Why does Oxford University use tests as part of its admissions process?
Most applicants to Oxford University have great personal statements, excellent references, and are also predicted top grades. It can therefore be difficult for us to choose between so many well-qualified candidates, especially as applicants come from all over the world and take different qualifications. Tests give us an extra piece of information for every student who has applied for a given course, wherever they are from. Taken together with the other elements of the application, this help us to identify the very best candidates.
Test scores can be useful, in deciding both who to shortlist for interview and who will receive an offer. We only shortlist those students who have a good chance of getting a place, as this helps us to focus our resources on those who are mostly likely to receive an offer.
Why don’t you interview everyone who applies?
For some courses, we do interview almost everyone that applies. These tend to be courses with relatively few applications for each place (around 3 competitive applicants per place).
In courses with more than 3 competitive applicants per place, it just isn’t possible to interview everyone. We shortlist around 3 applicants for each place, based on their UCAS application, any test or tests that are required, any written work that must be submitted for that course, and any relevant contextual data. This means that tutors can focus their time on the strongest applicants, to give them the best chance of making a successful application. We have found that multiple interviews with multiple interviewers gives the most useful assessment of each applicant’s potential and suitability for a course.
Who has to take the tests?
Where a test is required for a particular course, all applicants for that course must take the test. This includes international students, mature students, and anyone who has applied before. (For some joint courses, more than one test may be required.) This gives us a benchmark for everyone who applies, whatever their background or their existing qualifications.
Don’t the tests benefit certain types of students?
We work really hard to make sure that our tests are as fair as they can possibly be. There are some courses where particular knowledge is essential, so the test for those courses assess specific knowledge (for example, the Physics Aptitude Test requires students to have a good understanding of specific areas of Physics and Maths). Other courses do not require any specific knowledge, but ask students to demonstrate relevant academic skills (for example, the History Aptitude Test does not assess knowledge of any particular country or period of history, but it looks for students who can best demonstrate their ability in assessing historical texts. Other tests assess critical thinking and reasoning skills (for example, the Thinking Skills Assessment, used by a number of Oxford courses.)
Can I prepare for my test?
Students tend to do better in any test if they are familiar with the format of the test and the typical content. We have sample papers available for each of our tests. We recommend that students take time to review these, and sit at least one past paper in test conditions. This will help you to feel familiar with the test paper, so that you know what to expect, and how much time to allocate to each question. Where there is a published syllabus for a test we strongly recommend that you check the details and ensure that you have covered the relevant material.
Please visit www.ox.ac.uk/tests for links to further information for each test, sample papers and any other materials.
How are the tests designed and reviewed?
When a course wishes to introduce a new admissions test there is a substantial consultation process within the University, including a pilot testing phase, designed to ensure that the test is appropriate. Where appropriate, subject departments are encouraged to share common tests, or elements of tests, to ease the process of application for the student and administration for the school or college. A report for each admissions test is produced every five years and we undertake substantial statistical evaluation of each test.
What is the pass mark?
There is no specific mark that will guarantee your application will be shortlisted, as the tests vary each year, and your test score will be considered alongside the scores of other students who apply for your course. The test score is also just one element of your application that will be considered, alongside your academic record, personal statement, academic reference and any predicted grades.
Do I need to register?
Yes. Registration is required for all our tests. For further information please see www.ox.ac.uk/tests.