OAT Natural Sciences Overview

The Optometry Admissions Test was designed by the Association of Schools and Colleges for Optometry to measure an applicant’s understanding of the foundational concepts and skills required to successfully complete the demanding coursework required of optometry students.

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How Much Does the OAT Cost?

The exam fee is $435 and includes the test itself, all official score reports requested at the time of registration, the unofficial score report you will receive after the test, and sending score reports to your pre-optometry advisor (if desired).

If you need to add schools to your list after you have already registered, you will need to pay $36 per additional score report requested. So it is highly advisable to make sure you select every single optometry school you might apply to at the time of registration to avoid paying extra fees later. There is no limit to how many schools you can select during registration and it’s free to remove schools from your list later.

If the exam fee is prohibitively expensive, you may qualify for a partial waiver which will cut the price in half. However, there are only a limited number of waivers available and they are given out on a first come, first serve basis starting on January 1st. So if you need one, make sure to apply for this test as early in the year as possible.

How Many Questions Are on the Test?

The OAT includes 230 multiple choice questions divided into four sections, each covering a fundamental skill or field of knowledge that you will need both during your studies and later in your career in optometry. The four sections are natural sciences, reading comprehension, physics, and quantitative reasoning.

You will spend a total of about five hours at the testing center. That includes 90 minutes for the natural sciences section; 60 minutes for the reading comprehension section; 50 minutes for the Physics section; 45 minutes for the quantitative reasoning section; an optional 15 minute break; and check-in time.

Which Subjects Are Covered on the Natural Sciences Section?

The natural sciences section represents the most significant portion of the OAT. It contains 100 multiple-choice questions covering the most relevant general knowledge in biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry. See below for a more detailed subject breakdown of the content in this section:

  • Biology – 40 Questions
    • Cellular and molecular biology
    • Diversity of life
    • Structure and function of systems
    • Developmental biology
    • Genetics
    • Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior
  • General Chemistry – 30 Questions
    • Stoichiometry and General Concepts
    • Gases
    • Liquids and Solids
    • Solutions
    • Acids and Bases
    • Chemical Equilibria
    • Thermodynamics and Thermochemistry
    • Chemical Kinetics
    • Oxidation-Reduction Reactions
    • Atomic and Molecular Structure
    • Periodic Properties
    • Nuclear Reactions
    • Laboratory
  • Organic Chemistry – 30 Questions
    • Mechanisms
    • Chemical and Physical Properties of Molecules
    • Stereochemistry (structure evaluation)
    • Nomenclature
    • Individual Reactions of the Major Function Groups and Combinations of Reactions to Synthesize Compounds
    • Acid-Base Chemistry
    • Aromatics and Bonding

How Is the OAT Scored?

Each section is scored independently on a scale of 200 to 400. Because it is an entrance exam, there is no minimum cutoff score required. However, the higher your score, the stronger your overall application to an optometry school will be.

If you do not achieve your target score, you can retake the test once 90 days have passed since your last attempt. However, keep in mind that schools will see your entire testing history. While your highest score will be given the most weight, they will see the number of attempts and the results of each attempt.

Plus, you will need to pay the full exam fee every time. So it’s better to give yourself additional study time before the first attempt rather than risk needing to take the test again. What’s the Best Way to Study for the Natural Sciences Section of the OAT?

Most candidates wait until after their second year of undergraduate studies to take the OAT because the material covered includes advanced knowledge of the natural sciences. So you should have already taken biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry courses at college before you take the test.

Having completed those courses, however, you will still need to study in preparation for the test. Pick up the Mometrix Study Guide for a convenient way to review all of the material without needing to go back through all of your old textbooks.

You will also benefit from Mometrix Flashcards which distill all of those complex concepts in biology, general chemistry, and organic chemistry into simple and clear explanations that fit onto a flashcard. They also happen to be very portable so you can take them with you for quick study sessions during your breaks and in between classes.


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by Mometrix Test Preparation | Last Updated: December 4, 2019