Hi! This is Sachi and I am a PEACE adviser. A student recently asked me "how can I prepare for the DAT and when should I take it?"
I typically suggest that you take your DAT between your junior and senior year. This way, you can spend the summers after freshman and sophomore doing research, shadowing, or any other hobby that interests you and would boost your application. You can then spend the entirety of the summer between your junior and senior year preparing for the DAT and you can take it half way through summer, or you can extend your test to a later date if you need more time. I highly recommend not taking the DAT during the school year, because juggling academics, extra activities, in addition to a social life already takes up so much time, so adding the DAT into that mix would be too stressful. If you are not taking a year off, you can take the DAT after the first month of summer and then spend the rest of your summer preparing your application. If you are taking a year off, you can enjoy the first half of your summer and spend the second half preparing for the exam.
Preparing for the DAT can be a challenge and is different for each individual. I used Kaplan, but I feel that it did not do a good job. I had to do a lot of preparation on my own in addition to the course. From my experience, you should definitely take a course to keep you on track in terms of studying, but you should also keep a calendar that specifically states which topics you want to cover each day. Look for free online resources, make flashcards, and go through each practice exam in great detail. Remember, getting a question right does not necessarily mean you understand the concept, so go through each question carefully. Some well-known courses offered are Princeton, and DAT destroyer. Crack the PAT is highly recommended for the perception portion of the exam because certain courses make the PAT easier than the real test. Chad's videos are also a great resource for the science portion. A combination of these resources will surely be helpful, but to save money, I recommend either Chad's Videos/Princeton along with Crack the PAT.
Based on my personal experience, studying a few hours each day for the first few weeks of the course is a nice way to transition yourself into work mode. During the last few weeks before your exam, I recommend studying 7-9 hours a day. It can be exhausting but it will definitely be worth it. The average acceptance score is a 19, but the top dental schools expect scores higher than 21, so studying extra hard definitely pays off.
I hope this answers your questions about the DAT!