OAT Study Tips and FAQs

OAT stands for “Optometry Admission Test.” Just as the MCAT is the gateway to medical school and the LSAT to law school, so the OAT is a standardized test that every applicant to optometry school must take in order to be considered for the program. Studying for one of the most important exams of your life can feel both daunting and exciting at the same time. However, you can still sleep and still maintain something of a social life while preparing for your optometry school application without forgetting your priorities. Here are some frequently asked questions students have about how to study for the OAT.
[ GOOD TO KNOW: What’s a good OAT score? ]

When to start studying for the OAT

The best time to start studying for the OAT is when you have finished most of your optometry school pre-requisites. The major ones include a variety of biology classes, organic chemistry, general chemistry, and physics. It is much easier to study for the OAT once you have a grounding in these subjects. You will notice that a lot of the material that you learn in class will come up again while studying for the test.

It might also be a good idea to study for the OAT when you are not taking any other college courses. It’s already difficult enough studying for this major test, you don’t want to throw something else in your way and worry about that affecting your overall GPA. The best time for most pre-health students is to study in the summer. The OAT is offered year-round, and if you feel that summer is not the best time for you to study, then by all means, take it during the fall or winter.
Regardless of when you want to begin studying for the OAT, make sure that you register for your test date beforehand. This gives you a deadline and helps to keep you on track in your study schedule.
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When should you take the OAT?

Most students take the OAT the summer after their junior year. By this time, you would have completed most of your prerequisites for optometry school. Additionally, you’ll have already learned much of the information that will be tested.
Some students prefer to take the test after their sophomore year, however. This does make the studying slightly more difficult, as there will be material on the test that you may never have seen before. On the other hand, taking the test a year earlier means that you’ll still have time to retake the OAT if you don’t hit the score you were hoping for.

How should you study for the OAT?

There are tons of resources out there to help you study, but it is important to keep yourself focused on one or two study materials. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself because that’s when stress begins to build up, and we all know that it is important to remain calm and relaxed for situations like these. Kaplan offers a variety of courses, from in-person classes, to live online classes, to private tutoring. These are all great options, but if you feel that you learn best just by reading through a book, there are also lessons available with practice questions.
Everybody is different. You need to sit down and ask yourself what kind of student you are and how you learn best. If you need somebody to stand in front of you and speak to you while teaching the material, then investing in a prep course is the best way to go.
Maybe you learn best from watching online tutorials? Or maybe the best path for you is to sit down and hit the books? Some students do prefer to learn by reading the textbook on their own and going through the content at their own pace—but keep in mind if you decide to self-study that you will need to be a very motivated student who won’t fall behind in your study schedule.
It is important to begin your studying with a diagnostic test. This means taking a practice test before you even begin to study anything so that you can see your areas of weaknesses and construct a study schedule.

How many times can you take the OAT?

The maximum number of times you can take the OAT will vary depending on the optometry school to which you would like to apply. To take the test more than three times, however, you will need special permission from the optometry schools that have rejected you.
Optometry schools will also all look at your multiple scores differently. Some schools will only look at your highest score, others will look at all your scores. It is important to study hard so that you will only need to take the test a minimal number of times.

How long should I study for the OAT?

Depending on the type of student you are, the amount of time that you will need to study will vary. You should not be spending too much time studying for the OAT, however, as it is very possible to burn out.
Many students spend anywhere from two to three months studying for this test. This timeframe is reasonable because it allots enough time to take an OAT course and still have time after the course to study on your own and take practice tests. It also allows you to have some sort of break before going back to school again.

What does the OAT test?

The subjects tested on the OAT cover the following foundational disciplines for optometry school: biology (40 questions), general chemistry (30 questions), organic chemistry (30 questions), reading comprehension (3 passages and 50 questions), physics (40 questions), and quantitative reasoning (40 questions). The natural sciences portion includes biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry, and you have 90 minutes to complete all of them at once. The reading comprehension section is 60 minutes, whereas physics is 50 minutes and quantitative reasoning is 45 minutes.

What is quantitative reasoning?

The quantitative reasoning section is similar to high school math. It includes algebra, percentages, fractions, etc.—all of which you’ll need to know in optometry school. This may sound easy to you, but there are a lot of questions and you are given very little time. It is important to work quickly at these questions so that you don’t run out of time.

How do I know if I’m ready to take the test?

Practice, practice, practice! Practice tests are very important because they simulate the real OAT and they give you an idea of where you stand and what your score could look like if you took the test that day. Kaplan offers free practice tests, and because they are slightly harder than the real test, they help better prepare you and in turn make the real thing seem less scary.
[ KEEP STUDYING: Top 5 OAT Test-Taking Strategies ]