PAT Breakdown #2: Mastering hole punching

What to expect

On the Dental Admission Test, you will have a total of 15 hole punching questions (#46–60 of the PAT section). You will see 4x4 squares which represent pieces of paper. Each paper is folded multiple times in various directions — horizontally, vertically, diagonally — and then one (or more) holes is punched in the paper. You must determine what the pattern of hole punches would look like in the unfolded paper. Here’s a simple example of a hole punching question:

The square on the left represents a piece of paper. The paper is then folded in half. The solid lines represent the new position of the paper, while the dashed lines represent where the paper was, before it was folded. Two holes are punched in the folded paper. What will the paper look like once it’s unfolded?

The rules

The rules for hole punching are straightforward:

  • Unshaded circles represent areas with NO holes punched. Shaded circles represent areas that have been hole punched.
  • The final pattern of hole punches will always fit within the 4x4 grid.

The strategies

  • Practice as much as possible! The more you practice hole punching, the more you will improve, even if you occasionally feel stuck. Have confidence that your practice is valuable and will be worthwhile. Gain experience with hole punching questions and common fold patterns using practice sets and question generators. Practice hole punching on the go using the CrackDAT app. With practice, you’ll notice that not only does your accuracy improve, but also your speed — the hole punching section is a great opportunity to answer many questions correctly without needing to dedicate too much of your valuable PAT time.
  • Model the situation using paper. If you’re struggling to visualize the questions in the hole punching section of PAT, or you’re just getting started familiarizing yourself with these questions, recreate them yourself using paper and a hole punch. Cut out a small square of paper, fold it however you wish, and punch a hole. Try to imagine what the paper will look like once unfolded, then unfold it and compare to your prediction. Creating a physical model for this question type will help hole punching become much less abstract and much more manageable.
  • Try a grid method. Some people can mentally unfold the paper with relative ease to determine the correct answer choice— if that works well for you, great! However, if you’re struggling to visualize the unfolding of the paper even after practicing, you’re not alone. Try creating a grid to keep track of the placement of the hole punches. When you get to the hole punching questions on PAT (or at the end of the Survey of Natural Sciences, if you happen to have a few moments to spare), quickly draw 15 grids on your scratch paper.
A sample hole punching grid. This 4x4 grid represents the 4x4 grids of shaded and unshaded circles you’ll see in the answer choices.
The method detailed in this video, known as the Line of Symmetry Method, uses a grid to keep track of the placement of the hole punches as the paper is unfolded at each step.

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