OAT Test-Taker Reflects on Experience

What follows is a retrospective from an OAT test taker about the OAT.  It was originally posted on SCCO’s Facebook Group for Pre-optometry Students:

Comment:  After successfully making it through the OAT last week, I’d like to share some tips that may helpful:

  • Start studying well in advance and pace yourself – the huge amount of material that the OAT covers is virtually impossible to cram for. In fact I would recommend spending the two days prior to the test just relaxing.
  • I would highly recommend Kaplan’s New MCAT Premier Program 2007 or similar edition as a general resource that makes it easy to look up basic concepts that you need to know. You should be able to get this from your local library.
  • In terms of practice material and tools, it’s probably best to use as wide a variety as possible. In addition to Kaplan practice exams, I highly recommend a program like Top Score because it makes you very familiar with the interface used on the real test. This not only gives you a bit of extra confidence but also allows you to develop your own strategies for test day.
  • OAT destroyer is also good because the level of difficulty of the questions forces you to become very familiar with the basic concepts you need to know. In summary, I don’t think there is one single resource that can prepare you fully for the OAT so just use everything you can get your hands on.
  • One thing I’d like to mention is that when doing practice Kaplan, Top Score, or OAT Achiever tests I believe its best to not worry too much about timing yourself. This is because the questions on these types of practice tests are more in depth than what’s on the Real OAT and they take more time to do, so its not really useful to place OAT time limits when doing them. What you should focus on is being able to complete the questions and really understand the concepts behind them.
  • This is NOT to say that time management isn’t important for the OAT… In fact its probably one of the most important things. The best way to get experience with the time limits is by practicing the sample OAT and sample DAT on the ADA website. From my experience, the time it takes to do these sample OAT sections is most closely correlated to the real test from all the other practice exams available (Kaplan etc.).   In my opinion, the two sections that require careful timing are QR and RC.
  • For the RC section, Top Score provides an excellent simulation both in terms of level of difficulty and timing. You should practice doing 3 articles/40 questions in a row just to get a feel for it. I’ve heard a lot of different strategies for RC but what worked for me was basically speed reading the article and writing down a list of the main topics (in one or two words) of each paragraph while reading. For example, for an article about a certain disease I would make a list like this while speed reading:
    • symptoms
    • diagnosis
    • prevention
    • cure,  etc.
  • This strategy allows you to quickly jump to the necessary paragraph when answering questions that require detailed knowledge of the article.
  • For the QR section I also recommend the sample OAT and DAT sections on the ada website so you realize how quick you have to answer the questions.
  • If come across a time intensive QR questions, skip it, and come back if you have time. For QR, Physics, and General Chemistry its KEY to be able to quickly manipulate algebraic equations on paper – if you’re not fast you absolutely have to practice this.
  • In the Kaplan OAT prep book intro it says something along the lines of “Treat the OAT not as an obstacle to getting into optometry school, but more as your first major test as an optometry student.” This kind of mentality really works.


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