAT Harder Than The MCAT?
By Connor Reed Updated on January 3, 2024
Summer Holloway, DMD Summer Holloway, DMD

Is The DAT Harder Than The MCAT?

For students weighing their options between dental school and medical school, a question that often arises is whether the MCAT is harder than the DAT

In short, the MCAT is primarily used for pre-med students while the DAT is for pre-dental students. Pretty simple. This guide will review both exams, their levels of difficulty, and differences between the two exams. After reading this post, you should able to decide which of these tests is harder for you based on your personal situation and learning style.

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Overview of the DAT

The DAT (Dental Admission Test) is a timed, dental education admission test given to prospective dental school students to assess the program applicant’s potential for success in a dental school program. This test is administered year-round by Prometric test centers in the United States, its territories, and Canada.

It is composed of multiple-choice questions in four sections: Survey of Natural Sciences, Perceptual Ability, Reading Comprehension and Quantitative Reasoning.

On average, there are 5 to 10 hard questions and an average of 30 easy-medium ranging questions, while overall content remains the same. Scores for the DAT range from 1-30. There is no passing or failing score parameters, but generally a score of 19 is an average performance on a national basis.

Dental School

The DAT is required by all U.S. dental schools and measures overall academic ability, perceptual ability and scientific understanding. You will receive your score right after you take the test.

Applicants can take the test up to three times with a minimum 60-day break in between. The DAT costs a little over $500 to take, and is administered by Prometric, a testing and assessment company.

Overview of the MCAT

The MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) is a computer-based, multiple choice, standardized exam for students preparing to enter medical school. It is used in the United States, Canada, Australia and the Caribbean Islands.

It assesses problem solving, critical thinking, written analysis and knowledge of scientific principles and concepts. The cost of the exam is a little over $300 (more for late registration), and there are secondary fee costs as well. A practice MCAT exam costs around $25.

Basically, the MCAT tests your knowledge of natural, behavioral and social science concepts as a prerequisite to a formalized study in the medical field. Most of the content is found in introductory level courses at most undergraduate colleges and universities.

It includes physics, biology, general and organic chemistry, psychology and sociology. There are no specific courses you have to take in order to be able to register and take the exam, however, taking these courses will help you feel more comfortable with the content and skills tested on the MCAT.

A “good” score on the MCAT is 127 out of 132 in a section, or 508 out of 528 for all four sections. This represents the average score of students admitted to medical schools nationally.

Similarities Between the DAT and MCAT

Both the DAT and MCAT exams are used to get into an advanced medical type school. In short, as you know, the MCAT is for medical school and the DAT is for dental school.

Both tests cost several hundred dollars to take, and both tests are extremely long, with long periods of preparation time necessary. The MCAT and DAT exams are both computer-based tests and have similar content. Both measure reading comprehension, with the MCAT measuring it more in depth.

Differences Between the DAT and MCAT

The MCAT contains reading comprehension (longer) in each section of the test, while the DAT only has passages in the reading comprehension section of the test. Also, you do not have to understand the content of the passage to answer the questions in the reading comprehension section of the DAT. The DAT also does not include physics questions but these students will still have a physics course requirement.

The DAT includes more math questions in their quantitative reasoning section. You can use a calculator on the DAT but not on the MCAT. The MCAT includes a few math related questions through their science sections.

The DAT is a unique test as it evaluates spatial visualization skills, including questions on two and three-dimensional perception. Pre-dental students can take this test on any date, while pre-med students can only apply to take the test offered about 30 times a year.

In addition, pre-med students must wait about a month for their results while pre-dental students can get an unofficial score right after they are finished with the test.

Which Test is Harder – DAT vs MCAT?

Overall, most test takers feel that the MCAT is far more difficult than the DAT. The MCAT focuses on responding to lengthy passages. It is also a longer exam and covers more areas of science.

The hardest part of the DAT is the perceptual ability test, which tests students on their two-dimensional and three-dimensional visuospatial perception. This includes answering questions on visual acuity on measuring the differences between angles and other geometry type visual questions.

The DAT does not include physics or biochemistry questions, which also makes it easier than the MCAT.


The biggest difference between the two tests is the potential career you are choosing. The DAT is specific for aspiring dentists applying to dental schools, while the MCAT takes more preparation and allows you to pursue work in a variety of medical disciplines.

Do Dental Schools Accept the MCAT?

If dentistry is your first choice, you should not take the MCAT. This will make a dental school admission committee wonder what your true career goals are.

Also, the DAT includes the perceptual ability test which is significantly important for those pursuing a career in dentistry, which results would be imperative to getting into a well-known dental school.

Do Dentists Take the MCAT?

Most of the time dentists do not take the MCAT. Sometimes a student may decide to take the DAT after the MCAT because dentistry is a possible medical field consideration. They may want to make this career choice change known to dental schools they are applying to.

However, most schools frown on this and overall, most students know their choice before they are ready to take one of these exams.

Next Steps – MCAT vs DAT

After reviewing the above guide on the MCAT and DAT exams, you can conclude the importance of knowing which area of medicine you are focusing on and what benefits each of these two tests will have on your career and your entrance into your goal medical or dental school.

Every career in the medical field requires diligence, hard work and dedication. It is important to analyze what direction you want to take in the field before deciding which exam is right for you.


Is DAT easier than MCAT?

In short, yes. Though the DAT is difficult in its own right, especially the PAT portion, the DAT is considered to be easier than the MCAT for a number of reasons.

How hard is the DAT compared to the MCAT?

The DAT is nearly as hard as the MCAT, but not quite as tough. Because of the coverage of sciences, the MCAT is regarded as the tougher exam.