Admissions Test Advice
As part of your application process, you might have to do an admissions test. This might be a scary prospect – so we asked some Worcester students who sat (and did well in!) admissions tests for their advice…
Some advice from the University website, as well as details of whether your course has an admissions test, can be found here!
CAT – Classics Admissions Test
If you have Latin and/or Greek to A level standard, you’ll be translating prose and verse in the original language (the CAT as opposed to the CLAT). The best way to prepare for this is to read a lot of original texts, from a wide variety of authors. There are a few past papers online, but when you’ve done those you could also practise translating using A Level past papers (the older the better, since the language standard for A Level used to be harder than it is now) or books of unseens (which can be bought fairly cheaply second-hand).
Once you’ve translated a few practice passages, go over any grammar or constructions you don’t understand. If your understanding of grammar is good, you can also work on translating a passage not merely literally, but in a way that sounds natural in English. You should also make lists of vocab that you’ve come across while doing practice passages to learn, but don’t worry too much about vocab; the examiners are more interested in your natural translation ability than a word you happen not to know, though it does help your peace of mind in the exam if you know most of the words.
Lastly, please don’t worry if you don’t feel as experienced in Latin/Greek as other applicants! Oxford tutors are very aware that massive inequalities exist with regard to classical education, and your score will be weighted according to your experience with the language(s).
~ Clementine, 2nd year Classics IA
HAT – History Aptitude Test
Look at past papers and then exam feedback to get an idea of what they are wanting out of the questions and what these questions will be. Especially find out what they are going to consist of, as it changed in my year. However, the most important thing with sources is to think about what they wrote and why they wrote it. Take your time to read and plan your answer and prioritise the interesting things!
MAT – Mathematics Admissions Test
Past papers, past papers, past papers – don’t be worried if you find it hard at first! These papers are designed to challenge you and get you thinking about maths in a different way, but the more papers you do, the more used you’ll get to the style of questions and how to approach them!
~ Maddy, Maths, 2nd year
Students who are most likely to succeed in the MAT will be very secure with the material covered at school and should be able to perform algebraic techniques fluently without having to deliberate over the steps as they go along. You probably won’t get anywhere in the MAT if you are struggling, say, to remember the rules governing how to manipulate logarithm expressions, or you can’t recognise a geometric series when it is staring you in the face. Successful students are also more likely to recognise when a variety of approaches to a problem are available; if you feel that you do not have that flexibility, it is worth trying to develop it now! You may not recognise the first time that there are simpler, non-calculus ways of minimising the expression 3x^4-12x^2+10, but you will be preparing well if you retain this idea and can recognise its application in subsequent problems like it. It is NOT good preparation to say, for instance, ‘Differentiation will always work in a problem like this, so why should I bother trying other ways?’. Note also that the space available in the MAT booklet for answering the questions is limited. Aborted attempts and deleted scraps written here and there make the overall solution very chaotic for the marker to read. Learning to present your work clearly is of course an important skill for your A-level in general, but it is particularly important in the MAT.
~ Amrit, Maths, 2nd year
Music Performance Test
This is a short audition which takes place at the music faculty during your interview period. My advice for this would be to choose pieces that suit you and your interests so that you can show the panel what you are all about! I accompanied myself singing a couple of songs on piano and guitar, so don’t feel pressured into performing genres or styles that you think the panel will enjoy – just be yourself! Also remember that performance is only an optional part of the course the whole way through the degree, so if performance is not your forte, don’t worry too much, because you don’t have to be a performer to be accepted!
~ Connie, Music, 2nd year
PAT – Physics Aptitude Test
Past papers! Ensure you compare the syllabus with what you’ve covered so far in class because sometimes content doesn’t exactly match up with where you may be at in your course, especially if you don’t do A levels. Don’t be discouraged if you find them very hard at first, the style takes a while to get used to. Do check the examiner reports on them for a bit of motivation! Often the average offer-holder score is a lot lower than the grade boundaries you’re used to. You can find all the reports, as well as some ‘unofficial’ solutions here. If you’re very keen and run out of past papers, the Cambridge NatSci and Engineering admission tests are good alternatives.
~ Helen, 3rd year
TSA – Thinking Skills Assessment
Past papers are so important for Section 1 – there are at least ten or so available online; try to work through as many as possible, because the same types of questions come up each year. If you can’t do a question in the exam, skip it and come back to it at the end. The time pressure means that you might not be able to finish all the questions, so there’s no point spending loads of time on one question. If there are some questions which you don’t have time to do, there’s no harm in just guessing, because you don’t lose marks for wrong answers. If you need to do Section 2 as well, then try to plan some past essays and also try to write a few so that you’ve got an idea of what you can do within the time constraints. Don’t worry too much about specialist knowledge for this, as they’re more focused on the essay being well-structured and thought out rather than having loads of precise detail.
~ Guy, PPE, 2nd year
I’d recommend preparing much more thoroughly for the multiple-choice section, as it is the score on this bit that really matters. Do a few past papers in your own time to get the hang of the question style, and then do the rest under the time constraints to get the hang of how short a time you have to answer each one. For the essay section, don’t worry if you don’t know much about any of the questions. Some of them look horrible at first glance but there’s usually at least one which you’ll be able to draw on general knowledge for. Be concise and coherent.