What's tested on the DAT: Perceptual Ability (PAT)

The Perceptual Ability Test (PAT) is the second section of the DAT and for many students one of the most challenging. The DAT PAT tests your spatial visualization skills, including your ability to interpret two-dimensional (2D) representations of three-dimensional (3D) objects. These DAT Perceptual Ability skills will be very useful to you as a dentist since you will need to construct mental images of teeth from X-rays, deal with casts and fillings, and otherwise work with complicated 2D and 3D objects.

Perceptual Ability Test Format

The PAT contains a total of 90 questions that you must complete within 60 minutes. The 90 questions are divided into six categories consisting of 15 questions each: Keyholes (apertures), Top-Front-End (view recognition), Angle Ranking, Hole Punching (paper folding), Cube Counting, and Pattern Folding (3D form development). All the questions for a given subsection appear together, and the subsections always appear in the same order.
The American Dental Association has released a practice test they call the Sample Test Items that shows how the PAT questions looked when the DAT was administered on paper. Since then, the DAT has changed to be a computer-based test, but the format is still similar.

Perceptual Ability Timing

Some question types are more time-consuming than others, so you’ll need to pace yourself accordingly rather than only considering the average amount of time per question for the entire section.
  • Angle Ranking and Hole Punching

    These questions tend to be the fastest because they only involve 2D images and should take you approximately 20 seconds each.

  • Keyhole and Top-Front-End

    These questions require understanding of how 2D images correspond with 3D shapes and will likely take closer to 50 seconds each.

  • Pattern Folding

    These questions also require 2D-to-3D manipulation and tend to be some of the most challenging, so they may take up to 60 seconds each.

  • Cube Counting

    This section is unique because it contains several questions associated with one figure, so it is easier to think about it as taking two minutes per figure (which corresponds to about 40 seconds per question).

You may find certain subsections on the Perceptual Ability Test to be easier or more challenging for you personally, but these guidelines are a good place to start, and you can modify them based on your personal needs.