These are answers to a question a student who is preparing to take the OAT had about how to best prepare for the Reading Comprehension section. It is taken from SCCO’s Facebook Group for Pre-optometry Students:
Question: So I’m having trouble studying for the reading comprehension section of the OAT. I understand how to study for all of the other sections, but it’s difficult for me to improve on reading comprehension. I did the Kaplan course and am using their note-taking method, but I still struggle with it. Any suggestions on how to better prepare for the reading comprehension section of the OAT?
Answer #1: I am a current first year at SCCO and had the EXACT same problem! As difficult and discouraging as it was to continue doing the Kaplan practice tests, it did help immensely when I took the actual OAT. I am not a particularly fast reader, so scanning and jotting down the main ideas, key words, and phrases like Kaplan teaches is very helpful.
Out of curiosity, how many practice tests have you done for the Reading Comprehension section? Are you taking a Kaplan class or just using the books. I did both and it was only after completing the test and sections multiple times that I began to feel more comfortable. Don’t try to read the whole article. That was my first mistake. You just need to be able to sift out the important facts or scan to find the answers.
Good luck! Brianna H. SCCO Class of 2014
Answer #2: I would recommend the TopScore CD (by Scholarware) for the OAT. This is the only thing I used to study for the reading comprehension section, and I think it was very helpful. I think one of the hardest parts of the reading comprehension section is practicing it on the computer. The reading comprehension section for this practice CD is harder than the real test (and the scoring is more harsh), so it’s good in that you are well-prepared if you use it. Its main advantage in my opinion is getting you used to taking the reading comprehension section on the computer (vs. paper tests). Since the CD is made for the OAT, the way they present the prompts and questions is similar to the real test. They number the paragraphs for you if I remember correctly… so what I did was number my marker-board (number of paragraphs in prompt) and write important keywords from each paragraph. I agree with Brianna; I don’t think you need to read the whole article– first skim for important ideas, then write those down so you know where you look when you are given the questions.
Hope this helps! Andrea W. SCCO Class of 2014
Answer #3: I totally agree with my classmates on this one. Take as many tests as you can and simulate them just like you would on the test day. It takes a while to read the article if you are reading everything. Look at topic sentences, skim, and when as you’re skimming each paragraph, write down the main ideas for each. It will help not only when you look back at the text but for your overall comprehension. Keep practicing — it really helps!
Good luck! Melissa Z. SCCO Class of 2014
Answer #4: I, along with many of my classmates, used the Kaplan course to prepare and feel through practice my skills and efficiency improved so much. You’re definitely not alone in that, the RC portion of the OAT did not come easy–really, just hang in there and you will see progress, I promise! I also strongly agree with Angela about practicing reading the passages on a computer as much as you can. I struggled with that aspect because I was so used to being able to underline, circle, etc. in the passage.
One last thing, I would call the testing site in which you plan to take the OAT and ask if they will be providing a pencil/paper or dry erase marker and board–that way you’re truly practicing in a test-like situation.
Good luck! Heather B. SCCO Class of 2014
Carlo’s Response in Summary:
Thank you so much for your responses!! I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one with this problem. So to clarify what I have done, over the summer I took the classroom Kaplan course which also allows access to the online material. Through Kaplan, I took the paper diagnostic and the 5 full-length test online tests. I also took several RC-only tests. I took the OAT in September and got a TS of 360 and AA of 340. RC was my lowest score.
While doing the Kaplan stuff, I had decent scores on the RC section, always scoring above 300. I made sure not to underestimate the section, but one big difference that I did on the practices was use pen and paper. During the actual test, I was given a couple of dull dry-erase markers, which wasn’t a big deal for any of the other sections, but it was for the reading comp section! Sadly, I couldn’t read my handwriting!! I write cursive and tend to write small, so it was difficult employing my Kaplan strategy how I had practiced. I’m considering the TopScore CD since it’s not too expensive and I get just focus on the reading section.
Note from Dr. Munroe: Here is a great description of how the OAT is formatted and what to expect on test day: Click here