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8 November, 2023

How Long Does It Take to Study for the OAT?

The Optometry Admission Test (OAT) is a challenging exam that takes significant preparation. In this article, we will discuss how long does it take to study for the oat.
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The Optometry Admission Test (OAT) is a standardized computer-based test that is 5 hours long. It is required by most optometry schools for admission and registration costs $500.00 USD. The exam is made up of 4 general sections: natural sciences, physics, quantitative reasoning, and reading comprehension. The natural sciences portion is broken down into 3 subsections: biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry. Once the exam is over, applicants are given two scores – an Academic Average (AA) and a Total Science (TS) score. These scores are weighed heavily, especially in the admissions process for optometry schools. Due to the length and breadth of material tested on the OAT, sufficient time is necessary to prepare for the OAT.

Generally, students take the OAT after their 3rd year of undergraduate studies or after their 4th year once a bachelor’s degree is obtained. It is recommended that students spend 3-4 months studying for the OAT. This includes time spent reviewing material, taking practice tests, reviewing practice tests and incorrections, and studying the material that you need extra practice on. Studying for a shorter time, like 2 months, is doable but we would not recommend it due to the time constraint. At the same time, we would not recommend taking longer than 4 months because it typically leads to burnout and more stress.  Over time, it is easy to start forgetting things and you will need to spend extra time relearning testable material. However, the length of time spent studying depends on the individual. In this article, we will discuss 6 factors to consider when figuring out how long to study for the OAT.

1️⃣ Test Date

How long you take to study for the OAT depends on when your test date is, as that will decide how much time is left until the big day. You can work backward from your test date if you have already registered for the OAT. As mentioned earlier, students generally spend 3-4 months preparing for the OAT so you can budget a similar time for yourself. At the very least, make sure you have 2 months but try not to exceed 6 months. To figure out the specifics, continue reading to account for other factors that can affect how much study time you will need. If you have not yet registered for the OAT and need some pointers, check out our article on How to Register for the OAT.

2️⃣ Your Starting Point

Before starting to study for the OAT, an important factor to consider is your level of knowledge. Consider your science background and how many years of undergraduate science studies you have taken, as content from many introductory science courses (biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry and physics) will be testable material on the exam. We would recommend taking these courses and having the knowledge under your belt before taking the OAT, so make sure you have completed those courses or are on track to do so before you begin studying for the exam. It is usually a good idea to wait until after your second year of undergrad to take the exam. This way, you are generally prepared and the content is still fairly fresh in your head, so you will not need as much time reviewing the main concepts before taking practice tests. However, if it has been quite a while since you took those introductory courses, you may need to account for more time in your study plan to brush up on your knowledge and review any supplementary materials. If you are unsure of your current knowledge level, you can also take a practice or diagnostic test online to figure out where you stand and which topics you will need extra work on.

3️⃣ Your End Point

Although your starting point is a big factor to consider, your end point is just as important. Of course, you want to do as best as you can. However, you want an attainable and specific goal to reach for. Therefore, it would also be a good idea to decide which optometry programs and schools you want to attend and look into the school profiles of accepted applicants to see their average accepted OAT scores. This information will provide insight into what scores you should be working towards and how competitive you are doing in comparison. If a certain school places more emphasis on GPA and extracurriculars but less on OAT scores, you may be able to spend a bit less time preparing for the exam. However, if a school has very high average accepted OAT scores, you will need to put in the extra work and budget yourself more time to study and do practice tests to maximize your performance. To get an idea of each program’s standards, take a look at our articles on what a good OAT score is and optometry school statistics.

4️⃣ Learning and Study Style

Another factor to consider is your learning and study style. Think about how you learn and study best – through visuals, auditory, reading, or kinesthetics. Also, consider if you study better by yourself or in a group setting and how long you can study for at a time. Some people can sit down for long periods of time and efficiently retain information that way, while others can only stay focused for short segments sandwiched between breaks. The study environment and time of day matter as well. Think about whether you are a morning bird or night owl and when you are most productive during the day. Also, you will want to pick a study space that will maximize your productivity. Typically, this will be a quiet room, a café, or the library – wherever you end up going, make sure it is free of distractions so that you can make the most of your time. You know yourself best, so pick the most efficient method that works for you. Regardless of your learning and study style, you also want to get enough study time in. We would suggest blocking off the same time period every day to get into a steady routine and build strong habits of getting into the zone when studying. Generally, you will want to study for at least 300 hours collectively – this can look different for everyone, such as studying for around 4 hours a day for 3 months. The specifics will depend on the individual, and the hours you spend on each subject will be determined by your strengths and weaknesses.

5️⃣ Study Plan

Following along your learning style, think about your study plan for the OAT. Your study plan can look different depending on your learning style, the study materials you will be using and what structure you will follow. OAT studying can come in different forms – there are in-person classes with tutors, online programs that you can self-study from, online programs with synchronous classes, physical books to self-study from, or a program with a mix of online and in-person classes. If the program you are using comes with a study schedule, it would be easy to follow along with the program, especially if you need to keep up with synchronous classes. With a study schedule, you can also get an overview of how long studying should take while also being able to adjust the schedule according to how much time you have. If you are self-studying from a physical book or online program, you can break down the sections and allocate your time accordingly in the same way. As there are 6 overall sections on the OAT, you can separate your studying into 6 general sections or break it down further into smaller, less overwhelming chunks.

You can also decide whether you want to go through each section one at a time (i.e. One week for biology, one week for general chemistry, etc.) or multiple sections at once (i.e. Spending a bit of time on multiple or all sections every day). This way, you can create a personal study plan that works best for you. Also, you can check if the program that you are following comes with supplementary materials like flash cards or online questions. If not, you may need to spend extra time making practice questions or flashcards for yourself to review afterward. When making your study plan and schedule, be sure to allow yourself some flexibility – this means giving yourself a day or two of buffer every week in case you fall behind on your schedule and need the extra day to catch up, get some extra practice, or catch up on making flashcards. Remember that your study plan should serve as a guide to keep you on track, but you are free to adjust your schedule accordingly as you progress through the different sections and figure out where you need extra practice. For more information on studying for the OAT, read our article here.

6️⃣ Circumstance

Lastly, the length of study time required for the OAT depends on your overall situation. Consider when you plan to apply for optometry school, when the corresponding application cycle begins, and when you will need your OAT score uploaded to submit your application. Your OAT score is only good for two years as well, so you do not want to take the OAT too early. Due to the extent of material tested on the OAT, it is certainly not an exam you can cram for at the last minute. If you will be in school while studying for the OAT, you will also have to figure out a balance between studying for the two. During the school year, it can be hard to stick to a strict study plan for the OAT while trying to keep up with school assignments and assessments. Some semesters may have heavier workloads than others, so you should think about how much time you will realistically have in the evenings after school or on the weekends for the OAT. You may also have extracurriculars at school, such as school clubs, mentoring, or sports. School is a big factor to consider, as having this extra stress can impede your OAT preparation and performance. Additionally, you may also have other commitments in your life, such as work and volunteering. All these factors combined will give you an idea of how much time you will have to sit down and properly focus on the OAT. If it seems like it will be too much on your plate, you can consider taking longer to study for the OAT, such as 4-6 months, or using a summer to study for the OAT instead.

👉 Conclusion

Even though the optometry school admissions process involves more than just a test score, the OAT is still an important metric for admission. As an optometry student who has gone through the study process and taken the OAT myself, I hope these 6 factors will help you figure out how long you should study for the OAT. Good luck!

For more information on the OAT, feel free to read our other articles on the following topics: How Is the OAT Scored, When to Reschedule Your OAT, Retaking the OAT, What to Do the Day Before the OAT, and What to Expect on OAT Exam Day.