The Optometry Admission Test, better known as the OAT, is a screening test administered by optometry schools to test your knowledge in physics and natural sciences, your reading comprehension abilities, and your quantitative reasoning skills. 

The test is just part of the application process, and doing well on the test won’t guarantee a place in the optometry school of your choice. However, schools do put a lot of weight on your OAT scores, so if you are planning on a career in optometry, you’re going to need to work very hard to do well on this test. 

The test is taken at a testing center on a computer, and costs $490, although fee waivers are possible in the event of financial hardship. You’ll have about four hours and five minutes (plus a break) to answer 230 multiple-choice questions.  

Did you know?

The OAT has 230 questions, covering 6 subjects in four different sections. You will be tested on (1) biology, (2) general chemistry, (3) organic chemistry, (4) physics, (5) reading comprehension, and (6) quantitative reasoning. Every school sets its own standards for students, and the grading is standardized, allowing schools to compare applicants who took the test at different times. To excel on this test, you will need to have a strong understanding of the material and work quickly to complete the test on time.


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Icon Questions Explained White OAT Question Types Explained

The OAT is a multiple-choice test. It covers six subjects and is divided into four sections. You will have four hours and five minutes to complete the test. In addition, there is an optional 15-minute tutorial before the test begins, a 30-minute break after the reading comprehension section, and an optional post-test survey that takes 15 minutes to complete.

SectionNumber of QuestionsTime LimitAverage Time Per Question
Natural Sciences 10090 minutes54 seconds
Reading Comprehension50 60 minutes72 seconds
Physics4050 minutes75 seconds
Quantitative Reasoning4045 minutes67.5 seconds

Natural Sciences

The natural sciences portion of the exam tests your knowledge of biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry. You will have 90 minutes to answer 40 biology questions, 30 general chemistry questions, and 30 organic chemistry questions. 

All questions are multiple-choice, giving you five options to choose from. Choose carefully, as some questions have “None of the Above” or “All of the Above” as an option.

  • Biology – spend time preparing for questions on cell and molecular biology, diversity of life, structure and function of the systems, developmental biology, genetics, evolution, ecology, and behavior
  • General Chemistry – be prepared for questions covering stoichiometry and general concepts, gases, liquids and solids, solutions, acids and bases, chemical equilibria, thermodynamics and thermochemistry, chemical kinetics, oxidation-reduction reactions, atomic and molecular structure, periodic properties, nuclear reactions, and laboratory skills. 
  • Organic Chemistry – focus your studying on mechanisms, chemical and physical properties of molecules, stereochemistry, nomenclature, individual reactions of the major functional groups, and combinations of reactions to synthesize compounds, acid-base chemistry, aromatics, and bonding. 

Winning Tip

With so many questions in the section and not a lot of time, you’ll want to move quickly, answering the questions you know and then coming back for the questions that were out of your comfort zone. 

Reading Comprehension

The reading comprehension portion of the test contains three passages covering scientific topics. While you don’t need to have any preexisting knowledge on the topics covered in the passages, the multiple-choice questions will test your ability to read, comprehend, and thoroughly analyze basic scientific information. 

Winning Tip

You have an hour to read the passages and answer the questions. Give yourself 20 minutes per passage, and start with the easiest one first. On average, you’ll want to give yourself about 8-9 minutes to read the passages, allowing yourself 11-12 minutes to read through and answer the questions. 

Note: After completing the Reading Comprehension section, you have the option to take a 30-minute break. Take advantage of the time to give yourself a break. Physics is coming up next. 

Physics

You’ll have just 50 minutes to answer 40 multiple-choice physics questions. The topics covered are units and vectors, linear kinematics, statics, dynamics, rotational motion, energy and momentum, simple harmonic motion, waves, fluid statics, thermal energy and thermodynamics, electrostatics, D.C. circuits, and optics. 

Winning Tip

Know your strengths, and try to answer those questions first before going back to the beginning of the test and answering the questions you are less familiar with. Remember, you only have 75 seconds per question, so don’t spend three minutes trying to work out the answer. 

Quantitative Reasoning

You’ll have 45 minutes to answer 40 math questions in this section. There are two types of questions that you’ll be facing.

  • Mathematical problems – study algebra, data analysis, interpretation, sufficiency, quantitative comparison, probability, and statistics
  • Applied Mathematics – word problems

While you are not allowed to bring a calculator into the test, there will be a calculator available on the screen for you to use. 

Winning Tip

To save time, you don’t always need to work a problem through until the end. You can frequently eliminate answers that are obviously wrong and use estimations to answer the question quickly. 

Icon Preparation Strategies White OAT Preparation Strategies

If you are serious about going to optometry school, you must prepare for the OAT. The ADA, which administers the test, recommends that applicants use textbooks and lecture notes as primary sources. They also recommend taking practice tests, reviewing reference texts, and taking an OAT tutorial. 

Many candidates for optometry school plan to take the test in the summer between their junior and senior years. If possible, take a lighter course load that semester to give yourself more time to study.  However, before taking the test you should have already taken most of your optometry school prerequisites so you already have a basic understanding of biology, chemistry, and physics. 

You’ll want to create a dedicated study schedule for the test, which is about 2-3 months long. It’s also a good idea to choose a date and register for your test early. Creating a deadline will help motivate you to study and keep you on track. 

In addition, here are some other things you can do to prepare for the OAT. 

1. Find an OAT Test Prep Course that Meets Your Needs

You want a comprehensive test prep course that is focused on the OAT, rather than signing up for generic physics and science classes. When looking for the right course, here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Find a course that works for you. If you prefer video lessons or text-based lessons, look for the course that will play to your strengths.
  2. Don’t sign up for any generic optometry course. Find an OAT course, which will cover the material you can expect to see on test day.
  3. Look at user reviews. Before spending money on a course, make sure that it has helped others in your position. 
  4. Find recommended textbooks published by authors that you like.

2. Identify your Strengths and Weaknesses

Use practice tests to see which areas you need to focus on. This will help guide your studies, making your study time more efficient. For example, if you did well in physics but struggled on the organic chemistry portion of the test, you’ll want to put more effort into studying organic chemistry. 

Once you’ve identified your strengths and weaknesses, build an action plan to help build up your weaknesses. Create measurable goals so you can see progress as your studying continues. 

3. Stay Positive

Over the course of studying, you may find yourself struggling with one particular area. Work with a colleague to try and identify the root causes of your mistakes, so you correct them and improve before the test. 

4. Practice Multiple Choice Questions 

This might seem silly, but answering multiple-choice questions quickly and correctly is a skill set. As the entire OAT is a multiple-choice test, this can’t be overstated. 

You’ll need to learn how to quickly eliminate options, and make educated guesses. Find a course that teaches these skills.

Be sure to check out iPrep’s tutorials; we include techniques like these in our online courses.

5. Create Realistic Test Simulations

The more realistic the experience, the more comfortable you will be when you actually take the test. Practice tests should be taken on a computer, using the same time constraints, without access to notes or a calculator to prepare yourself for the test-day experience. 

Icon Test Features White Test Features

The Optometry Admission Test experience is consistent, regardless of the state you take it in or the school you are applying to. However, different schools require different scores for the candidates. 

Test Fast Facts (tl;dr)

  • Total of 230 questions
  • The test takes four hours and five minutes to complete
    • There is an optional 15-minute pre-test tutorial
    • There is an optional 30-minute break 
    • There is an optional 15-minute survey after completing the test
  • There are four sections, covering six categories
    • Natural sciences (biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry)
    • Reading comprehension
    • Physics
    • Quantitative reasoning
  • Calculators may not be brought into the test. There is a built-in calculator that can be used during some sections of the test
  • A perfect score is 400. A score of 340 or higher is considered excellent
  • OAT is administered at Prometric test centers
  • OAT is presented in the English language
  • Test-takers must bring two current forms of ID: one with a picture such as a driver’s license and one with a signature, such as a credit card
  • The name on the ID must match the application exactly

Retake Policies

After failing a test, candidates can retake the test after 90 days. Additional retakes can only be taken after a 12-month period.  If you need to retake the test, you will need to pay the full fee. Some optometry schools may have different policies. 

Fees

OAT fees cost $490. They are non-refundable and non-transferable. There are additional fees as well for optional items and rescheduling tests. 

Fee TypeAmount
Score Report – Optional$45 per report
Score Audit$65
45-day Eligibility Extension Fee$125
Reschedule Fee – 30 days or more before test$25
Reschedule Fee – 5-29 days before test$60
Reschedule Fee – 1-4 days or more before test$150

Icon Results Scale & Interpretations White Results Scale and Interpretations

Each section of the OAT yields a raw score, which is the sum of your correct answers. The raw score is then converted into a scale score, ranging from 200-400. The scale score allows optometry schools to compare the performance of their applicants. 

Approximated OAT Score, Based on Correct Answers per Section:

OAT ScoreNatural ScienceReadingPhysicsQuantitative Reasoning
380-40085-10045-5035-4032-40
360-38080-8540-4532-3530-32
340-36070-8035-4530-3226-30
320-34060-7025-3525-3023-26
300-32050-6020-2522-2520-23
280-30040-5015-2018-2216-20
250-28030-408-1515-1812-16
200-2500-300-80-150-12

Results Availability

An unofficial score report is provided at the test center immediately after completing the test. Official reports are sent to optometry schools within 3-4 weeks of taking the test and are posted to your OAT user account. 

Source: ADA.org

Interpretation of your score

Performance OAT ScoreInterpretation
Top OAT Scores390-400You should be able to get into any optometry school
Competitive OAT Scores350-380You are in the top 25% of test takers and should make you highly competitive
Acceptable OAT Scores300-340You are ahead of 50% of test takers, but you may not have high enough scores to get into top schools
Poor scoresBelow 290You may be able to get into some optometry schools

Icon Frequently Asked Questions White OAT FAQs

What is the OAT exam?

The OAT exam is a test used to measure if a candidate to an optometry school is likely to succeed.

What’s on the OAT Test?

The OAT test challenges you with multiple-choice questions covering biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, reading comprehension, and math.

What is the passing score for the Optometry Admission Test?

The OAT isn’t a pass/fail test, so there is no passing score. Candidates who score higher than 300 are in the top 50% of test takers and have a better chance of being accepted into an optometry program.

How many questions are on the OAT Exam?

There are 230 questions on the OAT, divided into four sections.

How many times can I take the OAT test?

You can retake the test after 90 days. If you would like to take the test for the third time, you must wait 12 months. Additional retakes require permission from the school to which you are applying to. 

What kind of math is on the OAT exam?

The OAT includes everything from simple arithmetic to advanced trigonometric problems.

Can you use a calculator on the OAT?

During certain parts of the test, such as the quantitative reasoning section there will be a calculator on the screen that you can use. You may not bring your own calculator to the test. 

Is the OAT test difficult?

The OAT is a challenging test covering physics, biology, and two types of chemistry with a limited time. However, the test doesn’t try to trick you. If you study and prepare, you should do well on the test. 

Is the OAT harder than the MCAT?

In the MCAT, you need to read through complicated questions, which can be difficult. With the OAT, the test asks a question and you answer it. 

How long is the OAT test?

The test itself takes four hours and five minutes. There is also an optional 15-minute tutorial at the beginning of the test, an optional half-hour break in the middle of the test, and an optional 15-minute survey at the end of the test. If you include all the optional portions of the test, it takes five hours and five minutes. 

How do you take the OAT test?

The OAT test is taken on a computer at a Prometric testing center. 

Can I take an OAT practice test?

There are lots of places where you can take an OAT practice test, including iPrep. Our practice tests and courses will prepare you for test day.

How much is the OAT test?

The basic test costs $490.

What is a good OAT test score?

If your goal is to have your choice of schools, you will want to score a 350 or higher. If you would like a score that is good enough to get accepted into an optometry program, you will want to score at least a 300.

When should I take the OAT exam?

Most students prefer to take the OAT after they have completed their optometry school prerequisite classes, in the summer between junior and senior year. However, some students take the test before their junior year, so that if they do poorly they will have a second chance to take the test again. 

Icon Tips White OAT Test Tips

  1. Find the easy questions

Unlike other tests, the OAT questions are not presented from easiest to hardest. You are just as likely to find an easy question towards the end of the section as at the beginning. If you find yourself working on questions that are difficult, move along to the next question, which might be easier. Remember, easy questions are worth as many points as difficult questions. 

  1. Find your favorite sections

If your strength is organic chemistry, skip ahead to that section on the test and do them first. There’s no need to answer questions in order. Just don’t forget to go back and get to the questions you may have missed. 

  1. Eliminate obvious wrong answers

There is more than one way to figure out the right answer. Sometimes, you just have to eliminate answers that are obviously wrong. Eliminate a few answers, and you’ll improve your odds if you have to guess on an answer.

  1. Track your time

Be aware of how much time you have, and how much time you expect certain sections to take. Don’t waste time by focusing your energy on questions that will take too long to answer until you’ve gone through the test and answered the questions in the subjects in which you are strongest. 

  1. Breathe

Stay calm, eat a healthy meal beforehand, and show up to the test mentally prepared. The test is long and can be grueling. Staying calm and coming in well-rested will help keep your brain clear and ready. 

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  • Test Location: Tests are given at Prometric testing centers
  • Test Schedule: You can take the test almost any time of year. However, you’ll want to schedule a date a few months in advance to get the date you want, especially in the busier summer season. 
  • Test Format: Multiple choice taken on computer.
  • Test Materials: Taken on a computer with a calculator built into the platform. You will be provided with scratch paper.
  • Cost: The fee for the basic test is $490.
  • Retake Policy:  You must wait 90 days to retake the test. To take the test a third time, you must wait 12 months. 

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The OAT test is administered by the American Dental Association (ADA) on behalf of the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO). The test is endorsed by the American Optometric Association (AOA). The test is administered by Prometric at their testing centers. 

The test is designed to provide admissions offices with unbiased information regarding the likelihood of a candidate succeeding in an optometry program. 

Disclaimer – All the information and prep materials on iPrep are genuine and were created for tutoring purposes. iPrep is not affiliated with the ADA, ASCO, AOA, Prometric testing centers, or any other company mentioned.

Get to know what the Optometry Admission Test (OAT) will be like by practicing with these sample questions: