The Optometry Admission Test, or OAT, is the exam that anyone who wants to study for a career as an optometrist in America must take as part of the optometry school application process. The test is administered by the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO), and the test can be taken throughout the nation at Prometric Test Centers. Currently, the cost to take the exam is $220, and it can be taken at the test taker's convenience, after making scheduling arrangements with a Prometric center. According to ASCO, the exam does two things. It tests for general college level academic knowledge, and it also specifically tests for the ability to comprehend scientific information.
Applicants must have at least a full year of college under their belts in order to be allowed to take the test, and courses studied must include physics, general chemistry, biology, and organic chemistry. However, this is only a minimum requirement, and ASCO and others strongly recommend that a person should complete at least two years of college before taking the test, to have the best chance of doing well on the exam. If a person does poorly on the test, he is allowed to retake it as many times as he wishes. However, he must wait at least 90 days between attempts, and pay the testing fees every time. Furthermore, many schools frown on a person taking the test more than twice, and doing so can have a severely negative impact on a person's chances of admission.
A person will have two hours and 55 minutes to complete the OAT, not including the optional tutorial, break, or post- test survey periods, which are each 15 minutes long. The exam consists of four sections: Survey of Natural Sciences (90 minutes), Reading Comprehension (50 minutes), Physics (50 minutes), and Quantitative Reasoning (45 minutes). There are no passing or failing scores on the OAT, as each school of optometry sets its own minimum standards for admission. Of course, higher scores on the exam will greatly improve a person's chances of being admitted. It's often said that the score is only one factor in a person's application, and that admissions committees look at the entire package and consider the whole person, and this is true to an extent. However, some factors in a candidate's application weigh more heavily than others, and at most schools, the candidate's OAT scores are ranked at the very top of the most important considerations. This is why it is so important to make sure one is ready before taking the exam, as low scores and repeated retakes can destroy one's chances of going to optometry school.