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If you’re serving in the military and are looking to become a commissioned officer, passing the Officer Aptitude Rating (OAR) exam is the first step. Passing the exam does not guarantee a position and is only one element of the application process. High school and college GPAs and general application components all factor into placement. 

If you are taking the OAR as a civilian that has yet to enlist, you must contact your recruiter to discuss next steps in the application process. Your scores will be used to determine admittance to Officer Candidate School.

About the exam

The OAR exam is a multiple-choice, standardized exam that measures a test taker’s knowledge of mathematics, reading comprehension, and mechanical comprehension. It’s similar in format to the SAT or ACT exam, however topics on the OAR are more in-depth and technical. The OAR exam is a subset of the larger ASTB test used by the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard, and includes three subtests, each with its own time restrictions. 

Results from the OAR exam are used to qualify for officer training programs. However, the exam results are not the sole decider and other factors including work history and college GPA are factored in.

Eligibility requirements

Both civilians and enlisted are eligible to take the OAR exam. To take the OAR exam, test takers must:

  • Be between the ages of 19-35 
  • Hold a bachelor’s degree or higher

Testing formats

Test takers have a choice between two testing options: 

  • Paper-based format: With a total test time of 85 minutes, this format is longer and has a fixed number of questions with a specific sequence of questions by subtest. The paper format does not penalize you for incorrect questions, however any item left blank will be scored as incorrect, so make sure to guess as time is running out. 
  • Computer Adapted Testing (CAT): The CAT format adjusts the number and difficulty of the questions based on the answers provided during the test. As you answer questions, the test automatically modifies the difficulty level (and the weight applied to the scoring of the question) up or down depending on the number of correct answers. If a test taker does not answer enough questions in the time allotted, a penalty is applied to the score. Unlike the paper-based test, guessing on the CAT format can cause your score to decrease, so avoid it at all costs.

Exam breakdown 

The OAR exam consists of three subtests that cover core topics including math skills, reading comprehension, and mechanical comprehension. Let’s take a closer look at each subtest:

  • Math Skills: This section of the exam measures your ability to compute math problems that focus on algebraic equations, fractions, percentages, and geometry, resembling a traditional math test with mainly numeric questions and some word problems.
  • Reading Comprehension: This portion of the exam assesses your reading level and ability to retain and evaluate information provided in a variety of short passages ranging in level of difficulty. 
  • Mechanical Comprehension: This subtest section evaluates your overall understanding of mechanical concepts, with a heavy focus on physics. Over half of the questions on this test consist of problems utilizing image analysis to answer them. You will need to  move quickly through this section with only 30 seconds per question.

Here is a breakdown of the subtests outlining the number of questions and time allotted for each section of the exam:

Paper FormatCAT Format
SubtestQuestionsTime AllottedQuestionsTime Allotted
Math Skills3040 minutes30 25 minutes
Reading Comprehension2030 minutes2725 minutes
Mechanical Comprehension3015 minutes3015 minutes
Total Questions8085 minutes8765 minutes

Preparing for the exam

Peterson’s OAR test prep includes three full-length practice tests, online lessons that cover math skills, reading comprehension tips, an overview of mechanical reasoning, and more.

Watch the brief video to see what’s included in Peterson’s OAR test prep:

Scoring

The scoring for the OAR exam ranges from 20 to 80, although the average scores are between 40-60. Since the exam results are used to score possible candidates best suited as officers, these officer training programs are extremely competitive. With acceptance rates hovering around 4 percent, it is important to aim for the highest score possible.

RELATED: How to Become an Officer in the Military

Whatever path you are taking, ensuring your OAR exam results are the best they can be is the first step to a lifelong career as a commissioned officer.

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