PAT Breakdown #4: Tips and tricks for TFE

What to expect

On the Dental Admission Test (DAT), you will have a total of 15 TFE questions (#16–30 of the PAT section). This section will require you to look at a 2D image and imagine it in 3D.

Top view indicated by the yellow arrow.
Top view of a cylindrical 3D solid (in our example, a can of soup).
Front view indicated by the yellow arrow.
Front view of a cylindrical 3D solid.
End view indicated by the yellow arrow.
End view of a cylindrical 3D solid. In this case, the end view matches the front view.
Top, front, and end views for a block-shaped object. Source: ADA’s 2007 DAT Sample Test Items.
Sample TFE question. Source: ADA’s 2007 DAT Sample Test Items. (By the way, the answer is B.)

The rules

  • Solid lines versus dashed lines. In the TFE section, you will see a mix of solid lines and dashed lines. Solid lines represent features of the object that are directly visible from a certain view. Dashed lines represent features of the 3D object that are hidden from a certain view. Let’s work with the following 3D solid (one you’re probably familiar with — a brick) as an example.
Top view of the brick shown above. The solid black lines represent the three cut-outs in the top of the brick. Again, these lines are solid because these holes are directly visible from the top view.
Side view of the brick. The dashed black lines represent the three cut-outs in the brick, which go almost all the way to the bottom. These lines are dashed because the holes are NOT directly visible from the side view, but are part of the brick’s overall structure.

The strategies

  • Practice makes perfect. It’s true for every PAT question type! With time and practice, you will be able to visualize how the 2D TFE illustrations relate to their corresponding 3D figures. Do practice sets, including the TFE practice tests on CrackDAT.com (being sure to pay attention to the explanations for the questions you miss or guess on), and download the CrackDAT app to practice and review in your spare time. You will improve your speed and accuracy as you familiarize yourself with TFE, so set aside at least 10–15 minutes each day to practice and learn from your mistakes, and don’t give up!
  • Really understand how the top, front, and end views relate to each other. Remember: in reality, all the different “views” connect with each other to form the 3D object. Let’s think about this using a cube as an example. First, we’ll think about how the top view and front view relate to each other.
  • Use the answer choices to your benefit. Remember, the TFE questions, like all questions on the DAT, are multiple choice. You don’t need to be able to visualize the entire 3D object on your own. Instead, focus on ONE feature at a time and think about how it should look in the missing view. Use process of elimination every time you see an answer that is inconsistent with the two views shown. This approach will make the TFE questions much more manageable — all you have to do is find an error, no matter how small, in three of the answer choices, and you’ll arrive at the correct answer.
  • Manage your time. You can budget more time for the TFE questions since they require more time than the strictly 2D questions, like angle ranking. But don’t dwell on a question if you’re stumped — just mark it, take your best guess, and move on! Also, remember that speed comes with practice, so don’t be discouraged if you need a lot of time per question at the beginning of your preparation.

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