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How to Study for the OAT Exam

Updated on January 19, 2012

Passing the Admissions Test for Optometry School

Optometry schools require all applicants to submit a score on the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry OAT exam. They then use the scores of the Optometry Admission Test and other factors to decide whom to admit into optometry degree programs. Students seeking to become an optometrist should learn the various methods and resources available to prepare for getting a high score on the OAT exam.

This optometry-school admissions test challenges students in four major areas: reading comprehension, physics, quantitative reasoning, and the natural sciences of biology, general chemistry and organic chemistry. As such, an undergraduate degree in a natural science, while not required for admission, will be a good head start on doing well on the OAT exam.

Many students fluff off their undergrad courses or study hard for the tests and then brain dump everything for the next semester. Keep in mind that you will have months of hard study ahead of you if you do this and then decide later to take the Optometry Admission Test. At a minimum, try to keep the basic information in your head by reviewing major categories in the natural sciences from time to time. This will speed up your preparation for the OAT exam.

One good thing is that the Natural Sciences portion of test is limited to what is generally taught in a first-year course in biology, organic chemistry and general chemistry. This means you can go to any college bookstore, purchase the first-year books in those subjects, and at least come close to mastering that part of the OAT exam if you absorb all the material in those textbooks.

The OAT Physics is similar. It covers two semesters of physics, so you could also purchase those textbooks and come close to mastering the material for that section of the Optometry Admission Test.

Reading comprehension is always a subject that is more of a lifelong pursuit than sitting down and preparing with specific OAT materials. Taking English classes could help in this area. You may wish to buy some introductory optometry books just to be familiar with the kinds of material that may appear on the reading comprehension. Other standardized tests, like the ACT, the Law School Admission Test, and the GRE general exam have reading comprehension. Using the widely available study guides for those tests may also be beneficial in preparing you for the OAT Reading Comprehension exam.

Quantitative analysis can be improved upon to some degree by taking math classes in college. This is not an area focused on so much in American high schools and does require some natural ability to do well. The GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test for entry into MBA schools) also tests Quantitative Reasoning. There are some tools on the website that may be helpful in getting ready for this difficult portion of the OAT exam.

Use the free OAT practice test on the American Dental Association website to get an idea of the types of questions on this optometry exam and get practice on answering questions in this particular exam format.

The OAT Guide (see link below) has additional information on the OAT exam. Download it and get familiar with all the rules of the exam, how to register, and what to expect on test day.


Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry: Optometry Admission Test Candidate Guide

OAT Practice Test


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