The Optometry Admissions Test, also known as the OAT, is required for application to any optometry school in North America. This exam is undoubtedly one of the most important exams of your life, and studying for it can be both overwhelming and exciting at the same time. If you organize and plan your study schedule properly, however, you can still have enough time to sleep and maintain a balanced social life.
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When to Begin Your OAT Study Schedule
I thought the best time for me to start studying was after I had taken the majority of my optometry school pre-requisites because this way I had a basic knowledge of the content and was able to use my studying time efficiently to build up on the basics. I noticed that a lot of material that I learned in class was starting to come up during my studying, but no doubt there was still some new material that I had to learn.
I made a good choice by studying for the exam while I wasn’t taking any other college courses because I was able to focus on this one test without having to worry about affecting my GPA. I was also able to keep sane this way. However, I highly recommend that while you are studying, pick up either a part time job or a hobby that you can do to get your mind off the studying for a couple hours and allow you to relax. This is key because if you spend 100% of your time only studying, you could begin to feel more stressed than you really should be, since your brain will suffer from not getting other kinds of stimulation.
Regardless of when you begin to start studying for the OAT, make sure you register for the test date beforehand. This will allow you to keep on track, as you will be able to feel the date moving closer and closer, and you will be able to plan your study schedule accordingly.
Choosing Your OAT Prep Resources
Because there are so many different resources available, you may not know where to start. My advice is to first figure out what type of student you are. Kaplan has the OAT test prep for you.
You could alternatively take live online classes. These are pretty awesome because you can watch anywhere in the world, constantly ask questions in the chat box, and quickly get answers to your questions from live instructors. If you do happen to miss a class, they are always recorded, so you could go back and watch them when you have time. Or is your preference to learn one-on-one with a private tutor? That’s another viable option for planning your study schedule.
Once you have decided on the type of studying route you want to take, you are ready to begin planning. If you register for a class, you will likely need to take a diagnostic OAT practice test, which will tell you your areas of weakness and what you should spend the most time working on. Then you will receive a personalized study schedule that you may choose to follow. OAT classes will have set dates and times and you can use to keep you on track.
If you decide to take the self-study route, like I did, then it would still be wise to take a practice test before you begin studying to see where you stand. Then, begin to write out your study schedule and keep it somewhere close by so you can always look at. You could either start with your weakest subject to get it out of the way, or you may want to start with the subject in which you did the best to give yourself a confidence boost and then work your way up. Make sure to allot the appropriate amount of time for each subject depending on how you did on the diagnostic test. If you did worst on the physics section, you may want to spend some more time on that and less time on a section where you excelled.
While creating your study schedule, do not forget to give yourself time for hanging out with your family and friends and pursuing your hobbies or extracurriculars. It is important to take breaks between your studying sessions to avoid fatigue.
Once you have your study schedule set up the way you like it, it’s time to dive in. It won’t really help if you just start off with practice questions without learning and reviewing the material. Start off by reviewing a topic in a specific subject and then try some practice questions on that topic. Once you feel confident, move on to the next. Keep doing this until you get through every single topic.
Following Your OAT Study Schedule Until Test Day
One month into your study schedule, you should be familiar with all the material and begin completing LOTS of practice questions on a daily basis. When working through these practice problems and reviewing, it is important not to neglect any questions, including the ones that you got correct. Even if you picked the right answer, reviewing will give you insight into why the other options are incorrect. It’s also possible that you merely guessed correctly, which isn’t going to help you build confidence for Test Day.
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As you review, try to broaden your resources and look for different tools to help you make sense of the OAT. This could involve asking an instructor or friend for help, trying different prep books, or conducting online research.
Mentally prepare yourself for the OAT
As you advance in your OAT study schedule, you’ll need to ask yourself whether you feel ready to tackle the exam in the coming weeks. You may be tempted to consider paying the extra fee to extend the testing date, but that shouldn’t be necessary if you’ve planned accordingly, review the practice material strategically, and prepare yourself mentally for the challenge ahead.
It is important to save about two weeks before the exam to mentally prepare yourself for Test Day. This means simulating the real thing by taking full-length practice tests in a quiet place, making sure nobody is around to disturb you.
During the real exam, you’ll be given 15 minutes beforehand to collect yourself and complete a brief tutorial. You’ll also get breaks between some of the OAT sections. Take advantage of these breaks to relax your mind, calm your nerves, and refocus on the next round of questions.
What happens once the big day finally arrives? The night before exam day, try to get to sleep early and avoid outside distractions, preoccupations, or sources of stress. Depending on the time of your exam, wake up early enough for a full breakfast. Prepare some snacks and lunch for yourself, and get to the OAT testing center on time.
In the week leading up to Test Day, you should also allow yourself time in your study schedule to relax and enjoy time with family and friends. There is not much else that you can improve at this point, so instead focus on your mental and physical well-being and be prepared to do your best.
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