If you have decided to pursue a career in optometry, you have likely heard of the OAT exam. The OAT is a comprehensive exam that allows optometry programs to assess a potential student's readiness and knowledge prior to offering admission. It is a highly competitive exam and sees its fair share of complications on test day. There are dozens of rules for test-takers to follow, as well as regulations that proctors must abide by, to hopefully lessen the likelihood of cheating.
Most of the time, these rules are fair, but there are cases where OAT test-takers have found themselves accused of misconduct or test-taking irregularities that prevented their dream of becoming an optometrist from coming true.
If you or someone you love is in a similar situation, Lento Law Firm can help. Attorney Joseph D. Lento will work tirelessly to ensure the best possible outcome for your case – one that would protect your exam scores from being nullified, preserves your reputation, and prevents you from undergoing any unnecessary negative consequences.
What Is the OAT? Who Takes This Test?
The OAT, or the Optometry Admission Test, is an exhausting exam that assesses a student's knowledge of science, reading comprehension, and qualitative reasoning. The test Many students find the exam to be extremely difficult because it is heavily focused on math and physics. Additionally, it is a four-and-a-half-hour exam – so not only do students have to have a great understanding of the subject matter, but they also must ensure they have enough stamina to perform well during such a long, arduous exam.
As a computer-based exam, students will receive their test scores immediately upon completing the exam. Within four weeks, those scores will be shared with the optometry programs the student noted on their registration.
The Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) govern the OAT exam, but it is accepted by all optometry schools in the United States and Canada. Because the OAT is a standardized test, these scores are compared to other applicant scores when a student applies to a particular school. The idea is that the OAT will somehow level the playing field between applications and hopefully provide a clue as to how well the student will do in their optometry program.
Students suffer from severe overwhelm when confronting this exam as it covers several scientific subjects, including:
- General Chemistry
- Organic Chemistry
First, students are given 90 minutes to answer 100 multiple-choice questions on the natural science subjects before being asked to read three scientific passages and answer reading comprehension questions about them in just 50 minutes. Once those sections are completed, the student is given another 50 minutes to answer 40 questions on physics, covering such topics as vectors, magnetism, optics, and rotational motion. And the final section is 45 minutes long and is all about math – algebraic and numeric calculations, probability and statistics, geometry, and trigonometry.
The OAT is offered year-round at Prometric Test Centers in the United States, U.S. Territories, and Canada and is taken by examinees of all ages. Many college graduates take a break before applying to an optometry program. Some are uncertain of what path to take post-graduation, while others hope to work for a few years before applying for an optometry program.
Whatever the case, there is an immense amount of obligatory preparation to properly prepare for the OAT. Most test prep courses suggest at least two to four months to prepare, which breaks down to about 150-200 hours of study time. The better you prepare, the better off you will be.
Misconduct During the OAT Application and Administration Process
As ASCO governs the OAT, it has created a specific set of rules to help ensure the admissions process is a fair one. It asks students to abstain from behavior that results in misconduct or irregularities in the admissions process. Students are expected to act ethically in all aspects of their lives, but especially when it comes to taking this pre-admissions exam. If they do not, they will lose their chance of gaining admission to an optometry program in the U.S., its territories, and Canada.
If ASCO discovers that a student has violated the ethics code they put into place for the OAT, they have the right to withhold, cancel, or invalidate the student's exam results. Students whose scores were withheld, canceled, or invalidated will not receive a refund for their exam. Additionally, misconduct like this will greatly affect your ability to gain admission to an optometry program.
According to ASCO, the reasons for withholding, invalidating, or canceling a student's scores include the following:
- Noticing unusual answer patterns
- The student's score increased greatly from one exam attempt to the next
- Falsifying identification information
- Receiving information that a student committed some form of misconduct or violated the exam's rules or the test center's procedures
- Sharing exam questions or answers through either social media, online forums, or other means
- Having someone take the test for you
- Taking the test for someone else
- Falsifying supporting documents
- Falsifying your test results
If your scores are canceled or invalidated, you will be notified in writing. This letter will also include instructions for an appeal. Your results will stay invalidated until after that appeals process is completed or your window for an appeal has expired.
It is important to note that it is completely up to ASCO whether the cancellation is reported to interested parties. For instance, if you requested your scores be sent to a particular school once you've completed the exam, ASCO may notify them directly of the incident that gave rise to the cancellation.
Prohibited Items and Behaviors During the OAT Exam
In addition to the behaviors listed above, there are certain behaviors and items that are prohibited from being exhibited on exam day. These include:
- Study materials, like books, notes, or scratch paper
- Earplugs or headphones that have not been approved by the Administration Vendor
- Paper, calculators, rulers, or other measuring devices
- Bags, wallets, purses, backpacks, or totes
- Electronic devices
- Highlighters, erasers, pens, pencils, and dictionaries
- Food or beverages of any kind – unless you were given advance approval
- Coats, gloves, jackets, or other types of outerwear
- Good luck charms or religious totems
- Timing devices, like watches and stopwatches
- Magnifying glasses
- Speaking during the test or on unscheduled breaks
- Speaking about the exam at all
Students will be given note boards at the start of the exam and two low-odor fine-tip markers to use as scratch paper. You are prohibited from writing on the boards before or after the exam or during breaks. All the items given to the students must be returned at the end of the exam.
During unscheduled breaks, students are not supposed to access their personal belongings or refer to their notes. Any type of irregularity in the testing process could result in your scores being canceled or invalidated, so it is important to really pay attention to these rules.
Investigation and Adjudication of OAT Misconduct
If ASCO becomes aware that an irregularity may have happened, they will investigate the matter, which could take up to 30 days to complete. OAT scores are usually held during this time.
When they discover evidence of an irregularity, the examinee's scores will be canceled pending an appeal. Once the student is notified of the irregularity, they are also sent a copy of the Limited Right of Appeal for Examination Candidates guide. According to ASCO, the appeal must be submitted in writing within 30 days of receiving notice of the issue and must clearly state the relief you are requesting. This appeal must also include the student's arguments, evidence, and documentation in support of their appeal.
ASCO will notify the student of their decision on the appeal within 60 days of receiving it. While considering the appeal, their focus is to ensure your scores correctly reflect the student's skills and abilities. They also want to make sure that they did not have a greater opportunity than other students to complete the OAT.
When deciding whether an appeal should be denied, the Examination Program at ASCO will determine if there is a reasonable and good faith basis to cancel the scores. If they cannot, they will release the scores to the student. The investigation and adjudication process of OAT misconduct or irregularities is supposed to be done in a confidential, professional, fair, and objective way. As such, the Examination Program requires students to participate in arbitration if there is an irregularity or misconduct present.
Potential Consequences for OAT Testing Irregularities
There are several consequences that could result from OAT testing irregularities. As explained above, if an irregularity or misconduct is discovered, it could result in your scores being canceled or invalidated. Canceled or invalidated scores would greatly affect your ability to get into an optometry program.
The OAT is the only test that optometry programs in the U.S., its territories, and Canada take. Because of this, you may not be able to gain entrance to an optometry program without your scores. Additionally, gaining admission will be even more trying if ASCO decides to send a summary letter to the schools you've asked to have your scores reported to. If they send the summary letter, they will notify the school of exactly what happened and why your scores were canceled or invalidated.
Moreover, irregularities are investigated whenever they are discovered – even years after the original incident. If an irregularity is discovered after you have been given admission or even after you have started the program, your scores can still be canceled or invalidated. When this happens, your optometry program may dismiss you from the program or revoke your admission.
Rely on Attorney Joseph D. Lento to Defend Your OAT Examination Experience
You have spent years working towards this goal and should not be subject to any unnecessary punishments because of an irregularity that was outside of your control. According to ASCO, acts of God – like natural disasters and emergencies – are not the responsibility of the student and would not cause a student's scores to be invalidated or canceled. But there are times when the reason behind an irregularity falls into the cracks – causing ASCO to cancel your scores without doing a full investigation.
If you have taken the time and made an effort to study for the Optometry Admissions Test, you deserve to have your scores counted. If they are not, all that work will have been for nothing. The OAT is a stressful, competitive, and anxiety-inducing examination, even under the best conditions. But when you are accused of misconduct, or some other irregularity, during testing, it can feel extremely jarring. Who can you trust? Where do you turn?
At Lento Law Firm, Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team work tirelessly to help alleviate this burden. They have years of experience helping students across the country who have found themselves in similar situations. Attorney Lento understands how important these results are and how their invalidation can truly affect the outcome of your life.
Let Attorney Lento and his team protect not just your reputation but your future as well. Call 888-535-3686 today or schedule a consultation online.