Advanced Dental Admission Test (ADAT) - Everything you need to know

For those of you new to the Admission Cycle for the International Dentist Program, you may or may not have heard about ADAT.

If you have heard about it, many of you might be confused as to what the exam actually entails and whether this is a test that can boost your chances of acquiring an interview.

Some questions that you might be wondering are:

· What is ADAT?

· Is ADAT a compulsory exam required to apply to schools for the Advanced Standing Program (DDS)?

· How can I best prepare for ADAT?

· When can I take ADAT?

What is the ADAT Exam?

ANS: The Advanced Dental Admission Test (ADAT) is an admission test designed to provide advanced dental education programs with a means to assess applicants’ potential for success. Third- and fourth-year dental students and practicing dentists interested in post-graduate training (e.g., in a dental specialty area), and international dental students applying to advanced dental education programs or advanced standing in pre-doctoral programs, are encouraged to apply to take the ADAT.

For international dentists interested in the DDS program, the ADAT is an adjunct and an optional exam which might give a boost to one’s candidacy. Since both parts of the NBDE are pass/fail exams, ADAT could be used as the means to qualitatively compare applicants in an objective manner, because of its scoring system. The intent of the NBDE is to test the minimum required knowledge to be a safe beginning practitioner and gain license to practice dentistry, whereas the ADAT is a tool to aid programs in selecting the best qualified applicants.

The ADAT has a testing window from March to September each year and can be taken at Pearson Vue exam centres in USA, Guam, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands and Canada.

For more information, here is the official ADAT Guide for 2020:

Please note that the cost of the exam can be found out in the ADAT guide (link given above). The prices vary for international dentists graduating from dental schools outside the US.

What does the ADAT exam consist of?

ANS: The test consists of multiple-choice test questions presented in English, and includes a battery of three tests on the following: Biomedical Sciences; Clinical Sciences; Data, Research Interpretation, and Evidence-Based Dentistry.

There are 200 exam questions in total which are to be completed in a duration of 4 hours and 20 minutes (including tutorial, break and post-exam survey). ADAT scores are reported as scaled scores ranging from 200 to 800 and there is no passing or failing score. A score above 500 is usually a good score. There is no negative marking for guessing. The ADAT scores are valid for 2 years. The result is a scaled score for each section with a mean for the total of three sections. ( shouldn’t it be with a total being the mean of the three sections)

There are three sections to the ADAT exam. These are:

1.) Biomedical Sciences (NBDE part 1 material): 80 questions

2.) Clinical Sciences (NBDE part 2 material): 80 questions

3.) Data, and research interpretation (Evidence based dentistry): This will be a new subject to study for most of us. Those of you who have done a Masters in Public Health (MPH) will be able to have an edge in this particular section of the exam, 40 questions

The portion of biomedical sciences and clinical sciences is mostly similar to the level of the NBDE. The third section of research interpretation and bio statistics is usually the toughest and involves questions related to research methodology.

Here's a direct link to a practice test on the official website of the American Dental Association:

How long is the ADAT exam?

ANS: The ADAT exam lasts for a total of 4 ½ hours

When can you take the ADAT exam?

ANS: Unlike the NBDE exam, which can be taken any day throughout the year, the ADAT exam can only be taken during a particular time period in a year. That time period is usually, between March 1st to August 31st (3/1 to 08/31). This is subject to change each year.

Additionally, it is best to take the ADAT after the NBDE Part 2.

Which schools accept ADAT?

In 2019, The University of Michigan School of Dentistry had made ADAT a requirement. As of this year (2020), that requirement has been removed, however, it is always considered beneficial to take the test. For the Advanced Standing Program, the schools which consider ADAT are:

1.) University of Alabama at Birmingham

2.) Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry USC

3.) Loma Linda University

4.) Western University of Health Sciences

5.) Southern Illinois University

6.) Louisiana State University

7.) University of Michigan

8.) Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

9.) Columbia University

10.) Temple University

11.) University of Pittsburgh

12.) University of Washington

13.) Virginia Commonwealth University (Preferred)

For those of you taking ADAT for residency, attached below is the list of residency programs, and schools that accept ADAT (According to the residency program):

What material should we use to study for ADAT?

ANS: The material that can be used to prepare and study for ADAT are:

· NBDE Part 1 and Part 2 material

· For the Bio statistics section, First AID for the USMLE Step 1 is a good source.

· ADAT Knockout (Highly Suggest this source)

Here is a link to a list of reference texts as per the official ADAT website:

Does taking ADAT have a positive impact on your application?

ANS: This question was personally one of the biggest questions I had when deciding to take ADAT. I was not sure if my time would be benefited in preparing and taking the exam, or in doing something else to improve my overall application and profile. I am sure many of you can relate to this dilemma.

ADAT is still a relatively new exam, even for the traditional American Dental Students. This makes it even harder to prepare for the test, as not many know about what it entails, or how important it is as an exam.

My personal answer is, anything that you can do to improve your profile, and show schools that you are a good candidate, is worth it, and will prove to be fruitful.

This includes taking ADAT.

However, it is a bargain as not all schools even consider the exam results, even if you do exceedingly well on the test. If you are someone who has their eye on any of the 13 aforementioned schools and can also plan ahead for taking the test next year (2021), I would suggest you to take the test. As I mentioned, the window period for this year (2020) is already completed, so if you do decide to take the exam, it can only be for the next cycle.

As for any test, the advantage that taking the test will have on you as a candidate will depend on how well you perform on the test. Typically, any score of 500 or above is considered a good score that you can report.

If a program is accepting Advanced Dental Admission Test (ADAT) scores, seeing a candidate with the initiative and enthusiasm 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 wherein the exam is being considered.

In the CAAPID cycle of 2019, only University of Michigan mentioned that they would give priority to candidates who have taken ADAT when reviewing their applications.

How is ADAT scored?

ANS: Official ADAT results are reported as scale scores, which can range from 200 to 800 in 10-point increments

The ADAT Overall scale is referred to as a composite scale because it is calculated using scale scores (i.e., the discipline-based scales). The ADAT Overall score is a weighted average of scale scores from all three ADAT disciplines. Weights are proportional to the number of items in each area, and the final score is rounded to the nearest ten.

Interpretation of the ADAT Overall score is slightly different from interpretation of discipline-based scale scores. Scale scores for the three ADAT disciplines are based on three factors:

· The difficulty level of each test item

· The quality of each test item (item discrimination)

· The impact of guessing on item performance

Overall, similar to NBDE, there is no calculated way to interpret your score on the ADAT exam, as it is dependent on variables that are subject to your particular exam.

A ‘good score’ is considered to be anything above 500

Personal Experience:

Now for the interesting part, let me tell you a little bit about my personal experience preparing for and taking the ADAT exam.

I took the ADAT exam early March of 2020. This was the perfect time for me, as the window period for the exam opened on the 1st of March and CAAPID opened on the 5th of March. For those of you planning for next year, I would advise you to follow a similar schedule if possible, so that you can submit your ADAT results, along with your CAAPID application in March. (Given the timelines remain the same for ADAT and CAAPID).

Preparation: To prepare for the ADAT exam, I began my preparation in early January, giving me roughly 2 months to study for the test. I was also working at the time and was able to put in around 5-6 hours a week, for 8 weeks. The materials I used were:

· ADAT Knockout: This is a great paid source that I would highly recommend you invest in, if possible. ADAT knockout is an online source of questions, that was put together by students who have taken the ADAT exam in the past. You can purchase ADAT Knockout for 200$ and you will have access to the account for 6 months (Subject to change). ADAT Knockout consists of 5 ‘practice tests for each of the 3 sections, Biomedical Sciences, Clinical Sciences, and Data research and Interpretation, along with a thorough description of the answers. The test format provided, is similar to that on the actual test. You will also be given a score, and a rank at the end of the test.

· NBDE Part 1 and Part 2 material: I also supplemented ADAT Knockout with my personal NBDE Part 1 and 2 notes that I had made for myself. I would also suggest you skim through your NBDE resources to touch up on your basics and keep your foundation intact.

· First Aid USMLE (Bio statistics section): I personally did not use this, but I am mentioning this as I would like to stress on its importance. I would highly advice those studying for the ADAT to go through this material for the Bio statistics section, as I personally found plenty of material on my exam, that was reflected from this source.

How I studied: I spent 2 months in total, studying for this exam. I spent the first month learning/reviewing the material using my NBDE First Aid, along with my notes from NBDE Part 1 and Part 2. In the second month, I focused on review using ADAT knockout’s program and going through my notes for revision.

Biomedical Sciences: NBDE Part 1 material and ADAT knockout were both really great for this section. Personally, for me, the sections were disproportionate with very little anatomy on my test and a lot more pathology. Also, there was a good amount of dental anatomy questions.

Clinical Sciences: ADAT knockout was very reflective! I had a few cases that were similar which helped me. I answered most of these questions based on my own knowledge from clinics and the topics highlighted in knockout. There were plenty of specialty questions that were asked in detail.

Data and Research: I solely used ADAT knockout here. This was personally, the most challenging section for me. I would recommend supplementing your preparation with the First Aid USMLE Bio statistics Section.

Test day: There are different time slots that you can choose according to the availability. Try to book your slot as soon as you possibly can. Since this is an exam with a narrow window period of available test taking days, many people will be looking at booking their tests early on. So, if you want to avail a test day, time and center that is of your preference, I would suggest you to book as early as possible.

I personally chose an afternoon slot for my exam. I reached the test center about 45 minutes prior to my test time. I brought a small bag that held my phone, a small snack and a water bottle. I signed in, presented my required ID at the front desk and was given a locker to keep my personal belongings. There was also a thorough security check done every time I left my test center (Restroom breaks). During the test you will be provided with a dry erase board and pen to use during the Bio statistics Section.

Overall, I had a good experience studying for and preparing for the ADAT exam, however I did find the test to be slightly challenging. I did feel the time I had to prepare was sufficient (Two months), however, I felt my preparation would have been better enhanced with the usage of the USMLE First Aid TB for the Bio statistics section. There were some questions that were new and had me thinking on the spot. For those of you who are taking this test immediately after the NBDE part 1 and 2, you will find it easier and may require less study time.

I do hope this blog, coupled with my own personal experience will give you a better insight into the ADAT exam. I’m sure all of you will do wonderful on the test 😊

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