Hero image background
BlogStudy Guides
8 November, 2023

OAT Reading Comprehension

The reading comprehension section of the OAT is one of the most difficult sections of the exam. In this article, we will discuss how to improve on the OAT reading comprehension section.
Storyteller Avatar
Booster Prep
Storyteller Avatar
Booster Prep
OATBooster is the #1 study tool for the OAT and contains everything you need to prepare for the OAT. See why OATBooster is used by most pre-optometry students.

The OAT consists of many sections, and some can be more challenging than others. Particularly, the reading comprehension section is one that students find more challenging to achieve a good score. This section requires you to read three passages that are about 10-12 paragraphs long and answer 50 multiple-choice questions in 60 minutes. Each passage will pertain to a different scientific topic. Although no outside knowledge is required to successfully complete this section, being familiar with the writing style and vocabulary can help improve your speed and score. It is also important to keep in mind that not all the passages are equal in length. Likewise, the questions can vary in length and difficulty. This means that some questions may require more time and it’s important to filter out the easy ones by doing them in the beginning. This section tests your ability to read, comprehend and analyze the information provided. I will share some tips and strategies to help you conquer this section on the OAT and achieve a good score. To learn more information about what a good score is, click here to view our article on it.

📖 Best Study Material

It can be difficult to find practice material for this section. Fortunately, OATBooster has created everything you need to prepare for the OAT, including a reading comprehension video series, 20+ extra reading passages, and 10+ reading comprehension practice tests. You can find these on the Reading Comprehension page of the OATBooster website.

🔎 7 Types of OAT Questions

The OAT's reading comprehension section contains seven questions that examine your ability to comprehend and analyze information. Knowing how to identify the question type will allow you to know how to strategically answer the questions more efficiently and avoid choosing the wrong answers.

  1. Global: Examines how well you understand the overall passage. It asks questions about the main idea, conclusion, or purpose of the passage. This type of question is usually quick and easy to answer so you want to make sure you answer these in the beginning.
  2. Detail: Examines your ability to draw out specific information directly from the passage.
  3. Detail Except: Examines the same thing as detail, however instead of choosing the correct answer, it asks you to decipher the incorrect answer. These types of questions can often take longer to answer so saving these for last can allow you to go through other questions faster.
  4. Tone: Examines your ability to determine the author’s bias based on the writing style of the passage.
  5. Function: Examines your ability to analyze the author’s writing style. The questions may pertain to why they formulated their arguments in a particular way or why certain information was included.
  6. Inference: Examines your ability to use the information provided in the passage to come to a conclusion. The correct answer won’t directly be in the passage as you are required to read between the lines.
  7. Strengthen/Weaken: This question provides you with a few statements and asks you to determine which one would either strengthen or weaken the thesis for the passage.

🧠 Methods to Tackle This Section

Below are some various methods you can use to approach the Reading Comprehension section of the OAT.

  1. Read the passage: This is the standard method of reading the passage first and then answering the questions. Some students may find this the best method for them as it allows them to understand the passage before tackling the questions. However, this method can be time-consuming as it can be difficult to filter out the important information in a short period of time. With this method, students often find that they spend most of their time reading the passage and are left with little time to answer the questions. You will also have to refer to the passage multiple times while answering the questions, resulting in you re-reading the passage more times than necessary.
  2. Read the questions: This strategy involves reading the questions first before reading the passage. Some students may find this helpful as it gives them a better idea of what information they are looking for while reading the passage. It is also helpful to use the highlight and cross-out features in this method. Highlighting keywords or sentences you know you will refer to for questions can save you a lot of time and likewise, crossing out answers you know are incorrect can help speed up the process.
  3. Search and destroy: This is one of the most popular strategies. This involves skimming through the passage and searching for keywords as you go through the questions. Something to keep in mind for this strategy is that it is easy to get tricked into thinking the answer is in a particular sentence based on keywords. It’s important that you take the time to read the questions and analyze what it is asking and not overlook little details.
  4. Roadmap method: This method involves creating a roadmap for each passage. How this works is you count how many paragraphs there are for each passage and write out the numbers in a column. Then skim through each paragraph and write some keywords for each paragraph beside each number. This can include main topics, dates, numbers, etc. Once you proceed to the questions, you will then know which paragraph will contain the answer. This is a more structured strategy however it can be more time-consuming for some students.

✏️ General Tips

Improving reading speed: If reading is not one of your strong suits, it can be helpful to read through journals from a variety of publications or magazines. Reading 1-2 journals every day can improve your reading speed and ability to comprehend scientific passages. This will allow you to become familiar with the writing styles and also allow you to train your brain to retain key points from the article.

Practice tests: It is important that you do as many practice tests as you can. Doing multiple tests will allow you to see whether your method of choice is working effectively or if any changes need to be made. It will also allow you to become more comfortable with your strategy. With each attempt, your scores should be increasing, if not, it is important to take a step back and re-evaluate what is going wrong or try a new method. Moreover, it is important that you practice doing tests online so you become familiar with the online format, highlight feature, scrolling the passage and clicking through each question as the questions only appear on the screen one at a time.

Time management: Three passages, 60 minutes and 50 questions. This can seem like a lot, so let’s break it down. Each passage typically has about 16-18 questions, giving you about 20 minutes per passage. However, having a few extra minutes at the end is nice to review and answer anything you may have missed. Typically, you want to spend more time answering the questions than reading the passage. It’s important to note that this is a general guideline, as some passages and questions may be longer and require more time than others.

👉 Conclusion

The key to conquering this section is having a strategy that works best for you. Therefore, it’s important that you try out the different methods to see which one will help you ace this section. An effective strategy will make all the difference, so once you find something that works, stick to it and do as many practice tests as you can to refine it. You will see your scores improving with more practice and this is the best way to improve your score for this section. Hope these tips and guidelines help you conquer the reading comprehension section of the OAT!

For more information on the OAT, feel free to read our other articles on the following topics: How to Study for the OAT, How Is the OAT Scored, What Is a Good OAT Score, When to Reschedule Your OAT, and Retaking the OAT.