A Less Expensive Way To Study For The OAT

NOTE* This article contains OAT Study Tips along with my $25.00 study method

Do you know that it only cost me $25.00 dollars to study for my OAT exam? I took the test in August 2008 and while other students spent hundreds of dollars on books and courses I saved that money for traveling Europe. I went from getting TS 230 AA 220 on my first practice test to getting a final grade of TS 350 AA 330 on the real thing. With my strong application and great test scores I was granted a seat in the SUNY 2013 class.

Want to know how I did it?

I will tell you in this article but first I must give you a disclaimer. Choosing this method of studying requires both great responsibility and strict discipline. Only those students who can keep a constant watch on their study habits and progress should pursue this method. I would recommend taking a Kaplan course or purchasing various OAT resources if you get easily distracted or side tracked.

First I purchased the small Kaplan test booklet that contained 2 full practice tests with hundreds of additional practice questions. That was all I purchased!

As you may already know, this small book is nowhere near enough material to study for the OAT so of course additional materials were needed, but I wanted to get these materials for free. So, I paid a visit to my local public library. You’d be amazed at what they had to offer! I checked out about 10 textbooks for supplementary studying. These textbooks covered the areas of biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, physics and basic math. These books had superb explanations for everything I was having trouble understanding while taking practice tests.

But the best part is still to come!

My library had all of the Kaplan review books for the DAT, MCAT and about 1 little practice OAT book similar to the one I bought but with different questions. As you guys should know, the DAT has the same sections as the OAT except that it lacks Physics, but this was no big deal. Both the DAT and OAT are administered by the American Dental Association, so any DAT material (except on Perceptual Ability, which is only on the DAT) will help you! The MCAT books, on the other hand, provided me with more challenging practice questions including detailed explanations for the science subjects on the OAT. I saved the MCAT practice questions for later in my studying when I really knew what I was doing.

I was determined to locate more free materials out there, so I grabbed my backpack and went out on the hunt. I successfully obtained a free Kaplan trial course that they were offering in my area by just going to their website and signing up. This test accounted for an additional practice test and I knew at this point that I’d almost gained enough material to ace my OAT exam!

I went to the website  https://www.ada.org/oat/index.html and downloaded the free OAT practice test that the ADA gives out. Now note that 99% of students say that this practice test is almost exactly like the real OAT and that is why I saved it for last. About a week before my OAT I took this test and used my score on this test to determine if I was absolutely ready to take my OAT or to see if I should postpone it. It turns out I got above a 310 in all sections and I was confident that with a week of more studying I would bring my scores up even higher.

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So after going on the hunt for free OAT materials I had in my possession…

  1. Kaplan OAT book with 2 practice tests and hundreds of questions
  2. Kaplan FULL REVIEW DAT book that has about 3+ practice tests plus all of the learning material that teaches you everything about the subjects. (I used this most frequently)
  3. Free Kaplan practice test
  4. Older Kaplan OAT book with about 1 unique practice test
  5. An MCAT review book / practice test book
  6. 10 text books relating to all the subject materials
  7. Free OAT practice test from the ADA.
  8. A bunch of other websites that I just GOOGLED

Free Kaplan Practice Questions: http://www.kaptest.com/Optometry/OAT/Practice-the-OAT/oat-practice-questions.html
Free OAT Practice Questions: http://www.testprepreview.com/oat_practice.htm
Helpful Physics Applets For Study: http://www.physics-lab.net/?nav=applets
Helpful General Chemistry Supplement: http://www.mhhe.com/physsci/chemistry/carey/student/olc/graphics/carey04oc/ch12/figures/subseff.gif
Helpful Organic Chemistry Supplement: http://chemed.chem.purdue.edu/genchem/topicreview/bp/1organic/1org_frame.html

I began my studying about 3 months prior to my test date, and at the time I was also working at a private optometry practice plus was taking physics courses. I had a PACKED schedule with little time to spare. It was hands down the most boring summer of my entire life! I was either sitting in class or sitting in the library, and having fun with friends was pretty much out of the question. Working at Optix Family Eyecare was the best part.

I began my studies by doing some sample practice questions from the small Kaplan book to get a feel for how the test would be. While doing the questions, I would write down the main topic that each question was based around. This way I would have a list of topics later on that I could study. Next to each topic I would place 1-3 stars, with 3 stars meaning I was excellent at the subject and 1 star meaning I really needed work. This organization process helped me to keep my priorities straight.

At this point I felt so overwhelmed because the questions were difficult and I was not as sharp as I thought I was. Yet in front of me I had about 6-7 practice tests and enough supplementary material to teach me what I did not know. At this point all I had to do was put in lots of time and study HARD.

I knew that I needed to devise a method to keep organized and make things easy.

Here is my method in a nutshell.

For all sections of the OAT there are common topics that are presented upon but each question is slightly different. So for every practice test that I finished, I would compare this test with another, side by side. I would meticulously examine which questions were very similar in nature. So after taking many practice tests I had a list of topics and questions that I was sure would be on my OAT and so I made certain to completely and thoroughly understand these topics. If one question talked about the nodes of ranvier on the neuron and a question on a different test talked about myelin, then I was sure I had better learn EVERYTHING I could about neurons and transmission of their signals. You may say to yourself “with this method you are going to just come full circle and realize you have to know every single little detail” but really it’s just the opposite. The people who write the OAT do like to focus on specific subjects, and it is your job to be the detective and find out exactly what it is they like to ask about.

I think that many people go through this test and notice that certain topics are stressed more than others but never really directly compare questions from test to test. By doing this direct comparison I narrowed down almost exactly what would be asked of me.

For the biology, organic chemistry, general chemistry, and physics sections of the test I stuck to my method very strictly. I would take a test, compare questions to those on other tests and then study those topics quite thoroughly by using the big Kaplan book and textbooks. This method allows you to use your time effectively. You focus on everything important and avoid delving into hours of unnecessary studying.

For the Quantitative Reasoning and Reading Comprehension sections I used a different method.

The first thing that must be understood when it comes to the quantitative reasoning section is that there is a larger ‘buffer’ for wrong answers. By looking at the scoring sheet we can see that if an individual got roughly 4 questions wrong they can still get a 400 for this section (the scoring scale has since been adjusted, but there is still some room for error to attain a 400). Other sections of the test do not give this much leeway. So the point of the story is that you must speed through the questions that give you extreme difficulty and move on to other questions, which you have mastered. In my case, there was simply not enough time to give each question 100% of your time and effort. Taking 5-6 minutes to solve a question may seem worth it, but it is often a better strategy to make your best-educated guess at the questions that you aren’t good at, so that you have more time on the questions you know you can get right! To me this is the path of least resistance. You must really search for your strengths all throughout this section of the test, simply because the questions are quite scattered about. If you are efficient with the marking feature then you can tag questions and go back to them once you have finished all of the questions you are strong at.

Another tip for the quantitative reasoning section is to do a high volume of problems, and the good thing is that you can pick up any math textbook from the library to practice. You should be crunching close to 1,000 math problems during your studying time if you want it to become second nature!

People have many different styles to perform well on Reading Comprehension, but the best tip I can give you is to go to Borders or Barnes and Noble book stores and read short articles from magazines such as Science, Nature, Business Weekly, and Psychology (avoid magazines like Maxim, Car and Driver, Skateboarding and Men’s Fitness… lol) These educational magazines are packed with semi-interesting articles and often mimic the reading section of the OAT.

My advice is to plow through many of these articles and when finished write down a list of 15 key points you remember from the article. This will train your brain to read and extract information efficiently. Understand the types of questions that the OAT gives you on the reading section. There is a specific generic type of question format that you will see, like comparing different parts of the passage or picking out that which is false. When you are done reading the magazine articles write out a list; as fast as you can, that covers these question formats.

So there you go, that is what I did and it worked very well for me! Keep in mind that every student is unique and what works great for one student might not work for the next.

Bruce Li once said, “Take that which works for you, discard that which does not, and create something truly your own!” Being the intelligent individual that you are, please follow this advice and extract from this article which works for you and use it to ACE your Optometric Admission Test.

Also, please bookmark the website and check back often!Bookmark this page!

I hope this article gives you something unique so you can do well on your OAT.


Matthew Geller
SUNY 2013

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