Are you seeking admission into any optometry program in the United States? You should know everything you can about the OAT. The OAT (optometry admission test) is a standardized test designed to provide optometry education programs with a means to test applicants and know their potential for success. The test is a significant part of your quest to gain admission, so it’s natural to want to know what score you should target. You’ve probably seen the OAT score chart on the body’s website, and you’re wondering what each score means. Here’s an article to explain every OAT score range to you.
What Does the OAT Test Cover?
The OAT test is administered throughout the year by centers around the United States and Canada. The test follows established specifications and consists of four different sub-tests. It consists of 220 multiple-choice questions, and candidates are expected to answer all questions. It is computer-based and takes approximately five hours to complete (this includes the tutorial breaks and post-test survey).
Having established that, let’s review the four different subtests of the OAT test.
Survey of the natural sciences (biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry)
This section covers questions from core science courses and usually consists of 100 questions. You’re expected to finish all questions within one hour and thirty minutes. The 100 questions are divided into biology (40 questions), general chemistry (30 questions), and organic chemistry (30 questions).
As the name signifies, this section tests your ability to read, understand and answer questions in context. The section consists of three passages and 50 questions that you are expected to finish within 60 minutes. This section measures your ability to find the main idea, process and comprehend information from dense passages and answer questions on different aspects of the passage.
This section features pure physics questions and consists of 40 questions. You’re to finish all 40 questions within 50 minutes. Topics to expect here range from vectors, energy, momentum, optics, and magnetism to thermodynamics.
This section measures your mathematical and problem-solving skills. The questions range from arithmetical to advanced trigonometric problems. There are 40 questions to be answered in 40 minutes here.
What is a Good OAT Score?
While it’s good to aim for as many scores as possible, it is almost impossible to score 100% on the test. However, you’re expected to aim high since admission into optometry education programs is typically very competitive. However, it’s essential to know a good score before writing the test. This way, you can know what to target and how to adjust your preparation to suit. The OAT score ranges from 200-to 400, with a Median score of 300. The total score is calculated by adding the number of questions you answered correctly in each section. There’s no penalty for incorrect answers, so we usually recommend answering as many questions as you can. If you don’t know the answer to a question, guess and move on.
The following OAT score ranges will be beneficial in determining a score to aim for:
Top OAT scores- The top yearly scores are usually above 390 and would put you ahead of over 90% of test-takers.
- Competitive OAT scores– these scores will put you in a highly competitive position (among the top 25 percent) – 350-389
- Good enough OAT scores– these scores put you in a good position when you are applying for very competitive programs. Test scores within 300-349 fall in this range.
- Below average OAT scores– these scores don’t exactly translate to failure, but you should typically be trying to beat them. However, if your score still falls into this range, despite your efforts, don’t worry; there are still some optometry schools that’ll accept you.
Also note that several other factors may combine to affect your chances of getting into an optometry program. For instance, a good application and your choice of optometry school play a significant role in the intensity of the pressure on your OAT score.
For each administration, the average scaled scores are about 300 for each section; 50th percentile. Competitive schools may require a score above the 70th percentile range. Before choosing a school, you should know the score required. Schools usually consider scores evenly distributed across test sections compared to a high performance in one section offset by a low performance in another; thus, consistent performance across the board is recommended.
How to Calculate Your OAT Score?
As we’ve mentioned before, there is no penalty for guessing in the OAT; this allows you to try out as many questions as possible before time runs out. The test takes four hours and five minutes, after which you receive an unofficial score report at the test center. The OAT score is calculated by converting raw scores from each section using a scale between 200-400 in increments of 10 points.
Different schools may have different score requirements for their program, and it is usually important that you understand the scoring requirements for your chosen school before the test date. The OAT scoring system utilizes a method where the standard score of an applicant with a lower score may be the same as the standard score of an applicant with a relatively higher raw score. If an applicant fails to answer an entire section, the applicant has an automatic score of 200, which is equivalent to zero.
Calculating OAT Test Score
Using the OAT standard test calculation scale, a raw score of 29/40 for biology translates to a standard score of 350/400. However, the actual OAT exams are calibrated on an exam-by-exam basis. There’s provision for eight standard scores on the OAT report – biology, physics, general chemistry, organic chemistry, quantitative reasoning, reading comprehension, total science score, and academic average. Natural science subjects are scored differently from other subjects. Each section has its score that adds up to form the total score.
This means that your total science score would be the sum of your standard scores for every natural science sub-test. To arrive at the total score in science, sum up the standard scores in biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics.
How Hard is the OAT Compared to the MCAT?
Most students try to compare the difficulty level of the OAT to the MCAT. The truth is that there are several factors to consider when comparing the difficulty levels of both. From the perspective of someone who has helped people prepare for both, it depends on strength. OAT has a lot of quantitative reasoning and organic chemistry questions. If these two subjects are pretty easy for you, you’ll find the OAT pretty easy. However, if you naturally find these two subjects difficult, the OAT subject will be complex.
While comparing both tests, it’s also important to note that the OAT is separated into clear-cut sections, while the MCAT is usually mixed. One question in the MCAT may have biology, organic chemistry, and general chemistry mixed into the same question. This single factor makes the MCAT the most challenging standardized test for aspiring optometrists.
5 Tips to Score Well on the OAT
Now that you know so much about the OAT test and its structure, you’re probably wondering how to prepare for the test. Fortunately, there are tons of resources designed to help you prepare better, and as long as you’re determined and focused, the exam shouldn’t be too difficult. That said, here are some preparatory tips to help you score better on the OAT test.
When to begin preparation?
The best period to register and begin preparations for the OAT exam is when you are done with most of your optometry school prerequisites. Studying for your OAT afterward is much easier because you have a prior grounding in these subjects. Studying for the OAT test is also preferable when you are not busy with other college courses. Many pre-health students prefer taking the test during the summer, but if it doesn’t work for you, consider taking the test during winter or fall.
How to study for the OAT?
As we’ve explained above, so many resources are available to help you study for the OAT test. However, you have to be careful to choose the right resources because the wrong resources can easily confuse you. It is preferable to stick to single study material or two at most. Too many study materials cause stress and anxiety, making it tougher to maintain the calmness required during examinations.
Before picking a study resource, determine what study approach that’s best for you. Some students prefer being read to while others prefer reading through a book. If you fall in the former category, you may consider a prep course, while if you fall in the latter, you could complement your efforts with practice questions. Having a study buddy also helps with accountability and motivation.
How long should you study?
The amount of time you will need to effectively prepare for the OAT exam largely depends on the type of student you are. Spending too much time studying could lead to a counter-effect- burnout.
A good study time is anything from two to three months. This way, you’ll have sufficient time to study and try out different practice tests. It’ll also offer you enough time to take breaks when necessary since breaks allow for better assimilation.
What to know before the test
We can’t overemphasize the need to arm yourself with adequate information about the test before the test date. Ask questions about the test structure and research what to expect. There are tons of exam forums online where you can meet other test-takers and experienced people. Connect with them and share knowledge where possible.
Practice as much as you can. Practice questions are very important because they give you a feel of real exam questions. Apart from giving you a feel of real exam questions, it also helps reduce exam tensions and build confidence in your abilities.
Lastly, we recommend beginning your study with a diagnostic test to determine your area of strength and weaknesses and enable you to construct a corresponding study schedule.
Wrapping Things Up: What is the Average OAT Score?
Simply put, the average OAT test score is 300. But it’s not just enough to know or score average on the test since what defines a good score can vary from person to person. Much depends on the strength of other aspects of your application and where you want to go to school. So, while you’re looking to do well in your OAT, paying adequate attention to other aspects of your application is essential.
However, a good OAT score can compete favorably with the score of other applicants. We always advise students to aim close enough to 390 as this puts them among the 10% top students in the exam and guarantees them a competitive advantage. We’ve also highlighted important tips to help you hit your best score on the test. So, walk into the exam hall confident and give it your best shot.