What You Should Know — Optometry Admissions and SCCO

Studying for the OAT Without Taking a Course: A Student’s Perspective

Admissions Team Member


Taking the Kaplan course to study for the OAT may be out of budget for many students. The course can cost up to $1400 and the On Demand program can be an additional $400 for a more detailed review of either organic chemistry or physics. Although it can be overwhelming to try to study without the materials and the instruction, it is not impossible! This article is here to give you some alternatives so you can prepare effectively for the OAT without having to pay the big money.


Here are some tried and true methods of studying without the Kaplan course. Keep in mind that you will have to keep yourself motivated!

Alternatives to the Kaplan course:

  • Used study materials – Buy study material such as the OAT Kaplan book that comes with the course and practice tests used. Although you can’t get the practice book without taking the course, maybe someone who has taken the course would be willing to lend you their study materials or sell them to you for cheaper than the cost of the course.
  • SAT subject review books – these are good for studying subjects separately. They have practice questions so you can review the material for each subject.
  • You can get the bundle that includes the big OAT Kaplan book, flashcards for each subject, laminated study guides, and a dry erase sheet (same as what you will use during the test to do your work), as shown in the first picture above.
  • MCAT review books – these books are available for free at a local library and have all the material you need to know for the OAT and more.
    • The downside – it might be a little too specific or go into too much detail so be sure to use practice tests specifically for the OAT.
  • DAT review book – this is great because the writers of the DAT also write the OAT which means the sections these two exams have in common are just about the same.
    • The downside – it doesn’t have a physics section so you have to find study materials for this section separately.
  • Review websites and websites like Sparknotes or Cliffsnotes – this is one way you can supplement your studying for the physics sections if you use the DAT review book.
  • Practice test from ASCO at https://www.ada.org/oat/oat_sample_test.pdf; If the link does not work, it can be found from the webpage at https://www.ada.org/oat/index.html
  • Class material – You encounter the material when you take the prerequisite courses. Save the work that you did in those classes because it can definitely supplement your studies!

Helpful Hints:

  • Give yourself plenty of time to study – about 3 months to study is enough.
  • Make sure you are studying material relevant to what they may ask you on the OAT. As mentioned above, some books may be too specific or not specific enough for the material you will be tested on. For this reason, it is important to guide yourself with OAT practice questions as well as review questions from your study materials.
  • Take full-length practice tests – Kaplan does offer free practice tests which are great for getting a feel for what the environment will be like and the kind of pressure you will be under. Dr. Munroe has distributed a full length practice test and other free practice tests can be found online. Kaplan also has a booklet with two practice tests in it for $25 (way cheaper than taking the whole course). More information on finding locations to take the practice test on the Kaplan page at http://www.kaptest.com/OAT/Home/index.html
  • Keep yourself motivated. It might be difficult to be studying for three months but keep your goals in mind including what scores you want to get and why you’re taking the OAT in the first place – to get into Optometry school!
  • Don’t stress out! Plenty of people (including the authors of this article) do not take a course to study for the OAT and get great scores!

We hope this article has been helpful and don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions!

Kim Skyles, SCCO Class of 2016

Alyson Lin, SCCO Class of 2016

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Categorised in: OAT, OAT Prep

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