OAT Breakdown: Survey of Natural Sciences Section!

This is Part 2 of a series of breakdown posts that will outline the Optometry Admission Test. The OAT is a marathon of an exam with 4 large sections and clocking in at nearly 5 hours so let’s take a closer look at each section, shall we? On the menu today: The Survey of Natural Sciences, which is the longest section of the test, both in time and in number of questions!


Survey of Natural Sciences is the first section of the OAT, there are 100 questions, and you have 90 minutes. Within the section, there are 3 sciences tested: Biology (40 questions), General Chemistry aka Inorganic Chemistry (30 questions), and Organic Chemistry (30 questions). The content of these questions is limited to the things you learned in your entire first-year course in biology, general/inorganic chemistry course, and the organic chemistry class. Basically this means no upper level concepts beyond what you saw in those courses.


On your score report you will see scores for each subsection in addition to a total Survey of Natural Sciences section score. Remember: Your scores are based on the number of correct responses, which means you’re not penalized for guessing. That means don’t leave any question blank but make educated and smart guesses!


The ASCO gives a fairly detailed list of topics within the subsections so you can really hone in on certain areas when studying. Check out each subsection topic breakdown and a couple ASCO-supplied sample questions below:


Biology, 40 questions

DAT:OAT biology topics

Sample Question: OAT biology sample


General/Inorganic Chemistry, 30 questions

DAT:OAT gen chem topics 1

DAT:OAT gen chem topics 2

Sample Question: OAT gen chem sample


Organic Chemistry, 30 questions

DAT:OAT org chem topics

Sample Question: OAT org chem sample


The Survey of Natural Sciences is first big hump in your OAT day adventure and it’s a doozy. The key is perfecting your time management to keep you calm so you can focus on the questions and not worry about running out of time. Practice and ace it with OAT Cracker, where you can take practice tests in each section with questions that look and feel like the real thing! Stay tuned for further breakdowns!

OAT Breakdown: Introduction Guide to the Optometry Admission Test!

This is Part 1 of a series of breakdown posts that will outline the Optometry Admission Test. First off we’ll focus on the specifics of the OAT itself and then in upcoming posts we will discuss each of the four sections 1) Survey of Natural Sciences, 2) Reading Comprehension, 3) Physics, and 4) Quantitative Reasoning. The Optometry Admission Test is designed by the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) to assess your readiness for optometry school and is used by all U.S. programs in the application process as a factor in their decision. It’s a monstrous marathon of an exam with a wide scope of topics tested and clocks in at around four hours!

Basically: Unavoidable & not to be underestimated. So let’s take a closer look shall we?


What’s an OATPIN?

As of July 2014, ASCO is requiring a PIN (Personal Identification Number) for authentication for all Optometry Admission Test (OAT) applications and official score report requests. Before you can even apply to take the OAT, you must obtain a PIN aka an OATPIN. Important: If you have ever taken the OAT before or have ever even applied to test before July, a PIN has already been assigned to you and you can retrieve it here. If you are a brand new to the OAT entirely you can register for a PIN here.


Applying to take the OAT

With your OATPIN you can now apply to take the OAT here. Note: once you have been approved to take the exam you have a six-month window to do it after which you’ll have to reapply. If you wish to retake the OAT you have to wait at least 90 days and if you feel the need to take it more than three times you have to gain special permission. Plus with each retake you’ll have to reapply to take it and pay the test fee again. Speaking of test fee…


$ Cost of taking the OAT $

Currently the test fee is $330 (up from $270) and that includes sending official score reports to the up to 5 schools you specify on your OAT application. If you want your official OAT scores sent to an additional school you didn’t list on the application it’s $33 each. The $330 fee is non-refundable and non-transferrable so pick a date and stick to it! If you must reschedule, well more fees for you:

Rescheduling Fees

Scheduling a test date

Once your OAT application is approved you’ll receive email confirmation and only then can you schedule your test with Prometric. You can take the test year-round at Prometric Test Centers in your area. Prometric administers quite a few different computer-based tests like the OAT, GRE, MCAT, etc. and depending on the size of test centers, the day you wish to take the OAT can fill up so schedule ASAP!


What’s on the OAT?

As mentioned earlier, there are four sections to the Optometry Admission Test and we will discuss each in detail in upcoming breakdown posts. There are as followed:

1) Survey of Natural Sciences (100 Questions)

2) Reading Comprehension (40 Questions)

3) Physics (40 Questions)

4) Quantitative Reasoning (40 Questions)


How long is the OAT?

Total test time is technically 3 hours and 55 minutes but there’s an optional 15-minute tutorial (to get you familiar with using the test interface), an optional 15-minute break, and an optional 15-minute survey after the test, so could be closer to 5 hours. Here’s the test schedule:

Testing Schedule

If you really need an additional break the timer on your test will not stop so don’t! With proper practice practice practice and a goodnight’s sleep you can handle no extra breaks no problem!


Can I use scratch paper?

The test center will provide two note boards and two fine tip markers to use during the test. Scratch paper, pencils, or markers that have not been provided by the testing center are prohibited. The note boards cannot be used as measuring devices and cannot be folded, bent, distorted, or mutilated in any way and you can’t touch the monitor during testing with the boards. All items must be returned to the test administrator before leaving the test center.


OAT Scores

Your scores are based on the number of correct responses, which means you’re not penalized for guessing so that means don’t leave any question blank! You will get an unofficial score as soon as you finish the test and official scores are available about 3 weeks later. OAT scores on made on a scale from 200-400 so there’s no passing or failing. Some schools require a specific score for competitive consideration so be sure to check with them and aim high!


This breakdown to the OAT is really an outlined introduction the official ASCO OAT Guide that you should definitely check out in full here. Remember the best way to prepare for this long and dense exam is with practice. With OAT Cracker you will get practice with the look and feel of the real thing plus you’ll get plenty of exercise with the timing of the sections.

Onward, practice, and conquer!


OAT Study Motivation!

Hey! How’s studying for the OAT going? Great? Just all right? Let’s take a minute to talk about motivation. The Optometry Admission Test is no easy feat and the many (necessary) hours preparing for it can be grueling. The feeling of burning out is a common occurrence for many and can really throw you off track of your path to OAT domination. When test day arrives, it basically comes down to which Stark you want to be: Tony Stark aka Iron Man aka the badass that walks away from the explosion without looking OR Jon Snow aka the Stark bastard from Game of Thrones aka the guy that knows nothing.

Stark Option One: Tony Stark

Stark Option One: Tony Stark

Stark Option Two: Jon Snow

Stark Option Two: Jon Snow

Let’s get down to business…to defeat the Huns? No. No. The OAT! So when motivation wanes, what can you do? (Besides listen to awesome motivation songs like that one!)

Here are a few strategies for motivation and keeping yourself on track:

Stop & Take a Practice Test: If you’re in the middle of a studying block and suddenly hit a brick wall: Take full timed practice test. Your score just might give you the kick in the rear to knock you back into focus. With OAT Cracker you’ll even pin point exact weak spots in your preparation thus far.

Change it up: A swift change in the subject you’re studying or change in normal study location can revive your spirits and give you boost in motivation! But don’t change too often be sure you’re sticking to the 50/10 rule…

Be strict with yourself: The 50/10 rule of studying really does work! That’s 50minutes of straight focus studying then a 10minute break to refresh your brain! Do it. Discipline. “There are no short cuts to any place worth going.”

Turn off everything: Echoing the last tip, be hard on yourself and put all things you don’t need to study away, really. It may seem harmless to leave open Facebook open in a tab or have your phone lying there beside you but come test time these things won’t be there. You want to your studying environment to emulate that of the test day. So put away all distractions and save them for your breaks!

So study study study and practice practice practice (3x for emphasis) because when test day comes, you’re definitely going to need the confidence of Tony Stark not Jon Snow.

Lesson Learned: Be Iron Man.

Lesson Learned: Be Iron Man.

Applying to Optometry School: OptomCAS Personal Statement Writing

In case you missed the memo, the OptomCAS aka the big dental school application for next fall is officially opened! The Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) uses the OptomCAS aka the Optometry Centralized Application Service as a general application when applying to Optometry schools and it allows you to use one application to apply to multiple of any of the 21 programs in the U.S. If you’re planning to apply for Fall 2015, it’s time to start the process and by the way there is a PERSONAL STATEMENT required **cue the music** Although the essay is about YOU, you still have an agenda: it still needs to be written in a professional manner and highlight your professional skills, experiences, and interests. That doesn’t have to be so scary! Think of it kind of like answering that classic job interview inquiry: “Tell me about yourself.” Oh no. Did I just make it worse? **cue the music again**

tell me about yourself

Your OptomCAS Personal Statement is a place for you to “describe what inspires your decision for becoming an optometrist, including your preparation for training in this profession, your aptitude and motivation, the basis for your interest in optometry, and your future career goals” oh and do it in under 4,500 characters (including letters, spaces, punctuation (like on twitter)), which is only about a page long. So exactly why are you are seeking a optometry education? You need to articulate that you motivated, academically prepared, plus knowledgeable and passionate about the profession. This can be a little tricky; the key is balance. You want to sell yourself professional while remaining personable. By no means is this a creative writing piece; you want to be clear, concise, and professional. Keep in mind: optometry schools are making first judgments on you based on the OptomCAS application, and the OptomCAS Personal Statement is the ONLY place to make a case for yourself IN YOUR OWN WORDS!

One especially cool thing about the OptomCAS is that your Personal Statement is a school-specific question in the application. This means you can tailor your essay to each program you’re applying to and talk about specifically why this school is the best fit for you!

Remember that you’re selling yourself as a great addition to the profession. This is where you talk about your strengths, passion for the field, and all your extra-curricular hard work you’ve done in preparing for optometry school (and let’s face it also for this particular essay here).

Three key points to hit:

o   Why Optometry? – The lifelong childhood dream is all good and fine really but if that’s not the case be candid and honest and talk about your road to discovery, that’s interesting! Your journey to writing this OptomCAS Personal Statement may be long and winding. How did you land on optometry?

o   Shadowing or Assisting Experience – Talk up your observation hours in a optometry’s office setting and how these times increased your knowledge and understanding of the field. These experiences show you really know what’s like in the real world application of the optometry school.

o   Volunteerism – show your interest in working with/for the community and commitment to helping other. It’s important to include both volunteer activities that are relevant to the field and even some that isn’t. For example, working at an animal shelters shows your well rounded not just in a pre-opt mode all the time. Also include the volunteer work related to the optometry profession that you may have done with a Pre-Opt society (that’s how you work that you were active in the club in the essay too)!

The ole phrase “writing is rewriting” rings true here this case. Have a trusty professor or an optometry professional read it and give you feedback. They know what admissions committees are looking for and have insight on how to relate your experiences to the field. Final piece of advice: you can still upgrade your OAT Cracker account and unlock the all the practice tests for $49 instead of the regular $99 sooooo go do that and you’ll have gleaming OAT scores to match this beautiful essay!

Applying for Optometry School: OptomCAS Opens July 1st!

Question: Why did the phone wear glasses? …Because it lost all of its contacts!
**Pause for laughter and/or crickets**…so with that out of the way, we can get down to business.
Better Question: Did you know the OptomCAS officially opens July 1st? The Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) uses the OptomCAS aka the Optometry Centralized Application Service as a general application when applying to Optometry schools and it allows you to use one application to apply to multiple of any of the 21 programs in the U.S. Basically unavoidable, so get to know it in and out because it’s time to apply!


First thing’s first, you’ll need to create an OptomCAS Portal account here starting July 1st! OptomCAS allows optometry applicants to use a single web-based application and one set of materials to apply to multiple optometry schools and colleges. There are sections for your personal and contact information, academic history, a personal essay, and even your DAT scores but remember OptomCAS will not determine whether an applicant has met the optometry school or college requirements or is eligible for admission. That decision will be made by each respective school or college you send the application to. In addition to your OptomCAS application, some schools may require you to submit a supplemental application and an additional fee so read application instructions for each school carefully. Also be sure to check out the OptomCAS FAQ page, here.

When completely the OptomCAS there is a $155 application fee to apply to one school and then an additional $55 for each school after that. Here’s a handy chart in figuring out cost of applying to several school, here. If you wanted to apply to all 21 programs in the country it was cost a whopping $1255, whoa. In fact, the whole application process can quickly become pretty expensive with taking the OAT, completely the OptomCAS, then individual schools secondary application fees, traveling to interviews, etc. so you want to do your research and narrow down the programs you really want to apply to.

With all this expense, here’s a little secret to ease the load: Want to get 30 FREE days added onto your OAT Cracker account? Mention “OATCracker” on any forum, mention it in a blog, refer a friend, Facebook post to your pre-dental society, etc. and we will add 30 extra days to your account! Email us through our website (www.oatcracker.com) so we can help you out for your upcoming Optometry Admission Test. PLUS right now you can gain an edge on your OAT for only $49 instead of the regular $99. With all the stress of applying to optometry school don’t let the OAT be one of them. Ace it with OAT Cracker! You see? These are the benefits of reading the blog and putting up the cheesy eye jokes, like so:

03-12-12 One-Eye

In review, applying to optometry school with the OptomCAS officially commences on July 1st and get 30 FREE days added to your OAT Cracker account to ace the admissions test!