Are you seeking admission into any optometry education program in the United States? If yes, you’ll need to pass the OAT to get in. The OAT (optometry admission test) is a standardized test designed to provide optometry education programs a means to assess applicants and know their potential for success. The test’s challenging nature means that more students wonder how to pass. If you’ve registered for the test, here’s a detailed guide with all the right preparatory tips to help you succeed. Read on to find out everything you should know about the OAT.
How Hard is the OAT Test?
The OAT test is quite challenging, and several factors combine to make the exam as rigorous as it is. One such factor is the enormous scope of materials you’ll need to cover before the test date.
The OAT is designed to test your knowledge of math, chemistry, biology, physics, reading, and quantitative reasoning. And all these contribute to making the OAT overwhelming and daunting. Preparing for the OAT entails a lot of reading, as there are many facts and concepts to be understood. The exam allows you to prove your understanding of abstract and analytic concepts. It also tests your ability to memorize a bulk of information under pressure.
However, let’s point out that the pass rate is relatively high, despite these challenges. So, most students approach the exam with confidence. You can easily overcome most of the challenges by having a good study plan that allows you to focus more on your areas of difficulty.
Some schools suggest that you finish two semesters of physics and four semesters of chemistry and biology courses before applying to the OAT. These courses offer you in-depth information on most OAT concepts, so studying them will give you a comparative advantage.
What is a Good Score on the OAT?
The average score for the OAT is 300, and it will put you in the 50th percentile of candidates. A good score on the OAT is 320, while a 390 score is excellent and puts you in the 90 percentile of candidates (great for competitive schools).
However, the average score is just one facet of the dice, and admissions into optometry schools depend on other factors.
First, it depends on how competitive your choice of optometry school is. Each school has a set number of seats available for candidates—the lesser the number of seats, the greater the competition.
Secondly, admissions also depend on other aspects of your application, such as the proper prerequisite and a good GPA. Note that admissions will also consider how well you do in every OAT subject instead of just looking at your overall score. So it is vital to have a good score in every section to show that you have all the skills required for optometry school.
How is the OAT Scored?
Each subject is scored on a scale of 400. After which, the mean score of the six (BIO+GC+OC+PHY+RC+QR/6) is calculated to give you an Academic Average (AA). The academic average is the most crucial score on the OAT. You should note that the OAT is a computer-based test (CBT), meaning that you will be scored based on the number of correct answers you provide, and there is no penalty for wrong answers. So we generally recommend guessing for answers to questions you do not know.
How Many Hours Should You Study for the OAT?
Experts recommend studying 3 hours a day, 4 to 5 times a week for three months. This study time should give you a total range between 150-250 hours of study. However, it is always important to note that the number of hours should depend on the individual’s study habits. Your schedules, test dates, how much you have to cover, and how well you do in your prerequisites will determine how long you study. For example, you might not need to read for long hours if you do well in your prerequisites, or you may have to read for long hours on weekends if you don’t have enough time during the week.
What are the Sections of the OAT?
The OAT test consists of four sections: Natural Science, Reading Comprehension, Physics, and Quantitative Reasoning. However, the Natural Science sections consist of 3 subjects (Biology, Organic Chemistry, and General Chemistry), making it a total of six subjects.
Topics to cover in biology include;
Genetics, Evolution, Ecology and Behavior, Cell and Molecular Biology, Structure and Functions of systems, Developmental Biology, Diversity of Biology.
General Chemistry (GC.)
Topics to cover;
Gases, Liquids and Solids, Solutions, Acids and Bases, Stoichiometry and General Concepts, Chemical Reactions, Oxidation-Reduction Reactions, Atomic and Molecular structures, Periodic Properties, Nuclear Reactions, Laboratory, Thermodynamics and Thermochemistry, Chemical Equilibria.
Organic Chemistry (OC.)
Topics to cover;
Stereochemistry, Chemical and Physical Properties of Molecules, Nomenclature, Acid-Base Chemistry, Aromatics and Bonding, Mechanisms: Energetics and Structure, Individual Reactions of the Major Functional Groups, and Combinations of Reactions to Synthesize Compounds.
Reading Comprehension (RC.)
You will read three passages on science topics and answer questions that test your understanding and comprehension.
Topics to cover;
Units and Vectors, Simple Harmonic Motion, Dynamics, Magnetism, Electrostatics, Statics, Linear Kinematics, Rotational Motion, Fluid Statics, DC Circuits, Thermal Energy, Thermodynamics, Waves, Optics, and Modern Physics.
Quantitative Reasoning (QR.)
Topics to cover;
You will answer word questions on Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, Probability and Statistics, and Numeric Calculations.
How Do You Prepare for the OAT? 5 Tips
When studying for important exams like the OAT, several strategies and tips can help you learn effectively. If you are wondering how to prepare for the OAT exams, here are some OAT study tips that will help you:
Take practice tests
Practice tests are always a sure way to prepare for exams. It becomes even more critical when the exams have many materials to cover. Taking practice tests will help you discover the areas you are good in and those you’re not so good in.
Most candidates have test anxiety, which can impact their thinking ability during the exam. Taking practice tests helps to reduce stress. Fortunately, the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) has some OAT test prep books that teach candidates everything they need for the exams. The content of these test prep books includes the OAT format, practice test, course materials, and other vital materials. The ASCO also publishes free online guidelines and regulations for students.
Focus on areas of difficulty
Practice tests should help you discover the subjects/topics you’re not so good at. Armed with that information, you can spend more of your study time on these problematic areas to study efficiently. After all, it will be unwise to spend so much time on topics you excel in.
Create a study plan
Life on its own is complex, and there are so many activities to juggle around. Unfortunately, there’s limited time to handle school, work, family, and social and recreational activities. Balancing these activities requires that you create a detailed calendar. Don’t know how to do that? Here are tips to help:
- Start by using a digital calendar to write all your commitment and extracurricular activities (including sleep). Filling in your obligations will enable you to see the time you have left for studying. If, after reviewing your daily activities, you don’t have enough time to learn (in the case of the OAT, 3 hours daily/5 times a week), you will have to rearrange your calendar to create more time.
- Be more specific in your study plan. For instance, instead of putting “study physics” on your calendar, be clear by writing the particular topic you will be reading.
Space out your study time
It is always best to take a 10-15 minute break after studying for 1-1 ½ hours. Also, remember to maximize efficiency by analyzing complex topics when your mind is fresh. Most importantly, set aside time to practice and review what you have learned that week because it helps for effective memory. Since you will be studying 4-5 days a week, you can now set aside the sixth day for taking practice and reviewing.
Study one subject at a time
When you have an enormous scope of materials to cover, it is always best to focus on one subject at a time. Going from one subject to another will affect your focus and consume your energy. And because most subjects have topics that complement each other, studying one at a time will increase efficiency.
Wrapping Things Up: How to Prepare for the OAT Test?
Preparing for the OAT test can be a handful, especially with the many activities you’ll need to juggle. Unfortunately, there’s very limited time, so we recommend smart preparation. It takes approximately three months to fully prepare for the test, but there’s no universal law that pegs preparatory time at three months. So we recommend working at your pace. If you’re not a fast learner, take more time on each topic for better understanding. The goal is to prepare adequately for the test, not quicker.
Reviewing your daily activities and creating a study schedule will help with a more organized preparation. However, always follow preparatory steps and use resources that suit your learning style.