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How to Pass the Oxford University Admissions Tests

Oxford University’s admissions process is slightly unconventional compared to other universities. Instead of registering for a number of classes on your acceptance, applicants normally apply to the courses themselves. Those courses are offered at one of Oxford’s 30 campuses across the United Kingdom. Each course has its own requirements for admission, which you can read here.

What are Admissions Tests? 

Courses at Oxford sometimes require entrance examinations alongside meeting their respective prerequisites. Each exam is taken in person, on paper, with numerous sections that can last over two hours long in most cases. Exams are designed to test your knowledge of fundamental skills necessary for succeeding in these courses, as well as to test your analytical and critical-thinking skills. The below table summarizes each entrance exam, and which exam is required by each course;

Exam Time Limit Format Courses
Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT) 2 hours` 3 sections Biomedical Sciences, Medicine, Medicine (Graduate)
Classics Admissions Test (CAT) 1 hour 3 sections Classics, Classics and English, Classics and Modern Languages, Classics and Oriental Studies 
English Literature Admissions Test (ELAT) 1 ½ hours Several passages of prose for analysis English Language and Literature, Classics and English, English and Modern Languages, History and English
National Admissions Test for Law (LNAT)  2 ¼ hours Two multiple choice sections Law, Law with Law Studies in Europe
Modern Languages Admissions Test (MLAT) 60 minutes for philosophy section + 30 per language 10 sections (depends on courses taken)  European and Middle Eastern Languages, Classics and Modern Languages, English and Modern Languages, History and Modern LanguagesModern Languages, Modern Languages and Linguistics or Philosophy and Modern Languages
Oriental Languages Aptitude Test (OLAT) 30 minutes 1 section  Oriental Studies, Classics and Oriental Studies (Oriental Studies with Classics), European and Middle Eastern Languages, Religion and Oriental Studies
Mathematics Admissions Test (MAT) 2 ½ hours 7 questions Computer Science, Computer Science and Philosophy, Mathematics, Mathematics and Computer Science, Mathematics and Philosophy, Mathematics and Statistics
Physics Aptitude Test (PAT) 2 hours n/a Engineering, Materials Science, Physics and Physics and Philosophy.
Philosophy Test 60 minutes 1 short essay  Philosophy and Theology 
Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) 2 hours 1 90 minute section, 1 30 minute section Experimental Psychology, Geography, Human Sciences, Philosophy, Politics and Economics, and Psychology, Philosophy and Linguistics, Economics and Management, History and Economics


Tips and Tricks 

Passing your admissions tests for Oxford courses is no easy feat. Each test is engineered to be challenging, making you think in possibly unconventional ways. The tests are notoriously hard; this is by design, because Oxford only wants the very best candidates to become students at the university. If you’re feeling any second thoughts, consider these tips to help you through; 

  1. Oxford lists out the format of each exam, so read over what will be expected of you, and prepare yourself accordingly. 
  2. Take practice exams and utilize Oxford’s own resources to enhance your own prep. 
  3. Drill yourself on practice essays to meet the required time. 
  4. For multiple choice questions, use a process of elimination to arrive at the best answer. Sometimes, an educated guess can be the right answer itself. 
  5. Rest well and stay healthy in preparation for your exams. 
  6. If you have the time, go back and check your work

Bringing it all together

Oxford’s entrance exams are not meant to be easy. It may seem like an effective method of weeding out weak candidates. It may seem unfair to be tested so intensively on something you wish to learn, but don’t let it get to you! Careful preparation and confidence are key in passing your exams, and we hope this article gives you the right direction for preparing to ace them. 

For more information on the university entrance exams at Oxford, read this blog

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