GAT (Geography Admissions Test)

What is the GAT?

If you are applying for undergraduate study in Geography you will be required to sit the Geography Admissions Test (GAT).

The GAT is designed so that candidates should find it equally challenging, regardless of what they have studied or what school examinations they are taking.

All applicants taking this test will be invited to practise taking an online sample paper in advance of their test day. As it is a new test, there are no past papers yet but there are two specimen papers which we strongly recommend you use as practice materials. 

What is the format of the GAT? 

The GAT is a computer-based test, with candidates inputting their answers into an online platform. The test is 1 hour and 45 minutes long and is comprised of three parts: A, B and C.

Part A

Part A tests critical thinking and should take 30 minutes. It has two sub-sections. Each sub-section requires candidates to read a passage and then answer some multiple-choice questions.

Part B 

Part B tests problem solving and should take 30 minutes. It has two sub-sections each requiring candidates to look at some information and answer some multiple-choice questions.

Part C

Part C requires candidates to read a passage of text and answer an essay question. It should take 45 minutes.

Why do we have a Geography Admissions Test?

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. Considered together with the other elements of the application, this helps us to identify the very best candidates. However, there is no specific mark that will guarantee your application will be shortlisted.

The tests vary each year, and your test score will be considered alongside the scores of other students who apply for your course.

The GAT helps us to understand applicants’ abilities relevant to Geography, which is important as not all of the applicants to the course will have studied Geography at school. It is not necessary to have studied Geography as a subject at GCSE or A-Level to do well in the test and no specific knowledge or facts are required of applicants.

The test is used to provide consistent information, independent of candidates’ educational background or other social factors. Test scores are used alongside all other information on academic performance at the time of shortlisting for interview. Good performance in the test can enhance a candidate’s likelihood of being selected for interview.

What skills does the GAT seek to assess?

  • Critical thinking
  • Problem solving
  • Essay writing in response to unseen material

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking tests candidates’ ability to summarise the main conclusion in an argument, identify an assumption, assess the impact of additional evidence, detect reasoning errors, or applying general principles.

What is problem solving ability?

Problem solving tests candidates’ ability to select relevant information from a text, table or figure, to find procedures for summarising or comparing information or to identify similarities between cases.

How should I tackle the essay question?

  • Read the passage carefully.
  • Plan what you will write before you start writing.
  • Produce a well-written, balanced argument drawing on evidence from within the passage.

How do I prepare for the GAT?

No specific knowledge or facts are required of applicants and it is not necessary to have studied Geography as a subject at GCSE or A-Level to do well in the test.

It is not necessary to prepare specifically for the test, although basic familiarisation with the format and style of questions is recommended. No coaching is necessary for the test, as candidates can prepare well using these notes and the sample papers.

It is recommended that you familiarise yourself with the online system before the test. Remember to plan your time, read the question carefully, and check your work.

Is there any suggested reading for the GAT?

There are no specific resources beyond those on these web pages that we would recommend to prepare for the GAT. However, for some resources that might be useful and interesting for applicants to Geography at university in general, please visit the Geography department website.

How do I register?

Make sure you are registered for your Oxford admissions test anytime between 1 September and 29 September.

Test registration isn't automatic and just completing your UCAS application won't register you for the test. You cannot register yourself for an admissions test. This must be done on your behalf through an authorised test centre. For most candidates this is their own school or college, but can also be an open test centre.

First, check Oxford's test centre portal to see if your school or college is already an authorised test centre. If you can’t find them listed, then get in contact with your exams officer as soon as possible and direct them to our information on becoming an Oxford/TCS test centre. Applying to become a test centre should be quick and straightforward, particularly if the school or college are used to running public examinations or have previously run Oxford’s admissions tests. New centres can be authorised until 15 September.

If for any reason your school or college cannot apply for centre authorisation or you are no longer in education, please read the information below on taking your test at an open centre.

Authorised schools, colleges and other test centres will be able to register candidates for Oxford’s admissions tests anytime between 1 September and 29 September.

Once your test centre has registered you for your test, you will receive an automated email giving you a candidate test registration ID. This email will also give you login details for the test platform and guidance on how to prepare for your Oxford admissions test.

Please make sure you have received this automated email with your candidate test registration ID and other instructions as proof of entry by midnight on 29 September.

To be registered, you will need to provide your centre with the following information:

  1. Name
  2. Date of birth
  3. Chosen course name and code (this is on the course webpage)
  4. UCAS ID number (you will have been given this when you opened your UCAS application)
  5. Email address (as it appears on your UCAS form)
  6. Details of any access arrangements you require (together with evidence to support your request unless your centre already has this information).

Registering at an open test centre:

If for any reason your school cannot become a test centre or your circumstances make this impractical, you can take your test at an authorised open centre. The list of current open centres is available on the Find a test centre page of the test centre portal. This will be expanded over the coming weeks as centres become authorised so if you can’t immediately find a centre, please check this regularly for updates.
Approved test centres can register candidates for Oxford admission tests anytime between 1 September and 29 September.

Please make sure you have your candidate test registration ID as proof by the time registrations close at midnight on 29 September.

If you cannot find a test centre within reasonable travelling distance of your home town, please contact the Support Team at TCS.

Do I have to pay?

We do not charge candidates to take this test. However, please be aware that some independent test centres do charge an administration fee to candidates; you should contact your centre for details.

Test preparation and practice materials

Taking any type of test or exam can be stressful, but you can help build your confidence by doing some preparation ahead of time. Even though the GAT is new this year, our School of Geography and the Environment have prepared some sample papers which will provide you with valuable practice. 

Our general advice is to follow these steps:

  1. Before 29 September (the registration deadline), check that you have received email confirmation of your test registration, together with your test registration ID and log in details (username and password) for the online test platform.
  2. Explore the test-specific practice materials for your test available below. As your test will be fully online this year, we recommend typing your practice answers to past papers.
  3. Watch the video demonstrating how to use the online test platform and prepare for your test. 
    Download the transcript for preparing for your online admissions test.
  4. Once you have watched the videos and explored the practice materials below, we strongly recommend you have a go at your online practice test (click on the button below) which is GAT sample test A. You might want not to look at this sample paper in advance so that you can mimic the experience of taking the online test unseen and as if for real. Having a go at the online practice test will not only allow you to practise answering some past questions and learn the structure of the test. It will also allow you to familiarise yourself with the online test platform and the tools available to support you. These will include accessibility features such as increasing font size, using coloured overlays and high contrast. This will mean that on test day you are able to focus fully on the content of your answers.
  5. Please note that you will not be able to access a score or any feedback on your online practice test.

Here are our top tips for preparing for the GAT:

  1. Watch our video on insights and tips for preparing for the GAT. 
    Download the video transcript.
  2. Review the sample papers for the GAT. This will help you to feel familiar with the test paper and know what to expect. 
  3. Sit at least one past paper in test conditions. This is really important as it will help you get used to how much time to allocate to each question.
  4. Read through the answers for the sample papers.

Practise the online GAT

Note: during the real test, for security reasons, the test platform will lock if you try and navigate away from it. If this happens accidentally, your test centre administrator will be able to unlock it again. 

Sample papers

Example GAT Part C essays

The following essays are examples of good answers to the Part C essay questions.

When do I take the test?

Depending on which test is being taken, this will be on one of the two dates given below, so a few weeks after the test registration deadline of 29 September.

2023 test dates:
19 October: CAT, ELAT, GAT and MAT
20 October: HAT, MLAT, PAT and Philosophy Test

We are aware that sometimes tests fall during school half terms which vary by region each year. Unfortunately due to the tight timeframes for processing applications, it is not possible to avoid this but we hope that by giving considerable notice of test dates, schools will be able to make plans for their students to sit tests either at their school or at an alternative test centre and candidates will make sure they are available to take the necessary test(s). You can find more information on test start times by location and the test timetable on our Information for schools, colleges and other test centres webpage.

Our admissions tests are an important part of our assessment process so please ensure your school, college or other test centre registers you for your test (or tests) by 29 September.

It is not possible to re-sit a test. If you feel you did badly due to extenuating circumstances, for example: if you were ill on the day of the test, your test centre can submit a special considerations form for you; or if there was some form of disruption at the test centre you can submit the form yourself. Application forms must be received within 5 days of the test date.

Remember to ensure you are registered for the test by 29 September, even if you feel exceptional circumstances may mean there is a risk you will not be able take it.

Our admissions tests are an important part of our assessment process for candidates and in order to make sure your application is as competitive as possible, we strongly advise that you make every effort to sit the test.

If you experience exceptional circumstances beyond your control which prevent this, please alert the college you have applied to as soon as possible.

If you have made an open application, please contact us using our contact form. In this case your application will be considered using the other information you give us as part of your UCAS form and alongside other candidates applying for your subject.

How do I get my results?        

Admissions tutors will receive the results of all candidates' tests directly and in time to make their shortlisting decisions in November. 

Test scores will be automatically distributed to all applicants shortly after college decision letters are sent in January. Applicants will still be able to write to their college to request feedback