What Is the OAT®?
What you need to know about the OAT, OAT scores, and the OAT sections.
About the OAT
All schools and colleges of optometry require candidates to submit OAT scores for admissions.
The OAT is designed to predict general academic ability and measure the two skills needed by future optometrists: Scientific knowledge and analytical ability. It does this by testing your knowledge of physics, chemistry and biology; your reading comprehension ability; and your quantitative reasoning skills.
Your OAT Score
The OAT is given a scaled score of 200-400, 300 being the median representing the 50th percentile. Separate subscores are reported for biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, reading comprehension, physics, and quantitative reasoning.
Each question within a section is worth the same amount, and there's no penalty for guessing. That means you should always answer every question. Never let time run out on any section without selecting an answer choice for every question.
Your score report will tell you (and optometry schools) not only your scaled scores but also your percentile ranking. Students often ask: what's a good score? Much depends on the strength of the rest of your application (if your transcript is first-rate, the pressure to strut your stuff on the OAT isn't as intense) and on where you want to go to school (different schools have different score expectations).
What are the OAT sections?
The content on the OAT is broken down into four test sections that comprise the exam:
- The Survey of Natural Sciences
- The Reading Comprehension Section
- The Physics Section
- The Quantitative Reasoning Section
The Survey of Natural Sciences
In this section of the OAT, you'll have 90 minutes to answer 40 questions on Biology, 30 questions on General Chemistry, and 30 questions on Organic Chemistry for a total of 100 stand-alone, multiple-choice questions.
Essentially you have a little under a minute per question (52 seconds to be exact). The key to remember is that some questions require more time whereas others don't take as much time. Begin with your strengths and answer all the questions that you are comfortable with. Mark the tough ones and come back to them at the end.
On the Reading Comprehension section of the OAT, you'll have 60 minutes to do three passages, each of which has 16-17 questions for a total of 50 questions. This section tests your ability to find the main idea, process information, and read and understand dense passages.
Allow yourself approximately 20 minutes per passage. It may seem like a lot of time, but it goes by very quickly. Do the easiest passages first. Within a section, if you're deciding which passage to do based on time alone, do the one with the most questions. That way you maximize your reading efficiency. However keep in mind that some passages are longer than others. On average, give yourself about 8 to 9 minutes to read and then 10 to 11 minutes for the questions.
On Physics section of the OAT, you'll have 50 minutes to answer 40 stand-alone, multiple-choice questions. Tested topics include vectors, energy and momentum, thermodynamics, magnetism, and optics.
The same strategy that is useful in the Natural Sciences applies here. Go with your strengths and answer the questions that are easiest for you. Mark the tough questions so you can come back to them at the end.
Sample OAT Physics Question
Radium radioactively decays to an alpha particle and the daughter element radon. If the atomic number of radium before decay is 88, what is the atomic number of radon?
Answer & Explanation:
The answer is B.
We're told that radium, with atomic number 88, decays via alpha decay to radon. An alpha particle is simply a helium nucleus. Helium has atomic number 2, which means it has two protons. Thus, two protons have been ejected from a radium nucleus, resulting in the formation of a radon nucleus. The number of protons (atomic number) of the radon nucleus is 88 – 2 = 86.
The Quantitative Reasoning section tests your proficiency in mathematics and assesses your problem-solving skills. The questions you encounter on this section range from simple arithmetic to more advanced trigonometric problems.
To succeed on Quantitative Reasoning, you need to understand basic mathematical concepts and show proficiency in algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and word problems. On the test you'll have 45 minutes to answer 40 questions—any of which could draw from these topics.
Sample OAT Quantitative Reasoning Question
A dining room table is selling at a 20% discount, which is $120 more than 50% of the list price. What is the list price of the table?
Answer & Explanation:
The answer is E.
A 20% discount is the same as 80% of list price. Converting the 80% and 50% values into decimals, we have .8 of list price and .5 of list price. Let's call list price "x." Set up an equation. .8x = .5x + 120. Simplifying, we get .3x = 120. Solve for x and you get $400 for the list price, which matches with (E).