A series of articles written by SCCO Student Ambassadors.
How to be the G.O.A.T for the OAT
by SCCO Student Ambassador, Ashley Macabasco
So you’ve done it! You’ve decided to take the OAT! Congratulations! You’ve taken one of the first steps toward becoming an optometrist. In the grand scheme of things, you’ve made an exciting decision, but right now, you may be feeling stress and anxiety. By the way, that is completely okay! In fact, that’s exactly how I felt when I decided to take the OAT as well. I spent a good amount of time researching the best ways to study and what materials to study with, so here are all of my tips to score well on the OAT while balancing your personal life! (Go straight to the bottom for a list of tips and tricks!)
Scheduling the OAT
If you haven’t already done it yet, here are my tips for scheduling the OAT. I recommend scheduling your exam two to three months ahead of time so that you have a set goal dated ahead. Everyone is different, though! For some people, a few weeks is enough time to study, while for others, it takes a few more months. Plan out when to take the OAT in a time frame that works best for you. It is also important to try and take the OAT after you have taken your lower division prerequisites – think the classes pertaining to the categories of the exam – so that you have a baseline for your studies and don’t have to teach yourself new concepts you’ve never seen before! I recommend taking the test during the summer time or during your gap year so that you don’t have to balance studying for classes with studying for the OAT. If you are working, perhaps ask to have fewer hours while you’re studying, especially if you’re working and in school at the same time. Again though, anything is possible.
If you plan on applying around the same time as taking the OAT, I recommend picking an earlier date in the cycle. Taking the exam early gives you more flexibility when applying for schools because some have earlier deadlines than others. Your score is good for two years, so as long as you apply in that span of time, you’re good to go!
Studying for the OAT
I used the Kaplan OAT Prep Plus book, OAT Destroyer with the separate physics book, the Kaplan Practice Test pack, and Chad’s videos to study. Buying things can add up, so I got the OAT Destroyers from my mentor in my undergraduate pre-optometry club. I still have those books, so if you’re interested in using them email me, and I’ll send them over for free! (They are older versions, but the material should be the same.) I told myself that I would only take the exam once, and saw these items as investments towards my future!
I studied for about three months during the summer and used the first few weeks to solely review. Personally, I’m a planner and set a calendar schedule to review using the Prep Plus book. I wrote down one or two chapters from one or two subjects for each day and did more or less depending on how long the chapters were. For more complicated concepts (aka physics for me), I used Chad’s videos. I did this for 6 days out of the week, and on the last day, I lightly
reviewed the practice questions at the end of each section and rested the rest of the day by hanging out with family or friends.
I also took a diagnostic test during my first week of studying, but don’t take that score too seriously! It is more so to get used to the format of the test and the length. For the month before my exam, I relied heavily on practice questions and practice exams! I took four practice exams each week before my test and did them on the same day and at the same time. The next day I went over all of the questions and tried to see what topics I struggled with the
most. It is important to know that the Kaplan practice tests are much harder than the actual exam. Do not worry if your score from these exams is lower than your goal score.
On my practice tests, my academic average score was 60 points lower than my actual score! Kaplan makes their tests harder so that the actual OAT is easier – this will be much more appreciated on test day!
I went through the OAT destroyer and Kaplan test pack questions on days I did not take practice exams. Around this time, I gave myself more flexibility so that I did not burn out studying. I gave myself whole days off when I felt like I needed it and tried to spend a little bit of time outside every day.
Be kind to yourself the week of your exam! Try to drive to your Prometric center on a different
day beforehand so that you know what traffic might be like on your way there and you don’t
have to find it the day of. Don’t try to cram a lot of information on the day before. Maybe do
some light review but otherwise, try to relax and get good sleep. On the day of, have a good meal, take the test and then celebrate! I promise that your hard work will not go to waste.
Tips and Tricks ● Exercise, get good amounts of sleep, and eat good food! Don’t forget to take the time to go outside and get fresh air.
● Schedule the test in a time frame in which you’ll feel the most prepared. Schedule in the summer if you do not want to deal with school!
● Set a schedule that works best for you! Block out time during the day specifically to study for the OAT, especially if you also have work, volunteering, or school.
● Don’t over-study. Give yourself an attainable goal for each day. Doing a little bit more or a little less is okay. You can always study more, but doing so is not always beneficial.
● Practice tests are your friend! If there is one thing you should do while studying, it is to take as many practice tests as possible.
● Listen to your body and your mind. If you need a break, take it! Breaks are good for avoiding burnout.
● Use flashcards to help maintain what you’ve learned! Anki or Quizlet can be helpful for this. Flashcards are also helpful for studying while at work or school during any downtime you may have.
● Try to drive to the Prometric center a day before and leave around the same time to know what driving conditions may be like the day of.
● If you need any advice or questions, feel free to reach out to people you know who have also taken the OAT. Feel free to reach out to me!
In the words of Vincent Van Gogh, “Great things are done by a small series of things brought
together.” The OAT is only part of your journey toward becoming an optometrist. You got this.
Try to enjoy it if you can and take it day by day.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions!
Click here to read Ashley’s bio and meet other Student Ambassadors at Ketchum.edu.
Categories: Student Ambassador Blog Articles