The difficulty of the OAT varies depending on an individual’s background and preparation, but it is generally considered challenging due to its comprehensive coverage of various science disciplines and the time constraints of the exam.
This test designed to test applicants and see if they have the right skills and knowledge to take on various programs in an optometry school. It comes with hundreds of questions, mainly multiple choice, which will assess a student’s knowledge and capability.
The difficulty of the OAT can be managed with proper planning, dedication, and effective study strategies. It is essential to understand the exam format, content, and time constraints, and to allocate sufficient time for preparation and practice.
What is OAT?
The Optometry Admission Test (OAT) is a standardized exam required for admission to optometry schools in the United States and Canada.
The test consists of four sections that will test your knowledge about optometry. First is the Survey of Natural Sciences which contains the following categories:
Biology – This category contains questions related to Genetics, Cellular and Molecular Biology, and Ecology.
General Chemistry – This one includes questions related to the states of matter, laboratory techniques, and the like.
Organic Chemistry – Compared to General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry focuses more on the chemical properties of molecules, mechanisms, stereochemistry, and more.
Second is the Physics section which aims to gauge your understanding of physics which is an important part of optometry.
Third is the Reading Comprehension section which obviously focuses on your reading comprehension, ability to understand information, and more. However, unlike the other sections, this one leans more toward passages that you need to understand and answer correctly.
The last one is Quantitative Reasoning which aims to gauge your reasoning and mathematical skills.
- Format: The exam consists of 230 multiple-choice questions and is administered through computer-based testing. The total testing time is approximately 4.5 hours, including a 15-minute break.
- Scoring: Each section is scored on a scale of 200 to 400, with a mean of 300. A competitive OAT score will vary depending on the optometry school’s requirements, but generally, scores above 320 are considered strong.
- Preparation: Adequate preparation is crucial to achieve a high score on the OAT. Most students spend several months studying, using a variety of resources such as textbooks, online courses, and practice exams.
Also, the OAT isn’t similar to the tests you’ve gone through in college or high school. It’s more of a test to filter unqualified takers and pick out those who are qualified for the programs. This means that the questions are designed to be answered only by the most knowledgeable applicants.
How Hard is OAT?
In general, the OAT is not an easy test to pass. However, the amount of difficulty will depend on your level of preparation. If you come to the test unprepared, it will obviously be impossible for you to pass it.
However, there are students who find certain sections of the test quite complicated. For example, there are students who struggle with the Reading Comprehension section while some find it hard to answer the questions in the Physics section. As such, we highly recommend you take as many practice exams as possible in order to prepare yourself for the actual exam in advance. This way, you’ll be able to assess your level of knowledge and properly gauge your strengths and areas that need improvement.
By far, it’s the Quantitative Reasoning section of the OAT that most students find difficult. However, the most difficult one statistically would be the Physics section as it’s where a lot of students tend to struggle regardless of how well they prepared for the exam. Most of the questions in the section will test basically any concept in the subject. As such, if you don’t know and understand the basic concepts of physics, you might struggle in this section as well.
So, why exactly is OAT hard? Well, there are several factors that contribute to its overall difficulty. They’re as follows:
The OAT is a Standardized Test
One of the main reasons for OAT’s complexity is the fact that it’s a standardized test. This means that your scores will be compared to other examinees once you managed to pass the test and join an optometry school.
Due to this, it will be hard to fully assess whether you’re prepared enough or not as this will depend on other examinees’ performances.
There are Lots of Math and Physics Questions
A lot of students who aim on taking the OAT find it hard to study for the test as it includes lots of math and physics-related questions. Both of the sections will have questions that you should identify the formula in order to solve.The problem is, some of these questions take a lot of time to solve. Without solid analytical thinking and memorization skills, you’ll most likely struggle with such questions.
It Takes a While to Finish
Saying the OAT is long is an understatement. In fact, you require endurance if you want to ace the test. Besides, it requires a lot of mental stamina considering it includes a lot of questions that will require your memorization skills.
You’ll find that most of the questions will involve concepts you already know. However, you need to be quick at solving them, and this is where your memorization skills come in handy.
How Long It Takes to Prepare for the Test?
On average, it will take you around 2 to 4 months to fully prepare for the OAT. However, this will mostly depend on your schedule, what your strengths and weaknesses are, and what type of student you are.
If you study for around 2-4 hours per day, you’ll be able to ace the exam in around 2-4 months of consistent studying. However, that also means you need to stick to a detailed study schedule.
It’s also important to include some rest days so you won’t get overwhelmed while still preparing for the test. That said, you might want to dedicate more time to subjects that you’re struggling with.
How to Ace the OAT?
If you want to ace the test, you need to employ certain strategies that will help you make the questions a lot easier. Here are some that we recommend:
Take a Lot of Practice Exams
As you would with other types of tests, taking a lot of practice exams will help you prepare for the OAT in advance. This will allow you to familiarize certain questions that might appear in the actual exam.
However, you should also consider taking practice exams to be one way of preparing yourself mentally and physically considering the exam lasts for several hours.
Study for Several Hours
We’re not just talking about a few dozen hours; instead, we’re talking about at least a hundred hours.
To make the most out of it, you want to divide your schedule into three different phases. The first phase should focus on understanding the basic concepts involved in the test.
The second phase will be more on practice tests and further focusing on sections that you’re struggling with. Meanwhile, the third phase will be to spend at least 50 hours on practice tests and review all of your answers, especially the ones you got wrong.
How Long is the Test on Average?
On average, the OAT will take you around four and a half hours to finish. That said, it’s no doubt longer than most standardized tests out there. That said, each of the four sections will have a time limit that you should pay attention to.
The Reading Comprehension section allows sixty minutes to complete all of its fifty questions. The Physics section only gives fifty minutes to answer all forty questions.
The Quantitative Reasoning section only gives you forty-five minutes for all forty questions. And finally, the Survey of Natural Sciences section only allocates ninety minutes to answer all one hundred questions.
As you can see, each question only gives you around 1 minute on average to solve.
That said, you will be expected to go through all sections in one seating. Each section will be answered consecutively, though you’re given small breaks in between.
The good news about the OAT is that, unlike other exams, you will be able to take the test an unlimited number of times. This means that you’ll be able to take it over and over again until you get a perfect score.
However, if you fail on your first two attempts, you’ll need to wait at least 30 days before you can retake. On your third and any succeeding attempts, you’ll need permission to retake it. In some cases, your request might even get rejected.
What’s the Passing Score for the Test?
The OAT’s scoring is on a scale of 200 to 400. In other words, the lowest attainable score is 200 while 400 is the highest.
The good thing about the OAT is that you will only be scored depending on how many questions you got right. Besides, its section will have its own score, and the proctors will consider which parts you succeeded in and which parts you failed in.
That said, the passing score can get tricky as it will vary from one school to another. Unlike other tests where there’s a set score you need to pass, the OAT will wildly vary. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing.
Some schools may only need at least 250 for you to get accepted. However, some schools that have very high standards might require you to get at least 350. If you’re aiming to get accepted into a prestigious school, then you must aim to get a very high score as much as possible.
A lot of schools consider 320 to be a very good score while 350 is considered excellent. However, if you want to get accepted into the most competitive schools, a score of 390 would be the most ideal.
After you finish the test, you will be given your final score as well as the choice of school that you can attend to.
OAT vs. MCAT: Which is Harder
There are a few similarities between the MCAT and OAT. The MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test) is also a medical test, though it’s designed for medical science applicants. It’s basically a standard in most medical colleges as a means of gauging a student’s knowledge in the field.
That said, the MCAT also comes with four sections which are somehow similar to the four sections included in the OAT.
Also, the scoring ranges from 472 to 528. Due to the MCAT’s scoring scale, it allows more room for error which makes it a bit easier than the OAT.
In other words, the MCAT is easier as it’s a general exam compared to OAT which is more of a specialized test. Though if you understand how MCAT works, you’ll have a much easier time understanding and even passing the OAT.
At this point, it should be clear that the OAT is not an easy test to pass. It’s designed to be that way in order to filter applicants and distinguish those who are knowledgeable in the field from those who are not.
It’s also designed to test only the most serious applicants. However, while the test is difficult in general, that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to make it easier. As long as you’re interested in pursuing a career in optometry, you should be able to allocate time for practice exams and studying.
If you’re able to dedicate a few hundred hours to studying and understanding its basic concepts, you should be able to ace the exam and get a score of at least 350 which should be more than enough to get you admitted to highly competitive schools.