My Step-By-Step Method for OAT Success

Photo of Paul Hill courtesy of Los Angeles Eye Care Optometry Group

Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Eye Care Optometry Group

This article was written by a young man, Paul Hill, who will be applying to optometry school in the upcoming admissions cycle. I asked him to write this article because of the terrific success he had taking the OAT.  I’ve asked his permission to report that he scored a 390 in the Academic Average and a 400 in the Total Science sections. With such solid scores, of course I asked him if he would share his OAT preparation method. I asked him to write it in an outline form for easier reference.


My Step-By-Step Method for OAT Success 

by Paul Hill

If you are like me, you’ve had this thought…

“Though I am committed to pursue a career as an optometrist, I have been out of undergrad for some time—and now I have a full time job!”

“How can I possibly study for the OAT and still work full time?”

By sharing how I successfully prepared for taking the OAT, I hope to help quell those thoughts.

What You Will Need:


  • To dial down mental stress to low/medium level:
    • Schedule to take the OAT with a firm deadline in mind, which creates as urgency that will keep you from falling behind
  • Take a free diagnostic practice OAT:
  • Use Kaplan’s OAT “big book,” the OAT destroyer, coffee, and Chad’s/Khan Academy videos:
    • Set a study schedule based on results of your diagnostic sample OAT taken online
    • Briefly review material but don’t spend too much time studying concepts:  It was more helpful to take a lot of practice questions and study the answers and explanations, which helped me focus on material that would actually be tested by the OAT
    • I highly recommend Kaplan because the Kaplan OAT “big book” and self-paced course helped me outline all required material:
      • Investing in the course will motivate you to study because this is not an inexpensive undertaking, so you want to be successful on your first attempt
      • If you can’t afford the course and if you meet certain criteria for financial aid, Kaplan has substantial discounts you may apply for: (https://www.kaptest.com/tuitionassistance)
    • The OAT destroyer is a book with hundreds of practice questions complete with answers and explanations:  After I briefly reviewed all required material I answered every question in the book and studied the answers and explanations
    • Practice, practice, practice! Work through as many practice problems as possible, and if necessary, correct your answers
    • Use Chad’s Videos and Khan Academy to study concepts you find difficult to grasp:
    • The Kaplan self-paced course, Khan academy, and Chad’s videos allowed me to watch prerecorded lecture videos when I had any free time during lunch breaks and after work
    • Let everything you’ve learned settle in for a few months as you consciously reflect upon the OAT all throughout your day:
      • Make your own flashcards to memorize dry info (BioChem, physics/Gchem formulas, Ochem reactions etc.), and keep them in your pocket/purse, and whenever you want to check social media or do something non-productive with your cell phone, study your flashcards instead
    • Practice Quantitative Reasoning daily:
      • Kaplan has an effective method of using the multiple-choice answers given to eliminate obviously incorrect answers and using estimation to make an educated guess, which I’m guessing this mental process is what this section is testing and actually selecting for in optometrists
    • Shift into fight-or-flight mode, add coffee, and set mental stress level to medium/high:
      • Take as many practice tests as you can:
        • I attribute a large part of my success on the OAT to the amount of practice tests I took
        • I highly recommend taking the practice tests at a library, as this environment is similar to what you will experience at Prometric testing sites:
          • It is advantageous to get used to these things while testing because Prometric hosts tests other than the OAT
          • At the local library, people are expected to be quiet, but you may find yourself distracted by little sounds they make like typing, clicking,  and walking around
          • When you take the OAT, those around you may be taking tests involving a lot of clicking and typing or getting up to take breaks, which can be distracting if you haven’t built up a tolerance to these distractions
        • The OAT is a timed test:
          • Using the OAT Achiever, TopScorePro for OAT, and Kaplan’s practice full-length tests helped me develop an idea of the pace with which I had to answer the questions
          • I learned the importance of marking and skipping questions I didn’t know the answer to right away
        • I tried to simulate the actual test day as much as possible:
          • Take practice tests on a computer each day at the same time of day that you will be taking the actual test
          • Wear the same outfit and eat the same breakfast you plan to eat on the actual test day
          • Get used to going at least 2 hours without using the restroom (especially if you drink coffee)
        • Practice using a dry erase pen and whiteboard to work out problems because this is what you will be given on test day:
          • If you sign up for the Kaplan course they provide a board and pen similar to what you will be using
          • This will help you get used to solving practice problems using the limited writing space you will be given

And Finally…

  • Turn off the mental stress associated with preparation
  • Take a break from practice tests for a week before the actual test date:
    • Lightly review memorized material
    • Practice driving to the Prometric testing center a week before your OAT around the same time you plan to take the test to anticipate traffic and plan parking (I missed a turn during my practice drive the week before and was very glad it didn’t happen and stress me out on the day of the test!)
  • If all has been done correctly, test day should feel similar to all the times you’ve practiced/rehearsed because you will be calmed by a sense of the familiar

Studying for the OAT was a gargantuan task because I completed undergrad in 2011, which meant some of my prerequisite course knowledge (general /organic chemistry, physics, and biology) was over 10 years old. I had to resurrect fading high school and college-learned math concepts like trigonometric identities, etc. for the quantitative reasoning section of the OAT. Fortunately, relearning concepts seems to happen exponentially and having “ah ha!” moments while studying was very rewarding.

The most difficult moments for me were, at the end of a full work day, I had to choose between taking a full-length practice OAT at the library versus accepting an invitation toSnapshot of his scores hang out with friends.  But I accepted these difficulties as practice for my future duty as an optometrist: to be a life-long learner striving to enhance my education in order to provide exceptional primary eye care to my future patients.

Working full-time as an optometric technician and optician was ironically both a source of difficulty as well as motivation for my success with the OAT.  Whenever the decision to study became difficult I would think to myself, “This type of mental endurance I am developing now will serve me well later in optometry school as well as throughout my career as an optometrist.” Through working full time in the field and making a difference in patients’ lives, I tapped on this source of joy to help me focus on my goal of one day providing this care at a higher level as an optometrist.

I hope my method produces for you the same sense of accomplishment that it did for me. Scoring well on the OAT proves to admissions officers that you are dedicated to being a life-long learner and able time-manager—like a doctor should!

By dedicating yourself to the goal of successfully preparing for the OAT, you will have a satisfaction that comes from the many hours of your free time you invested so wisely in your future goal of becoming an optometrist.

3 replies »

  1. Hi Princy,

    So sorry for the late reply. I haven’t looked at this link in a while! I started the online Kaplan course 6 months before my scheduled test day, so I think I took a bit longer than most. As a current OD2 student I’d say studying an OAT’s-worth of material in 3 months and doing well is a good indicator of the pace of learning in optometry school. Hope this helps!

  2. Hi Paul,
    I wanted to know how long did you study for to achieve the scores that you did? Most people say 3 months, so I wanted to know.

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