DAT vs. MCAT: Which Test is Harder?

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning we get a commission if you make a purchase through our links, at no cost to you.

Spread the love


Standardized tests are your door to several career paths; if you are planning to venture into the healthcare profession, you might have asked yourself, “Which test is harder between DAT vs. MCAT?” or “Is the DAT easier than the MCAT?”

When your dream is to become a licensed physician, then you need to go with the Medical College Admission Test or MCAT. Meanwhile, Dental Admission Test is for aspiring dental professionals. The short answer is: that you would find it difficult to pass these systemized exams without proper study plans and career goals.

If you have not yet decided which exam you should take, read through this article and find their similarities and differences in pursuing a wise career choice.

What Does the DAT Test For?What Does the DAT Test For?

Before you get admitted to a dental school in the United States and Canada, you must pass the Dental Admission Test or DAT. It is a standardized examination administered by the American Dental Association to examine aspiring dental professionals’ academic aptitude, scientific background knowledge, and perceptual ability.

In other words, the DAT results are requisite baselines of mental preparedness and academic success in the dental program. Like any other competency examination, DAT has core areas that will help you grasp its content, thus preparing you for the test.

Since you are done learning the general idea of what DAT is, you might probably wonder, “Is DAT harder than MCAT?” Perhaps, yes—you might as well read on to learn more about the sections of the DAT test and compare its technicalities to other standard exams like MCAT, PCAT, etc.


It comprises four (4) significant sections: Survey of Natural Sciences, Reading Comprehension, Quantitative Reasoning, and Perceptual Ability—which takes around four hours to finish.

To pass the Survey on Natural Sciences section, you need to have a foundation in biology, chemistry, and general science, among others. In the case of Reading Comprehension, you are required to go through passages that will assess your thorough understanding of the multiple angles of various situations.

Moreover, the Quantitative Reasoning section is a purely quantitative analysis of given situations revolving around scientific knowledge and concepts. At the same time, the Perceptual Ability part is considered the most challenging section of the DAT.

Mental and visual soundness is essential to ascertain the differences among visual problems fully. It is unique from other standardized exams because it challenges examinees’ visuospatial perception. In the most specific context, this part is a mixture of mathematical and scientific concepts to gauge the differences in angles.

Apart from the content, you must know its scoring system to set a numerical goal in your mind while taking the test. The following paragraphs will educate you on how the committee will rate your performance.

Scoring System

Before we dig deeper into the scoring system of DAT, know that each dental school has respective admission standards of various factors, including the DAT results. Hence, it would be best if you corresponded your mark on the passing score of your ideal dental institute.

DAT score ranges from 1 being the lowest possible mark and 30 being the highest. Its questions are averagely tricky, considering that it only comprises 5-10 challenging questions and 30 easy to medium.

The average score that one can get in on the 17th range. Nonetheless, most competitive dental colleges admit applicants with an average score of 20.8. Therefore, you need to aim for a score of 21 to ensure a slot in any dental admission procedure.

What Does the MCAT Test For?

What Does the MCAT Test For?

The MCAT measures takers’ theoretical understanding and analytical ability, thus accounting for their preparedness for the medical program. The American Association of Medical Colleges administers this test in different countries, including the United States, Australia, Canada, and Caribbean Islands.

The MCAT is a standardized exam required for aspiring medical professionals by the admission committees of medical schools. You cannot become a licensed physician unless you take the MCAT test.

The paragraphs below will make you acquainted with the contents included in the MCAT, thus providing you with a substantial overview of what topics you should focus more on and how much effort you should invest.


The four core areas that the MCAT follows are Chemical and Biological Sciences of the Living; Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems; Social, Psychological, and Biological Foundations of Human Behavior; and Critical Ability and Reasoning Ability. Unlike other exams, you will encounter complex situations during this test, which require analytics prowess and critical understanding.

Since the structure of this test is aimed at deeper analysis, you need to have a cemented foundation in the critical areas that last approximately 8 hours. Despite consisting of fewer sections, it would take you more time since the items are purely comprehensive analyzation and detail-oriented.

Memorizing concepts does not ensure a passing grade because most questions are based on situations that will test your analytical skills and critical understanding.

On top of the baseline areas in mathematics and sciences, you need to brush up your mastery in the concepts of physical science, for most previous takers regard physics as the most challenging part of the examination.

MCAT Scoring System

The MCAT scoring system uses a scaled analysis. The perfect score in each section is 138, and the lowest mark is 118, which makes the total score 528. Although there is no specific passing score, an average of 125 points individually is necessary to reach the 500-point mark—enough to be accepted in various medical schools.

You will be graded according to the overall competence of the total population, meaning that the MCAT percentile score implies your performance compared to other takers.

The scores that the admissions departments take into account is the percentile rank that decides whether you are qualified to be admitted to medical school or not. Therefore, the best step to take is knowing the passing score of your dream school so that you will be aware of what score you should aim for.

How Similar are DAT and MCAT?

How Similar are DAT and MCAT?

Perhaps you are wondering, “Is the DAT similar to the MCAT?” The answer is yes, but not totally. Even though these two have different exam content and nature, there are aspects that both DAT and MCAT coincide with each other, especially on things that are not too technical.

For example, DAT and MCAT are on the same motive apart from the fact that they are computer-based tests. DAT is used to get admitted to the dental program, while MCAT is requisite for medical schools. Both of them are necessary for higher-level education and expertise.

In a basic sense, they are administered to measure examinees’ existing knowledge and scientific understanding in their respective fields of practice. They tackle some areas simultaneously, such as natural sciences, analytical ability, and quantitative reasoning.

What sets them together is that they are timed exams and are measured based on scoring systems unique from each other. You might as well read the next section about their differences to have a bigger picture of what sets them apart, particularly their strengths and weak points.

How is DAT Different from the MCAT?

How is DAT Different from the MCAT?

DAT and MCAT are opposite in their content, as the former includes a conceptual understanding of dental education while the latter deals with disease prevention, treatment, and cure. Further, MCAT requires a higher order of thinking skills and mastery of physics. Meanwhile, DAT is focused on conceptual understanding. Most importantly, it pays more attention to perceptual ability and visuospatial prowess.

In terms of length and cost, MCAT consumes more time duration but less in price. It lasts more than 7 hours despite only focusing on four main sections for about $310. On the contrary, DAT has a lesser time duration but is a higher cost. The examination lasts for around 4 hours and is approximately $400.

Regarding the nature of the examination, medical aspirants are accustomed to physics, and dental aspirants have more mathematical influence. Moreover, calculators are prohibited during MCAT but are allowed during DAT.

In terms of their scoring system, MCAT and DAT have different standards. MCAT computes the correctness of answers and the overall score of 528 (a minimum of 118 and a maximum of 138 in each of the four sections). At the same time, DAT analyzes the performance by a scaled scoring system from 1 until 30.

On a final account, their schedule and availability differ. DAT is accessible for the entire year, while MCAT is more strict and hectic. It is only available 25 times a year between January and September, so the slots are time-limited, so you better hurry up when planning to take the exam.

Can You Take Both Exams?

Can You Take Both Exams?

While it seems impossible to take them around the same time, there are no existing guidelines that prohibit you from taking both exams. Technically, you can take both exams for as long as possible.

If you want to pursue medicine, then take the MCAT. Otherwise, DAT is best for dental aspirants. Nonetheless, you might be unable to use both results in one specific admission. In simple terms, taking both is not practical. You will end up wasting one of these results in the long run.

DAT has a perceptual section while MCAT is more specific. Hence, schools cannot use these two results from one angle because they are naturally different. One detriment of taking both exams in hopes of increasing admission possibility is that admissions committees will not give you an advantage if you have taken both.

To avoid this situation, make a sound decision on your career plans before you waste time and money on an examination that you cannot utilize in your job path. The quantity of standardized exams is not important. Your compatibility with the admission qualifications makes you stand out among the rest.

In addition, you do not need to shift to MCAT just because you failed the DAT. You can take the dental examination up to three times with a condition of 90-day in-between breaks.

DAT vs. MCAT: Which Test Should You Take?

DAT vs. MCAT: Which Test Should You Take?

The better question is: what is my career goal? MCAT and DAT have strong and weak points, depending on your case. MCAT is the best option when you are aiming for a medical profession. DAT is much better and more appropriate if you want to be a dental professional.

Medical schools are so strict regarding admission processes, for they want to select students who are expected to shine in the dental program. The same thing goes with dental institutions.

Therefore, you must remember that the best exam to take relies on your situation. Financial and difficulty should just come after your passion, purpose, and career plans.

Which is More Difficult, DAT or MCAT?

Which is More Difficult, DAT or MCAT?

Since you are still deciding which test you should give a try, you might have asked yourself, “How hard is DAT compared to MCAT?” or “Is the DAT harder than MCAT?”

Both have their level of difficulty based on their exam nature and content. MCAT is much more demanding when talking about a deeper level of understanding and analytical prowess.

Meanwhile, DAT is equally challenging in its Perceptual Ability section since you need mastery in visual, mental, scientific, and mathematical advancement. Most students find it critical and crucial.

Overall, they both have strengths and weaknesses. However, more takers regard the MCAT as much more challenging since it contains extensive passages that require critical analysis. Also, MCAT encompasses the broader theoretical and practical underpinnings of the medical field, thus making it intense and frustrating.

Wrapping Things Up: DAT vs. MCAT: Which Test is Harder?

DAT and MCAT are similar in that they measure your academic and practical ability for medicine and dental education. The question is: which is harder, DAT vs. MCAT?

Perhaps the MCAT exam is much more difficult if you get easily demotivated by long exam duration and analytical passages. It takes more time to finish this exam because you must read and thoroughly analyze scientific courses. DAT, on the other side, is more difficult if you are not great at solving mathematical problems. But, no exam is difficult with adequate preparation and high mental focus.

What prepares you for this battle is your study habit and learning design. No matter which exam you wish to take or how difficult it is, you must ready your study plan as early as now.

Ask yourself, “What do I wish to pursue in the future?” If you already know the answer, that is when you can choose which exam gives you the best benefit. The difficulty, cost, and other secondary factors should come next to your purpose.

Picture of Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

If you found this helpful, help us out by sharing this post!


Readers of this post also read...

A Guide to Effective Study Group Strategies

A Guide to Effective Study Group Strategies

Perhaps you have exams coming up and you’re considering studying with your friends but aren’t sure how to kick things off. Crafting the ultimate study group involves making sure that the time you spend together...

Read More