Optometry Admission Test (OAT)

What is the OAT?

Like standardized examinations in other fields such as the MCAT for physicians or the DAT for dentists, the Optometry Admission Test, or OAT, is designed to measure a potential optometry student’s academic ability through reading, comprehension, problem solving, and knowledge in scientific basics like chemistry, biology, and physics. The OAT measures an applicant’s skills and knowledge for consideration into optometry schools and colleges, and is sponsored by the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO). Currently, all optometry schools in the United States, Puerto Rico and 1 in Canada require OAT scores to be submitted with the application before the deadline.

On admissions data for the Fall of 2008 for the 17 optometry schools in the United States and Puerto Rico, 8 of the schools considered the OAT as a significant factor in the admission process. Many schools have a minimum OAT score for the Total Science section, as well as an overall score. The others schools encourage those with scores under 300 to retake the test.

As of July 1, 2009 the fee for the OAT was $213, which is non-refundable and the test can be taken year round at Prometric testing centers. There is no limit to the number of times the test can be taken, but there is a 90 day waiting period between each test. Scores are reported after the test and applicants can have their scores transmitted electronically to the schools they are applying to.

OAT Content Breakdown

The OAT is made up of 220 multiple-choice questions distributed into four different sections: Survey of the Natural Sciences, Reading Comprehension, Physics, and Quantitative Reasoning Tests. The total time for the test is 3 hours and 55 minutes, but can be extended to 4 hours and 35 minutes due to an optional 15 minutes for a starting tutorial, 15 minutes for a break after the first two sections, and 10 minutes for an end of the test survey.

Section 1: Survey of the Natural Sciences

There is 90 minutes to complete the first part, the Survey of the Natural Sciences section, consisting of 100 questions covering Biology (40 questions), General Chemistry (30 questions), and Organic Chemistry (30 questions). Biology will cover information generally obtained in two terms and includes topics on cell and molecular biology, vertebrate anatomy and physiology, biological organization and relationship of major taxonomy, developmental biology genetics evolution, ecology, and behavior. The General Chemistry section will cover basic terminology, rules, and formulas including the gas laws, acid and bases, thermodynamics, chemical kinetics, atomic and molecular structure, periodic tables, nuclear reactions, and laboratory use. Organic Chemistry will cover basic and advanced topics like structure and stability of intermediates, stereochemistry, nomenclature, acid-base chemistry, aromatics and bonding.

Section 2: Reading Comprehension

Reading Comprehension is the second portion and has a time limit of 50 minutes to answer 40 questions spread across three reading passages. Examinees will need to be able to read the passages, analyze, retain information and apply ideas on material that is at a level comparable to first year optometry school. After this is an optional 15 minute break.

Section 3: Physics

The third part of the OAT is the 40 question Physics section that must be complete in 50 minutes. The material covered are concepts, formulas, and rules taught in the first year of undergraduate classes and include the following: units and vectors, linear kinematics, statics, dynamics, rotational motion, energy and momentum, simple harmonic motion, waves, fluid statics, thermal energy and thermodynamics, electrostatics, magnetism, optics, and modern physics.

Section 4: Quantitative Reasoning Tests

The last 45 minutes of the OAT are saved for the Quantitative Reasoning section with 40 questions covering material taught in college level calculus, trigonometry, geometry, statistics, and applied mathematics. Test takers should be ready to solve problems, use equations and expressions, logarithms, scientific notation, and materials.

OAT Scores

The OAT has a scoring system that converts the raw score of each section to a standard score. The raw scores are the sum of all correct answers, with no deductions for wrong or unanswered questions within each section and part. These numbers are converted to a standard score between 200 and 400, with the mean set at 300. For example, if the mean is set at 300 for the testing period and an individual gets 20 questions correct on the Biology sub-section, their score for that sub-section would be 300. If they score 30 correct answers, their score would be 370 for the sub-section. There are several scores that are calculated including Biology, General Chemistry, Physics, Total Sciences, and total overall so it is possible to have a lower organic chemistry score but a higher overall.

The score scales for OAT sub-tests were changed on May 1, 2009, which affected a lot of students entering that year because the comparison to scores from other years would not yield an adequate result. Schools could not compare an applicant’s score to past scores prior to May 1, 2009 without losing some accuracy. Percentiles are given along with the score to show a correlation to the raw score and standard score.


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