The Quantitative Reasoning section of the OAT is designed to test the math skills required in optometry school. The section contains 40 multiple-choice questions, and you will have 45 minutes to complete it.
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A basic on-screen calculator will be available only in this section. It can be opened by clicking the “Calculator” button at the bottom of the screen. The calculator can add, subtract, multiply, and divide as well as take square roots, percentages, and reciprocals. The calculator cannot perform the complex functions of a scientific or graphing calculator. You also cannot input to the calculator by typing and instead will need to click every number and operation you want to perform, which can be quite time consuming and lead to making mistakes. For these reasons, avoid using the calculator as much as possible and instead use mental math and quick scratch-work calculations, saving the calculator for the rare questions with difficult multiplication or long division. Developing your ability to complete calculations without a calculator will also be helpful for the Survey of Natural Sciences since you won’t have access to a calculator during any of that section.
Scored items in the Quantitative Reasoning section directly test your abilities with Fundamentals of Calculation, Conversions, Algebra, Probability and Statistics, Geometry, and Trigonometry. On Test Day you will also see word problems that require applying one or more topics to a story problem.
A well-placed guess can sometimes be the best tool you can use for an OAT quantitative reasoning problem. Because of the severe time constraints, you need to stay on a steady pace. If you fall behind, it’s a good idea to guess on the hardest problems and mark them for later rather than completing the full calculations right away. That way you’ll get back lost time instead of falling further behind. And while you shouldn’t be afraid to guess, you should be afraid to rush! The test makers write problems in complicated ways, and rushing almost always leads to misperception of questions (not to mention errors in arithmetic). This is a problem because the test makers base many wrong answers on the most common misperceptions. Rushing through a problem almost always guarantees a wrong answer. It’s far better to guess as needed, skipping some questions and taking the time you need on others, than to rush through an entire section.
Even if you are ahead of schedule during a section, sometimes you simply will have no idea how to approach a problem. Instead of throwing away three or four minutes becoming frustrated, make a guess. If you don’t know how to approach a problem, you aren’t likely to choose the right answer anyway, and you can use the time you save to solve other problems that you stand a better chance of answering correctly.
Estimation can also be useful when answering questions as it can save you time and help you avoid mistakes when working through lengthy arithmetic calculations. You should consider estimation on questions that involve difficult or lengthy calculations and have answer choices that are spread fairly far apart. Once you decide to estimate, you’ll want to follow a couple of general rules.
First, use scientific notation and fractions to simplify calculations. Although mastering both may take practice, you’ll find the arithmetic required for either to be much simpler than leaving the number as a regular decimal. You’ll need to know scientific notation to do well on certain questions anyway, so becoming adept at them now will allow you to master content and strategies at the same time.
Second, feel free to round numbers or only use powers of 10 when the answer choices vary widely. When you add or multiply numbers, round one number up and the other number down. When you subtract or divide numbers, round both numbers in the same direction. By doing so, you’ll minimize the effect of rounding and arrive at a closer answer than you would if rounding randomly.