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ADAT tips and strategies

With the second year of the ADAT test cycle underway and the first testing window of three completed, there is a lot to learn from our colleagues who have already taken it. If you read my previous post about this year’s updates, you might be wondering how to prepare. While the ADAT is challenging, with the proper study approach it is manageable. Based on feedback, here are some key strategies for preparing for the ADAT as well as specific tips for the dental student, general dentist and international dentist.

Test takers reported the most success when they allowed themselves 2-3 months to study for the exam. The general approach is to utilize the first half of that time focusing on reviewing and relearning material and the latter half working on practice questions to drill in the content. While the ADA provides a reference list of textbooks to use, it could be time consuming to review them all. Instead, test takers recommend using NBDE review books such as First Aid, Board Busters and Mosby’s to help build your foundation for the biomedical and clinical science subjects. For the data and research section, the First Aid USMLE part 1 has an excellent section on biostatistics review that overlaps with the concepts tested by the ADAT.

During the second half of your study window, recommends using their ADAT review tests to reinforce key details. The questions were developed by dental graduates who took the ADAT. They designed the review program to reflect the question style and clinical relevance seen on the ADAT. Using these resources in conjunction with each other can be an incredibly effective way to make the content stick and perform exceptionally well on the exam.

Thorough review of all the sections is essential to a high ADAT score, regardless of your background. Below are some sections that may require extra emphasis depending on the test taker:

  • Dental student: The biomedical sciences are going to be a lot fresher in your mind, especially if you take the exam around the end of your third year or after part 2 of the boards. However, the clinical sciences can pose a major hurdle, considering your limited amount of exposure to the clinic.
    • Tip: Expose yourself to as much of the clinic as possible and utilize the resources available to maximize your knowledge. In addition, ADAT Knockout provides clinical case questions similar to those on the exam, effectively preparing you for the clinical content.
  • General dentist: Considering your experience in the field, you will likely have a much greater understanding of clinical sciences section. However, the ADAT can go into great detail regarding the specific guidelines in each specialty.
    • Tip: Don’t underestimate the extent to which the ADA tests information from dental specialties. Plan to dedicate a lot of time to refreshing the biomedical sciences, especially if it’s been awhile since your last board exam.
  • International dentist: The advice here is similar to that for the general dentist; however, beware! Treatment approaches for dental procedures, in general practice and in specialties, that are tested by the ADAT may differ from that of your home country.
    • Tip: Spend extra time going over the ADA guidelines as well as the principles of ethics and patient management. Additionally, preparing for the ADAT shortly after both parts of the boards will give you a strong foundation to build on in your ADAT studies.


I’ve received a lot of questions from fellow dental students about how to plan their exam. Here are some of their commonly asked questions:

Q: Regarding the program tracker, why aren’t all the specialty programs listed?

A: The information provided by the program tracker was compiled from the responses the ADA received from a survey that went out to all the programs. If a program is not listed, it simply means that the ADA has yet to receive their survey submission. Thus, even though a program may not be listed, they may still be using the ADAT as a means of evaluating applicants.

Q: What is the best course of action to take if the programs that we’re interested in are not listed in the program tracker?

A: The best thing to do would be to contact the programs directly and inquire about their incorporation of the ADAT in their application process.

Q: When would the best time be to take the ADAT as a dental student?

A: That varies program to program depending on the school curriculum. The most ideal time would be at the end of your third or during your fourth year of dental school, after successfully passing all your board exams and maximizing your in-school clinical experience.

Q: Could not taking the ADAT have a negative effect on my application?

A: Yes. If a program is considering the ADAT, seeing an applicant with the initiative and willingness to take such a rigorous exam might distinguish them from a plethora of applicants. Likewise, an applicant who has not taken the ADAT could potentially weaken their application when applying to programs where the exam is being considered.

Q: How long is my score valid?

A: Scores are valid for two years. Beyond that, the exam is no longer considered reflective of the applicant.


If you have any questions regarding the ADAT, please comment below and I’d be happy to get more answers!


~ Daniel Shimunov, Columbia ’19

Daniel Shimunov

Daniel is a DDS candidate at Columbia University CDM, class of 2019. Outside of school, he enjoys playing basketball, chess and traveling.

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  1. You shared such a good and valuable information with us.Thank you for sharing the best information on this topic.such a great explaining about this category.I like your site a lot.

  2. Thanks for sharing such detailed information on ADAT. It is really very helpful for dental students.

  3. Daonguyen says:

    i am an international dental student. Can you give me a advise whether i should take only NBDE part 1 and part 2 or i should take ADAT as well ?

  4. A very nice piece of information. I like reading your blogs.

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