This guide is for anyone applying to sit Physics or a number of STEM courses at the University of Oxford. In the sections below you can find out if you need to sit the test and how you go about doing that. There is also some advice on how best to prepare for the test and how important the test will be to your application to study at Oxford.
What is the PAT?
The Physics Admissions Test, formerly known as the Phyics Aptitude Test, is the entrance test for a number of STEM courses at Oxford, including Physics, Physics and Philosophy, Engineering Science, and Materials Science.
What does the PAT test?
The PAT consists of a series of Maths and Physics questions. Helpfully Oxford share a specfication: https://www.physics.ox.ac.uk/study/undergraduates/how-apply/physics-aptitude-test-pat/pat-syllabus
Why is the PAT used?
The PAT is used to assess the academic suitability of candidates to studying STEM based subjects at Oxford. Whilst not the sole determining factor, it does provide a very accurate determinant for identifying students who will be asked to attend an interview for a place at college.
What is in the PAT exam?
The exact style of the test changes reasonably regularly. But updates are published on the Oxford admissions website.
The PAT is made up of 100 marks. The paper is loosely divided into two sections.
Section 1: the first section is made up of twelve multiple choice questions. Each question is worth two marks, so this section is worth 24 marks in total. It is worth noting that although each question is worth the same number of marks, the questions do vary in difficulty across this section.
Section 2: the second section is made up of a number of longer-form questions. Each question is worth up to 10 marks each, and the entire section is worth a total of 76 marks.
How difficult is the PAT?
The vast majority of students will find aspects of the PAT very tricky indeed. It is designed to push you to the limits of your understanding of some of the fundamental aspects of the physics and maths curriculums and 16+ level and requires you to use these concepts in very unfamiliar contexts. That being said with proper preparation it is perfectly possible to do well.
What is a good score on the PAT?
There is no passing mark as such for the test, but there is a threshold mark, below which candidates will not be placed on the interview short-list. This mark will not be determined until the results of the tests are available.
The mean score on the PAT in 2020 was 49 with the highest score of 97 and a minimum of 8.
Candidates seeking to gain an interview will be looking to score in the 60+ region. Obviously, the higher the better.
Can I resit the PAT?
The PAT can only be taken once in an academic year. If you feel you have not done to the best of your abilities then you can retake the PAT in the following year, but this will need to be as part of a new UCAS application.
What are the best ways to prepare for PAT?
Look at a range of past papers to help to familiarise yourself with the format of the test and the content covered. Reports are published each year and contain information such as the average mark on the paper and the mark students needed to achieve an interview.
Make sure you familiarise yourself with the syllabus (available on the Oxford Uni website). The material is aimed at AS level maths and physics plus knowledge of material covered at GCSE. However, there is no guarantee when the material will be covered in your school so you might find you need to teach yourself a few topics before the exam.
Get practice doing some problem solving/hard physics questions which are not A level questions. It is advisable to do questions from a range of other sources, not just A level type questions which can be more structured in nature than the PAT.
Try doing some questions under timed conditions. One of the things which students who have taken the test say is hard is the number of questions you need to do in only 2 hours. Practising some questions under timed conditions near the date of the exam will mean you are more likely to get to the end of the paper.
When do I sit the PAT?
The PAT is taken on the first Thursday in November each year – the provisional date for 2023 is October 20th.
Is the PAT an online test?
The PAT is not taken online, it is a pen and paper test and will need to be taken at an officially registered test centre. This is usually at a candidate’s school.
Where can I find practice PAT tests or past papers?
Practive papers for the PAT can be found on the Oxford University website here: https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate/applying-to-oxford/guide/admissions-tests/pat
Tutors for the PAT
Keystone has a range of specialist tutors who can assist students approaching university aptitude tests for Oxford University including the PAT. Our Physics Admissions Test tutors have extensive experience with the PAT, both through having successfully sat the test and then gone on to tutor it. Contact us to find out more.