Dec 05 2008
The MCAT, Medical College Admissions Test, and DAT, Dental Admissions Test, are both high-stakes standardized tests which function mainly as obstacles to medical and dental schools respectively. My take on the similarities and differences follow.
Importance in the Admissions Process:Both are very important. But, admissions committees do use other factors as well.
Administration and length of test: Each test is now about half a day or so. Each is computer based.
Science content of test: The MCAT requires basic biology, basic physics, basic organic chemistry and basic general chemistry. The DAT does not require the physics. The level of content for both is at the introductory college level. The major difference is that the MCAT has primarily passage based applications of science. You will need to be able to read science passages effectively and efficiently for the MCAT. You will need to understand and be able to apply the basic concepts more on the MCAT than the DAT. Passage analysis and interpretation is not needed for the DAT. The DAT questions are more direct and will involve much more calculations and problem solving type questions than the MCAT.There are a few topics expressly required for the DAT that are not directly noted for the MCAT. Some are found on the MCAT but seem to have more of an emphasis on the DAT. These are cladistics, multistep organic syntheses, blood coagulation, genetic technology, animal behavior and learning, photosynthesis (not needed for MCAT), population and community ecology (minimal on MCAT), ecosystems (minimal on MCAT), social behaviors of animals (not noted on MCAT), aromatic chemistry and oxidation-reduction reactions of organics. There are some MCAT topics not mentioned on the DAT list such as titrations.
Math content of test:The DAT is clearly the more difficult test for math. The DAT has a specific math (quantitative) section whereas the MCAT merges the math with the other sciences mainly physics and general chemistry. Very little high-school level math is needed for the MCAT. But, the DAT will require a deeper understanding in these areas not found on the MCAT: graphical analysis with equation to graphic conversions, Probability and Statistics (minimal on MCAT), Trigonometry (minimal on MCAT), units and conversions, Equations and expressions (minimal on MCAT), Inequalities (not on MCAT), Absolute Values (not on MCAT), Fractions and Decimals, and Applied Mathematics (as word problems) (minimal on MCAT). Whereas some of these are found on the MCAT, the questions on the DAT are more difficult and require a deeper understanding of the topics.
Verbal Reasoning:The MCAT’s Verbal Reasoning is more extensive and difficult. There will be a wider range of topics on the MCAT. The few passages on the DAT are longer and have more direct questions than found on the MCAT.
Writing Sample:Found on the MCAT but is not part of the DAT.
Perceptual Abilities Testing:Found on the DAT but not found on the MCAT. Will require good 3-dimensional analysis skills and spatial abilities.
The important question is not which is easier…both are difficult. The real issue is what you want to do and having an accurate assessment of your personal skills and abilities.