Career Compass

Getting down with ‘dat ADAT

If you are anything like me, the Dental Admission Test (DAT) brings back stressful memories of hours upon hours of studying. There were cubes and keyholes, phylums and double bonds, sine and cosine. They were all appearing to be an intellectual tangent to what we would actually need to know in dental school. Now that we have managed to suppress the memory of the DAT, it seems to be back with a vengeance, known as the Advanced Dental Admission Test (ADAT). So what is this Advanced DAT and how will it affect you? This brand new exam is meant for those applying to advanced dental education or residency programs. I have compiled a few simple facts to help you navigate this new test. (Deep breathe in… and out… Here we go!)

  • What about the 2016 application cycle? The 2016 cycle is a pilot administration. The ADA requested that residency programs encourage applicants to take the test, but not to evaluate the scores until test results can be further studied and evaluated. The rapid implementation of this exam is a serious concern. Dental schools across the nation don’t appear to be adequately prepared or knowledgeable about the exam and ASDA leaders have stressed the student hardship this rapid turnaround will cause.
  • How is the ADAT different from the NBDE? According to the ADA, “The ADAT is designed for admission purposes, to help advanced dental education programs identify the most qualified, strongest candidates for selection into advanced dental education programs.” Therefore, this test is a valid and reliable way to distinguish students based on higher scores.
  • What is the ADAT? The ADAT is an exam created by the American Dental Association (ADA) that assists advanced dental education programs to distinguish competitive (or not so competitive) candidates. It will allow programs to evaluate applicants through a valid and reliable exam given to students across the country.
  • Why was the ADAT created? Residency programs are finding it difficult to distinguish candidates with the current pass/fail NBDE. They asked for a graded exam that would allow them to compare candidates in a uniform fashion. The ADA decided to create this exam instead of waiting until a regional testing agency (i.e. CDCA, WREB, CRTA, SRTA) created a similar exam. According to the ADA, this is why the exam is being implemented in record time with little warning.
  • What is on the ADAT? The ADA offered a broad breakdown of the types of questions asked. It doesn’t look like we will know much more than this until the test is finally released and given to students.
    • Total: 200 Questions
    • Biomedical sciences: 80 questions
    • Clinical Sciences: 60 questions
    • Data and Research Interpretation: 30 questions
    • Principles of Ethics and Patient Management: 30 questions
  • Why was the ADAT created instead of scoring the NBDE? According to the ADA, “The NBDE Parts I and II are designed for use by state dental boards, to help boards understand whether a candidate for licensure has the required cognitive skills to safely practice dentistry (minimum competency)”. Therefore, a higher passing score was not a statistically significant means of comparing candidates.
  • What will it cost you? Responding to student concern, the ADA decided to cut the price from nearly $400 to $250. While we don’t expect to see Avogadro’s constant or isometric triangles on this exam, the ADAT is far from the √-1 (imaginary). The bottom line, this exam is here to stay, so check with each program’s requirements when you apply. I wish you all the best of luck as you try to further your dental education!

Can’t get enough of the ADAT? Read this news story from October ASDA News for more information.

~ Dr. Kris Mendoza, 2014-2015 ASDA President

A resolution was brought to the 2016 House of Delegates that would encourage residency programs not to use the ADAT until it is validated with years of results, encourage the ADA to extend the pilot phase and encourage the ADA to subsidize the cost (read the full resolution here). The House of Delegates referred the resolution to the 2016-17 Board of Trustees and asked they report back at Annual Session 2017.


Kris Mendoza

Kris Mendoza was President of ASDA from 2014-2015 and District 11 Trustee from 2013-2014. He graduated from the UCLA School of Dentistry in 2015 and is currently in a Dental Anesthesiology residency at UCLA. Outside of dental school, Kris enjoys running obstacle course races, water skiing, and hiking.

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  1. jayashree says:

    I need study material for ADAT

  2. I’ve been looking for a way to study too! I know some people who took the exam and they suggested signing up for this website called, I hear they’re coming out with something soon

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