What is the OAT Exam?

What is the OAT Exam?

The Optometry Admission Test, more commonly known as the OAT exam, is an examination required for admission to optometry schools in the US and Canada. It is administered year-round by the American Dental Association (ADA) at Prometric Test Centers on behalf of the Association of Schools of Colleges of Optometry (ASCO). The OAT is conducted solely by machine and can be taken at almost any time of the year.

The OAT test is somewhat different from other academic tests. It is not a knowledge-based exam that focuses on memorizing information. Instead, optometry schools will use your OAT exam scores to assess whether you possess the foundational knowledge and skills needed to build a successful optometry career. 

Although you need to know the content to do it well, the emphasis is on the application of your knowledge. The OAT stresses logic, critical thinking, comprehension skills, data analysis, and problem-solving skills.

Getting Started With the OAT Exam

How long is the OAT exam?

The OAT test requires roughly five hours to finish, including the optional tutorial, break, and post-test survey.

What is on the OAT exam?

The OAT consists of four sections with 230 multiple-choice test questions presented in the English language. The test shall be developed following the developed test requirements. The OAT comprises a series of four timed exams: the Survey of Natural Sciences (including Biology, General Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry), Physics, Quantitative Reasoning, and Reading Comprehension.

OAT Exam Format

Sections Allotted Time Format
Optional Tutorial 15 minutes
Survey of the Natural Sciences

  • Biology
  • General Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
90 minutes ( 54 seconds per question) 100 multiple-choice questions, subdivided into Biology (40 questions), General Chemistry (30 questions), and Organic Chemistry (30 questions)
Reading Comprehension 60 minutes (20 minutes per passage) 50 multiple-choice questions; three passages followed by 16– 17 questions each
Scheduled Break (optional) 30 minutes
Physics 50 minutes (75 seconds per question) 40 multiple-choice questions
Quantitative Reasoning 45 minutes (67.5 seconds per question) 40 multiple-choice questions
Optional Post Test Survey 15 minutes
Total 5 hours and 5 minutes 230 questions

OAT Scoring System

The OAT is measured on a scale of 200 to 400. For each portion of the exam, the number of multiple-choice questions you correctly answered per portion is your raw score. All multiple-choice questions are worth one raw point, and there is no penalty for wrong answers.

In your official score report, you and the schools you are applying for won’t receive raw scores but a scaled score. Converting your raw score into a scaled score ranges allows each exam to be optimized for group performance and complexity using matching procedures.

In the score scale, the average mean score is 300 points with a 10-point interval value and a standard deviation of about 40 points. It allows scores of different tests to be equally compared to each other by optometry colleges. Once you receive your score report, you will see eight scores:

  • Biology
  • General Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Total Science
  • Academic Average

The Total Science rating is the total amount of your initial, raw performance in Biology, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and Physics, which is then normalized and converted into a scaled score of 200 to 400. The Academic Average is the mean score for all OAT exam sections:

  • Biology
  • General Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Reading Comprehension

Furthermore, your score report will also tell you and the optometry schools your percentile ranking that corresponds with your scaled score for each section. Percentile ranks are used to express the standing of a candidate to other people who have taken the admission test. His/her percentile rank does not decide the candidate’s admission to optometry schools. 

Standard Score Percentile Ranking OAT Score (Qualitatively)
300 50th Average
350 75th Good
390 98th Very High

How much does the OAT test cost?

The OAT exam cost are in US dollars and are non-refundable and non-transferable. The following table indicates the OAT test cost:

Fee Type Description Amount
OAT Fee Includes test administration and official score reporting to all listed optometry schools; non-official score report released at the test center; and score reporting to the pre-optometry consultant (if selected) $490
Score Report (optional) Covers requests for score report for other recipients made after the time of the application.  $45 per recipient
Score Audit (optional) The OAT Program will audit the applicant’s results for a fee within a period of 30 days after the testing day. $65
Eligibility Extension The extension for eligibility is for 45 days within the designated testing window and is only available once per application. $125

Rescheduling Fees

The fee for the rescheduling of a test appointment shall be based on the amount of the notice given. The fee for rescheduling is as follows:

Number of days before testing appointment Fee
1 to 5 business days before testing day, and at least 24 hours before the scheduled appointment starts. $150
6 to 30 business days before testing day. $60
31 or more business days before the testing day. $25

Note: Saturdays and Sundays are not business days.

OAT Exam Registration

If you are planning to take the OAT, you must register for OAT exam online at least 6-8 weeks before your test date to ensure proper accommodation at the Prometric Testing site. Before registering for the examination, applicants must obtain a Personal Identification Number (PIN). You can apply for a new PIN or obtain an existing PIN at ADA.org/OAT/PIN.

Once the PIN has been obtained, applicants may make an application through the Examination Program website. A new application should be submitted before each test attempt is made. You may apply an online application to ada.org using your credit card. To apply through paper, call 1-800-232-21559.

The application will be accepted if the applicant complies with the eligibility requirements. Processing occurs from Monday to Friday during regular business hours. Once your application and fee have been processed, you will receive advice to contact Prometric (prometric.com) to schedule a date, time, and location of your test. Prepare to register a few weeks ahead of time if you want to take the test so that you can arrange the appropriate time and place.

All the data provided on the application must be correct. Applicants must make use of their legal name. When you include a middle name, use either a full middle name or a middle initial. Any changes to your application must be done at least two weeks before your test date, and the rescheduling of your test is subject to a rescheduling fee that differs as per the advance notice you give.

OAT Exam Schedule

All applications are due by 9 PM Eastern Time (ET) of the application or late application deadline date.

OAT Test Dates Application Deadline

($50 late fee for applications submitted after this date)

Late Application Deadline

(Applications made after this date will not be accepted)

February 15-29 Thursday, January 2, 2020 Wednesday, January 15, 2020
May 2-16 Wednesday, March 18, 2020 Wednesday, April 1, 2020
August 1-15 Wednesday, June 17, 2020 Wednesday, July 1, 2020
November 7-21 Wednesday, September 23, 2020 Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Frequently Asked Questions

Is becoming an optometrist hard?

It takes a lot of hard work, diligence, and dedication to become an optometrist. It necessitates 4 years of undergraduate studies (primary focus in science/math) plus 4 years of optometry. Time management can be one of the most challenging aspects of optometry school. Optometry schooling comprises long days between the classroom, the pre-clinic, studying, and performing procedures on your own as well as clinical hours.

How many times am I allowed to take the OAT Test?

Test-takers are allowed to take the OAT numerous times but should wait at least 90 days between test appointments. Applicants who have three or more OAT attempts must request permission to re-test, and from that point forward can re-test only once per year.

What is a good score in the OAT exam?

For each test administration, the average weighted score per each section is about 300; this corresponds to the 50th percentile. You’ll typically want to score above the 50th percentile to be deemed competent. Extremely competitive schools might want results above the 70th percentile mark. It is best to check the standards of scores for each individual school.

How long are you supposed to study for the OAT?

Quality OAT exam prep materials and a structured OAT study schedule of 3 to 6 hours a day for 3 to 6 months are required to get the score required to be accepted for optometry university. In this range, higher GPAs generally require less time, whereas lower GPAs need more time to review.

How long would it take to receive the OAT test results?

The OAT scores will be sent directly to OptomCAS (Optometry Centralized Application Service) from the OAT testing agency. It takes OptomCAS 3 to 4 weeks for your application to be verified and delivered to the multiple optometry programs. For first-time takers of OAT, it takes about 3 to 4 weeks from your test date for the score to fill in OptomCAS.

Can Optometrists be called doctors?

An optometrist is a Doctor of Optometry, an O.D. (not to be mistaken with a Doctor of Medicine, an M.D.). To become an optometrist, one should complete pre-professional undergraduate education followed by 4 years of actual education in optometry.

OAT Test Prep and Test-Taking Strategies

Even someone with sufficient knowledge of all science and math at the OAT is unlikely to meet the highest score without appropriate testing strategies. Learning the formats of the test questions and having a solid strategy on how to deal with each question when completing each section on time can be as critical as the knowledge of the material.

The OAT exam has only one type of question, which is multiple choice. You’re not going to find any fill-in-the-blank, matching type, quick answer, or true/false test questions. Instead, each question will give you the option of choosing one out of four or five responses. This means that your concentration, when studying and answering questions, must be more on identifying relationships and patterns than on memorization.

To help you to develop a surefire approach for your upcoming OAT test, below the are a few of the most effective strategies:

  1. Know what the OAT tests. Don’t forget the purpose of the OAT: to measure your logical reasoning powers. You have to know the content since each segment has its specific language, but the fundamental purpose of the OAT is constant throughout the examination.
  2. Build up your endurance. Prepare your brain for the Testing Day by taking practice tests and training in three-hour blocks while ensuring to take breaks every hour and one day off each week.
  3. Skip questions and answer questions you can correctly answer. Strike each of the sections confidently. You’re in charge of that. Since each item is worth the same point, first work out your best areas to maximize your chance for OAT points. Do not be a victim of the test structure, and don’t let a single question bring you down.
  4. Master the art of predicting. Cautiously decide what the question is really asking, then predict the answers before you read the choices. It helps to protect you from compelling, difficult, and time-consuming wrong choices.

OAT Sample Test Questions

Question #1

All of the following are components of the Cell Theory EXCEPT the idea that

  • all living things are composed of cells.
  • all living things contain mitochondria.
  • cooperation among cells allows for complex functioning in living things.
  • all cells arise from preexisting cells.
  • cells carry genetic information in the form of DNA.

Question #2

A scientist is setting up an experiment with 20 samples, each consisting of 0.5 g of a solid. He will pipet 2 mL of liquid into each sample, allow them to stand for 1 hour and then remove 1 mL for analysis. Which of the following is the best glassware to use?

  • Erlenmeyer flasks
  • Beakers
  • Volumetric flasks
  • Round-bottom flasks
  • Test tubes

Question #3

Which of the following are always considered terminal functional groups?

  • Aldehydes
  • Ketones
  • Carboxylic acids
  • Alkenes
  • Both A and C

Question #4

The average of 3, 15, 18, and 8 is

  • 5
  • 9
  • 11
  • 15
  • 18

Question #5

The average of 3, 15, 18, and 8 is

  • 5
  • 9
  • 11
  • 15
  • 18