The Optometry Admission Test, more commonly referred to as the OAT, is a standardized test intended for college graduates who aim to gain admission to an optometry program. The Medical College Admission Test, also known as the MCAT, is a test you must take for admission to medical school. Depending on whether you wish to be an optometrist or an ophthalmologist, you will choose between these tests.
Optometry vs. Ophthalmology
Optometry and ophthalmology are very different disciplines of eye care. If you have an eye care specialist who focuses mainly on checking vision and prescribing eyewear like glasses or contact lenses, you've probably seen an optometrist. These professionals spend four years in school post-college to earn their degrees, but do not attend medical school. Ophthalmologists, on the other hand, do go to med school, after which they complete a one-year internship and three-year residency to finish their professional training. They focus on more in-depth eye care, such as eye diseases, treatment of trauma and surgeries.
Opting for the OAT
The OAT is offered as a computer-based test at specified testing centers around the country. It tests for knowledge in the areas of biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, reading comprehension, quantitative reasoning and physics. The test is rigorous and requires preparation with at least two and sometimes three years of college courses. The Optometric Admission Testing Program offers free study materials.
Mastering the MCAT
Ophthalmology students must first make their way through medical school, where they learn many things about subjects unrelated to eye care. For admission, you must take the MCAT, a comprehensive exam that tests both content knowledge and cognitive skills in physical science, biological science and verbal reasoning. The MCAT is also the standard test required for medical school admission for all students in all disciplines.
Timing the Test
As with all standardized tests, these are prerequisites for admission. Not only do you need to take them to apply, but most schools accept only those students who do well. For the best shot at getting into the program of your choice, schedule your test well in advance of the application deadline, study extensively leading up to the test and arrive punctually on the appointed test day. Standardized tests are expensive and almost never allow you to cancel or reschedule.
Sarah Moore has been a writer, editor and blogger since 2006. She holds a master's degree in journalism.