A Brief Guide to Admissions Tests for UK Universities
Undergraduate applicants aspiring to study medicine, math, computer science, physics or engineering at leading universities in the UK should keep in mind that these universities have specific admissions exams that are mandatory or viewed favourably for admissions. At Oxbridge, admissions tests are mandatory for many social sciences courses too.
It’s important to understand these tests and the process of registering in order to prepare effectively. We have listed below some of the key admissions tests that applicants who want to study in the UK may need to take:
MAT: Mathematics Admissions Test, for students applying to Oxford Mathematics, Computer Science and their joint degrees as well as Imperial Mathematics courses.
PAT: Physics Aptitude Test for all applicants to Oxford for Engineering, Material Sciences and Physics undergraduate degree courses.
TSA: Thinking Skills Assessment tests are used to ascertain whether you have the critical thinking and problem-solving skills required for many social science degrees at universities such as Oxford, Cambridge and UCL.
UKCAT: The UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) is used in the selection process by a consortium of UK Medical and Dental Schools. Some universities require the UKCAT whilst others require the BMAT.
BMAT: BioMedical Admissions tests for applicants to Medicine, Biomedical Science and Dentistry courses at certain universities.
STEP: The mathematics exam used by Cambridge, Warwick and Bath. There are three STEP exams, STEP I, II and III, of increasing difficulty. All three exams only take place in June, well after universities give you an offer. Grades for STEP will make up part of your conditional offer.
Tests for other subjects
At Oxford, exams such as HAT for History, ELAT for English and CAT for Classics are also used to determine whether applicants will be invited to the interview or not. Similarly, Cambridge has its own pre-interview exams for most undergraduate courses.
Test grade requirements
Universities have different grade requirements for each of these exams. It is important to check UK university entry requirements to see what grades they are looking for and ensure that these are achievable for you. For pre-interview admissions tests such as MAT/TSA/PAT and other Oxbridge admissions tests, there is no specific minimum mark required. Rather your test score will be considered alongside your UCAS application to assess whether you are to be invited for an interview or proceed to the next stage of the selection process.
Many of these pre-interview exams do not require much additional knowledge outside of your school syllabus, but these exams are very different to board exams, in that they are not only testing for the knowledge you have but more precisely how you apply that knowledge to unfamiliar situations. Therefore the best way to prepare for these exams is to try as many past papers as possible.
Timelines & registration
If you decide to apply to one or more universities with an admissions exam, it is important to keep yourself fully informed of the registration process and deadlines.
Whilst in the U.K, these exams are invigilated at school, in India (and most other countries outside the UK), students will need to register and sit for the relevant exam at one of the British Council Exam centres in either Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai or Kolkata. To register for the exam you can email the British Council at firstname.lastname@example.org to request the relevant registration forms. Before you apply, make sure you are able to go sit for this exam on the required date.
For students interested in applying to UK universities, we advise that you visit The Admissions Testing Service (http://www.admissionstestingservice.org/for-test-takers/) to access the complete guide to all admissions exams used by every university in the UK. In the first instance, you should check the entry requirements for your degree on the university website. If an admissions exam is required, this will be stated here. Once you know which exam you are required to take, the next step is to go to the Admissions Testing Service website, and select the relevant exam. Here you will find all the information you need on exam dates, registration costs and process as well as tips on how you can prepare for the exam.
All the best!
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