Student Reflections: MCAT and DAT Preparation with our Course Instructors

Hi everyone! My name is Julia and I graduated from Northeastern last spring. I’m currently finishing my master’s in public health at NU as well and am gearing up to start dental school in August! A large part of the dental admissions journey is studying for and taking the Dental Admissions Test (DAT).

Figure 1. Getting ready for my first ~virtual~ interview!
Figure 1. Getting ready for my first ~virtual~ interview!

You have the choice of studying during the semester, while you’re on co-op, or during the summer. I chose to study while I was on co-op. When I signed up to take the DAT, I built in extra time in case I wanted to push my test date back. I had planned to take the test after studying for 4 months, however due to my co-op I decided to push my test date back. I ended up studying for 6 months in total. Six months sounds like a long time to study, but I decided that I would rather take the exam once I felt confident and that I could get a good score.

I signed up for DAT Bootcamp and used the study schedule provided. You’ll find that when you start studying, there may be sections that you don’t need to spend as much time on. I had to change my study strategy several times throughout my co-op until I found the one that worked for me. That is okay! I also decided to get a DAT Destroyer book later in my studying so that I had more practice questions. As for my typical study day, I worked full-time as a surgical assistant during my co-op so during the week I would study for about 3 hours in the evening and on the weekends, I would study for 10-12 hours. I also downloaded the DAT bootcamp app so that during my lunch break I could go through flashcards or practice questions. During my commute I also would listen to biology and chemistry podcasts. I took the NU DAT prep course while I studied on my own and it was helpful because I could reinforce topics I had already learned and get ahead on sections I hadn’t gotten to. It also gave me new study strategies and tips for taking the exam.

The most important piece of advice that I can share with future test takers is to not compare yourself to others! Focus on your own studying and be confident in your abilities. When you review your answers, try and understand why you got the question correct and why the other options are incorrect. Make sure to practice the exam as if you were at the testing center- this will simulate what test day will be like. My last piece of advice is to continually monitor your progress. I kept a spreadsheet with my scores from all the practice exams I took so that I could see if I was making improvements.

Figure 2. My cat helping me study organic chem reactions!

Taking the DAT may seem scary, but when you break it down it isn’t so daunting. When you go to your testing center you will put all your belongings in your locker and the test proctor will set you up on a computer in a cubicle next to other people. You’ll also be given a blank sheet of paper and a pencil. The test is set up the same way that DAT Bootcamp sets up their practice exams, so the layout was one I was familiar with. After you’ve taken the Survey of the Natural Sciences and the Perceptual Ability sections, you’ll have a break. Once you’ve completed the final sections, you’ll take a short survey and then your score will appear on the screen. This sounds scary, but it will be a huge relief to see a great score after testing for several hours! You’ll then go out to the proctor, and they’ll print out your unofficial score report. Congratulations!! You’ve now made it through one of the hardest parts of the dental admissions process. Next step, apply to schools! 🙂


Hello Northeastern pre-med community! My name is Arjun Sharma, I am originally from Rockland County, New York, and I graduated from NU in May 2020 with a B.S. in Biochemistry. I am currently applying to medical schools after taking some time off from my education, and am also currently leading the MCAT prep course at Northeastern. Hopefully I can offer you all some advice that will make the MCAT seem less daunting. 

I studied for the MCAT over the course of ~4 months during the summer after my junior year. During that time, studying for the MCAT was my main responsibility, other than some volunteering and shadowing. Studying while taking classes or on co-op is certainly doable, and may even be better for some, although if you plan on doing so I would recommend spreading out your studying over a longer period of time than I did. 

I divided my MCAT preparation into two phases: content review and practice questions/tests (although I would certainly recommend mixing in some practice problems during your review phase!). The main resources I used for content review were a set of review books and Khan Academy. Any set of books should suffice, and getting the latest edition is not at all necessary. 

For practice questions and exams, the AAMC resources are your best bet. They have several full-length exams as well as many other practice problems available. I would highly recommend purchasing all the practice resources they have available and going through all of it before your exam, since these resources will most closely mimic what you’ll see on test day. Khan Academy has additional free practice problems available, and if you are looking for more, UWorld is a paid resource that offers plenty of practice problems with great explanations, although it’s not a must-buy. 

When doing your practice exams, I recommend simulating your testing conditions as closely as possible: start your practice exams at the same time as your actual one, eat the same meals/snacks as you would on test day, wear a mask, etc. Even mimic little things such as your commute; if you plan on driving to your testing center, on the morning of your practice exams you can get in your car and drive around, even if you plan on taking them in your apartment. This may sound silly, but following these steps will make the actual test feel like just another practice exam. 

My final piece of advice is to make time for things you enjoy throughout this process. A mistake I see far too often in students I have tutored is neglecting time with friends and family; one student I tutored even skipped his own birthday dinner in lieu of more MCAT studying! Although you want to give the exam your best effort, I find this sort of mindset counterproductive. Just as exercising as hard as you can everyday will lead to injury, studying as hard as you can everyday without proper rest can be detrimental to your mental health. I believe you should be MORE proactive about taking time to relax and unwind while preparing for the MCAT, as doing so will help you through the marathon that is studying for this exam. 

 I hope you were able to take away some useful advice from this post. I am always more than happy to answer any questions via email at And all are welcome to attend the MCAT prep course that meets Tuesday evenings in 233 Richards Hall! 

Be sure to register for Julia and Arjun’s prep courses:

Arjun – MCAT Prep Course (Tuesdays 6:30-9:00 PM, January 17th to April 18th)

Sign up for MCAT Prep here!

Julia- DAT Prep Course (Tuesdays, 7:00-9:00 PM, February 6th to March 20th)

Sign up for DAT Prep here!