MCAT vs OAT: What’s the Difference?

February 20, 2024

minute read

The MCAT and OAT are two commonly used admission exams in the medical profession. The major difference between the two is…

If you intend to enter med school, it is highly recommended that you take the MCAT. 

On the other hand, if you want to pursue optometry school, the OAT is the most suitable exam.

The real question you’re probably wondering is which one is harder 🙂 

Having spoken to hundreds of students and tutors the consensus is that MCAT is the more challenging exam (although the OAT is no walk in the park). 

There are also other differences between the two. This article will go through the different exam structures, exam fees, and other characteristics of MCAT and OAT. We will give a comprehensive comparison between these two. 

Hopefully, this will give you the information you need to make an informed decision on which course to take. 

And if you still need help with the MCAT we’re always here to help.

Summary Table of Differences: MCAT vs. OAT

Below is the table of differences between the MCAT and OAT. 


MCAT

OAT

Test Sections

-Biological and Biochemical Foundations


-Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems


-Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior


-Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

-Survey of Natural Sciences


-Reading Comprehension


-Physics


-Quantitative Reasoning

Test Duration

7 hours and 33 minutes, including break times.

4 hours and 45 minutes, including two 10 minutes break times.

Number of Test Questions

230 Test Questions

230 Test Questions

Scoring System

Score Range Per Test Section: 118 to 132



Overall Score Range: 472 to 528

Score Range:


200 to 400 points

(300 points/passing score)

Test Frequency

35 testing dates from January to September.

Available all year round

Exam Cost

USD 310

USD 500

Mode of Payment

Only accepts credit or debit cards (American Express, VISA, MasterCard)

Accepts credit cards, e-check, and PayPal.

What is the MCAT?

The MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) is an admission exam intended for medical school. It is tailored to fit and help medical schools assess the knowledge and skills of applicants who want to pursue a higher medical degree. 

It is a computer-based standardized examination with a duration of 7 hours and 30 minutes

It contains four test sections with a total of 230 test questions that you need to answer. 

It uses multiple-choice questions, making the exam manageable for most of its test-takers.

The test’s primary purpose is to assess the knowledge of pre-medical students in ChemistryPhysicsBiologyPsychology, and Sociology. These basic sciences are usually encountered when taking any medical course. 

Furthermore, the MCAT is used to measure the following skills of the aspiring medical student, including critical thinking, problem-solving abilities, and the appropriate knowledge about basic scientific concepts and medical principles. 

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) administers the exam and is available in the United States, Canada, Australia, and other counties worldwide. 

The MCAT Four Test Sections are: 

What is OAT?

The OAT (Optometry Admissions Test) is a standardized examination for students who want to pursue optometry. Most optometry schools in the US, Canada,  and other countries worldwide use this exam as part of their admission process.

Moreover, it is conducted and administered by the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO)

It is a computer-based exam and utilizes multiple-choice test questions. Also, the OAT has four test sections, and its duration is approximately 5 hours, more or less. 

The exam is designed to assess the knowledge of its test-takers whether or not one is ready and equipped with enough knowledge to help them be successful in optometry school. 

The test is offered all year round and can be taken at their official testing centers. 

The OAT Four Test Sections are: 

  • Survey of Natural Sciences
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Physics
  • Quantitative Reasoning

MCAT vs. OAT: What are the Similarities?

These two exams are used as admission exams in medical and optometry schools. It helps these institutions gauge the ability and knowledge of their applicants if they are qualified to enroll in med or optometry school. 

Also, the MCAT and OAT are computer-based tests allowing test-takers to take the exam comfortably and efficiently.  These exams are also standardized, highly accepted, and recognized worldwide. 

Exam Format and Structure: MCAT vs. OAT

The MCAT and OAT are both taken using the computer.  As for the duration, the MCAT takes about 7 hours and 30 minutes compared to the OAT, which will only take about 4 hours and 45 minutes for you to finish. 

Both these exams have a total of 230 test questions. 

In the OAT, you will need to answer 100 test questions in the natural sciences section and 50 test questions about reading comprehension. 

You also need to answer another set of 40 test questions about physics and 40 questions in the OAT in mathematical reasoning and problem-solving test sections. 

On the other hand, the OAT is offered all year-round, while the MCAT is offered only 35 times annually.

Exam Format and Structure

MCAT

OAT

Test Sections

-Biological and Biochemical Foundations


-Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems


-Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior


-Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

-Survey of Natural Sciences


-Reading Comprehension


-Physics


-Quantitative Reasoning

Test Duration

Duration per test section:

 

90 to 95 minutes each 


Overall:


7 hours and 33 minutes, including break times.

4 hours and 45 minutes, including two 10 minutes break times

Number of Test Questions

230 Test Questions

230 Test Questions 

Test Frequency

35 testing dates annually from January to September.

Available all-year round

TOTAL TIME

Computer-Based Test

Computer-Based Test

Scoring: MCAT vs. OAT

The MCAT and OAT significantly differ in the scoring system they used to score the exams. 

For example, the MCAT has a scoring range of 132 to 118 points for each of its test sections

The test section scores you get will be added to come up with an overall score ranging from 472 to 528 points. 

The MCAT also has a percentile ranking for your overall scores that can help you check your standing compared to the scores of previous test-takers. 

While the OAT is scored based on the number of correct answers that you get. And they utilize a score range of 200 to 400 points, in which the passing score is 300 points.

MCAT Scoring

OAT Scoring

Score Range Per Test Section:

118 to 132


Overall Score Range:

472 to 528

Score Range:


200 to 400 points

(300 points/passing score)

This is the MCAT Percentile Rank from May 1, 2021, to April 30, 2022. The table below shows the MCAT overall scores with their corresponding percentile ranks. You may use this as a comparison and check your MCAT scores' percentile ranking. 

Overall MCAT Score

Percentile Rank


Overall MCAT Score

Percentile Rank

Header

Overall MCAT Score

Percentile Rank

472

<1%


491

19%

Cell

510

78%

473

<1%


492

21%

Cell

511

81%

474

<1%


493

24%

Cell

512

84%

475

<1%


494

27%

Cell

513

86%

476

1%


495

29%

Cell

514

88%

477

1%

Cell

496

32%

Cell

515

90%

478

1%

Cell

497

35%

Cell

516

92%

479

2%

Cell

498

38%

Cell

517

94%

480

3%

Cell

499

42%

Cell

518

95%

481

4%

Cell

500

45%

Cell

519

96%

482

4%

Cell

501

48%

Cell

520

97%

483

6%

Cell

502

52%

Cell

5215

98%

484

7%

Cell

503

55%

Cell

522

99%

485

8%

Cell

504

58%

Cell

523

99%

486

9%

Cell

505

62%

Cell

524

100%

487

11%
Cell

506

65%

Cell

525

100%

488

13%

Cell

507

69%

Cell

526

100%

489

15%

Cell

508

72%

Cell

527

100%

490

17%

Cell

509

75%

Cell

528

100%

Test Requirements: MCAT vs. OAT

For the test requirements, the MCAT and OAT have various sets of requirements for their test-takers. You can register for these exams following their online registration process. They also similarly accept government-issued IDs as proof of identity. 

For the OAT, you need to secure a PIN before fully registering for the exam. However, if you have previously taken the test, you can still use your old PIN for it. 

If you are planning to take the OAT, it is highly suggested that you register for the exam online for at least 6 to 8 weeks to avoid delays and get accommodation earlier.

The table below compares the MCAT and OAT registration processes and test requirements. 

MCAT Test Requirements

OAT Test Requirements

For Online Application 


-Make an account on the AAMC website.


-Fill out the application questions and prompts on their website.


-Go to MCAT registration systems and follow the instructions given.


Present the following upon registration:  


1. Any government-issued IDs (must be valid and not expired)


2. ID must contain a clear photo of you.


3. ID must be in English.


4. Accepted IDs include:


-Driver’s license


-Passport


-Permanent Resident Card (Green Card)


-Employment Authorization Document


-Canada Health Car (For Ontario and British Columbia only)


-Consular ID


-Canadian Aviation Card


5. Submit your academic transcripts

(applicable for high school, undergraduate, and any post-graduate education). Also, it accepts unofficial transcripts but must reflect your full name.  

For PIN Registration Process:


-Obtain your OAT PIN at their official website (you can use your existing PIN if you have already taken it previously)


-Register for the PIN using the name that reflects on the government-issued ID you have.


-The PIN will be directly emailed to you

Read and review the guidelines presented


-Pay for the exam.


OAT Online Application: 


-After receiving your PIN you can now register for the OAT.


-Arrange the test date according to your preference (6 to 8 weeks prior)


Present the following upon registration:


3. Accepted IDs include:


-Any government-issued ID with a picture


-Passport


-Driver’s license

Test Costs: MCAT vs. OAT

The MCAT and OAT have different payment methods and test costs. In particular, the MCAT exam fee is USD 310, and the OAT is USD 465, which is more expensive than the latter.

Both of the exams accept credit cards however the OAT accepts payment made thru PayPal and e-checks. They also require that all payments for the exam should be made only in US dollars. 

The OAT has additional fees for its score report, which costs USD 45 each. While they also offer  a score audit which costs USD 65, and an eligibility extension fee of USD 125. 

Here’s a comprehensive table reflecting their cost differences and payment options. 


MCAT Fee

OAT Fee

Payment Modes

Only accepts credit or debit cards (American Express, VISA, MasterCard)

Accepts credit cards, e-checak, and PayPal.

Cost

USD 310

USD 500

  • Test Recognition: MCAT vs. OAT

The MCAT and OAT are commonly used by different medical schools and various optometry schools worldwide as part of their admission process. 

Also, the OAT is available in these countries, including the United States, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Canada. Each country mentioned here has designated Prometric Test Centers in specific areas to cater the exam to every test-takers. 

Many medical schools located in the United States, Canada, Europe, Singapore, Australia, and other countries worldwide accept the MCAT

This exam is highly recommended for those individuals who want to pursue a higher medical course or program. 

Below are the top universities and optometry schools worldwide that accept the OAT. 

  • Indiana University, USA
  • Western Kentucky University
  • the University of Missouri - St. Louis
  • Nova Southeastern University, Florida
  • California Lutheran University
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • the State University of New York
  • Oklahoma State University
  • Western University of Health Sciences
  • New England College of Optometry

Below are some medical schools in Australia that require the MCAT. 

  • Griffith Medical School
  • Melbourne Medical School
  • UQ Medical School
  • Sydney Medical School
  • McMaster University Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine
  • Queen’s University School of Medicine
  • University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry
  • University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine
  • University of Calgary Cumming School of Medicine
  • University of Manitoba Max Rady College of Medicine
  • University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine
  • Harvard Medical School
  • Yale School of Medicine
  • Boston University School of Medicine
  • Stanford University School of Medicine
  • Georgetown University School of Medicine
  • Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • Howard University College of Medicine
  • University of South Alabama College of Medicine
  • New York Medical College
  • Duke University School of Medicine
  • Michigan State University College of Human Medicine
  • Saint Louis University School of Medicine
  • Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine
  • California Northstate University College of Medicine
  • George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences
  • …and more.

Which is Easier: MCAT vs. OAT

If we compare the difficulty level of the MCAT and OAT, the latter is much more demanding and challenging compared to the MCAT. It is already given that the MCAT basically is a hard exam due to its duration and the topics involved in its test sections. 

However, the OAT is more complex in terms of its test sections, including topics in Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry, and Biology. 

Although both are multiple-choice exams, it is hard to pick the right answers as most of its test questions require technical knowledge. You either know it, or you don’t. 

That is why many OAT test-takers find it very hard compared to the MCAT, which is more manageable.

Should You Take the MCAT or the OAT?

The MCAT is to be taken by aspiring medical doctors, while the OAT is intended for those who want to continue optometry. You can either take the MCAT or OAT, depending on what profession you want to pursue. 

Most medical schools require their applicants to take the MCAT as an admission exam, as it will help them evaluate your performance and knowledge if you can be successful in continuing a higher medical course. 

While the OAT also serves as an admission exam for optometry school. The main purpose of the exam is to measure your abilities and skills if it fits their standard for you to enroll and take optometry.

Additional FAQs – MCAT vs. OAT

Can you Take MCAT and OAT?

If you intend to enter med school, it is highly recommended that you take the MCAT. 

On the other hand, if you want to pursue optometry, the OAT is the most suitable exam for this. The test is intended for individuals who wish to enroll in optometry school.

Is MCAT the Hardest Test?

The MCAT is a challenging exam, and given its duration, it adds more pressure on its test-takers. It is also considered one of the most challenging admission exams, especially for medical schools. 

However, it does not mean you cannot pass the MCAT because it is difficult. Most of its test-takers have passed the exam with good MCAT scores, and you can ace it too. You must take an in-depth practice exam and consistently do it to improve your MCAT skills.

What is a Good Score for the OAT?

A good score on the OAT is around 320 and above. The score ranges from 200 to 400 points and has an average score of 300 points. Also, the 300 points are equivalent to the 50th percentile, indicating a good exam standing. 

You did well in the OAT exams if you got more than the average score. A score of 340 and above shows excellent performance on the test.

Can I Use MCAT Books to Study for OAT?

You can use any review materials that are more accessible to you. However, most test-takers recommend the Kaplan MCAT prep book to review for the OAT. Also, the prep book contains conceptual physics questions, which are a great way to help you ace the test. 

But it does not mean that other review materials for the OAT are useless. You can take and use many review materials for the OAT; the more you are exposed to different types of questions and exam patterns, the more you are prepared to take the exam.

Remember The MCAT Is Not A Premed Exam (As Most Students Mistake It To Be)

Now that you have a better understanding of the differences between the MCAT and OAT, it’s time to make a decision on which exam to take. If you ended up choosing the MCAT, we are here for you! 

To make this entire process easier for you, we’ve created these step-by-step self-paced MCAT strategy courses and are now offering one-on-one MCAT coaching.

The MCAT is the last but most important obstacle you must conquer to secure your spot as a future doctor. We know from experience it’s going to test you on every level.

It can be highly frustrating when your scores don’t improve, or you’re forced to retake because of a disappointing score. We’ve been there…

But we also know that you’re smart. You’ve worked hard to get to this point.

Never lose faith in yourself and your dreams. We’re here for you and will help you get through it.

You got this,

The MedLife Mastery Team
Your MCAT Success Mentors

Your MCAT Success Mentors

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