PAT (Physics Admissions Test)

What is the PAT?

If you are applying for one of the following courses you will be required to sit the Physics Admissions Test (PAT) - formerly known as the Physics Aptitude Test - as part of the admissions process: 

The PAT is a subject-specific admissions test, lasting for 2 hours and sat under test conditions. This year, the test will consist entirely of multiple choice questions. 

This Oxford admissions test is now computer-based, and you will need to take this at a Pearson VUE test centre. Registration to book your test will be open from Thursday 15 August 2024 and will close on Friday 4 October 2024.

Please note that formula sheets, table and data books are not permitted. A digital calculator will be included as part of the online interface. Candidates must use this and not bring their own calculators into the exam. 

All applicants taking this test will be able to take an online practice test in the new format (see Test preparation and practice materials tab), in advance of their test day. Please note that while the structure of this test has changed, the syllabus has not, so the existing resources and practice materials available are still valuable preparation and we strongly recommend exploring these. 

The PAT is designed for candidates who have studied the first year of A-level (or equivalent) Maths and Physics, and covers similar material to that of the GCSE and A-level syllabus.

However, please make sure to go through the PAT syllabus carefully as you may find there are a few topics that you haven’t yet covered in school. If this is the case, we recommend talking to your teacher about how best to tackle these subjects before the test date.

This may require you to do some independent study by reading through your textbook or looking at the online resources provided by your exam board. We also provide resources to help you prepare on the Test preparation and practice materials tab of this webpage. 

How do I register?

Candidates can register for their test between Thursday 15 August and Friday 4 October 2024. Further details on the registration process will be communicated at the earliest opportunity. 

Please note that if you are normally eligible for particular access arrangements for public examinations such as GCSEs and A-levels you will also be eligible for these arrangements for your Oxford admissions test(s). You should expect to be able to produce evidence of this need when you register for your test. If you need to speak to your school about whether or not you are eligible for an access arrangement or producing evidence we strongly recommend that you do this before the end of term.

Test preparation and practice materials

Please do explore the test preparation and practice materials available here. 

The PAT practice test allows you to familiarise yourself with the new online test platform and format for 2025-entry. Please note that as this is for practice only, you will not be able to submit this for a score or feedback after taking the test. Solutions for this test will also be available here soon. 

PAT practice test

Workbook questions

The PAT workbooks contain many questions of varying difficulty and subject matter, and the accompanying solutions manuals outline possible approaches to each question in detail. 

Workbook 1 ; Workbook 2

Solutions 1 ; Solutions 2

Past or specimen papers

As you may notice when going through past papers, the PAT has undergone various changes in the past few years.

In 2015, multiple-choice questions were removed, and longer 20 mark questions were replaced by shorter 10 mark questions. In 2017, multiple-choice questions were re-introduced and the physics and maths sections were mixed up.

In 2023 the PAT was hybrid - with online questions and a paper answer booklet; however, the older papers will still be of use when preparing. 

We do not generally provide solutions to the past papers. When marking the PAT all suitable methods for solving the questions are allowed and we would not want you to feel only one specific way of solving the problem will gain you marks. Solutions to the 2009 paper can be found on the Physics website, together with a set of model solutions.    

PAT Syllabus 

Updated 6 June 2018 and still current

Please note that the formulae included in this syllabus do not represent an exhaustive list of formulae which may be used within the test. 

Syllabus for the Mathematics content

Elementary mathematics:

  • Knowledge of elementary mathematics, in particular topics in arithmetic, geometry including coordinate geometry, and probability, will be assumed. Questions may require the manipulation of mathematical expressions in a physical context.
Algebra:
  • Knowledge of the properties of polynomials, including the solution of quadratics either using a formula or by factorising.
  • Graph sketching including the use of differentiation to find stationary points.
  • Transformations of variables.
  • Solutions to inequalities.
  • Elementary trigonometry including relationships between sine, cosine and tangent (sum and difference formulae will be stated if required).
  • Properties of logarithms and exponentials and how to combine logarithms, e.g. log(a) + log(b) = log(ab) .
  • Knowledge of the formulae for the sum of arithmetic and geometric progressions to n (or infinite) terms.
  • Use of the binomial expansion for expressions such as (a+bx)n, using only positive integer values of n.
Calculus:
  • Differentiation and integration of polynomials including fractional and negative powers.
  • Differentiation to find the slope of a curve, and the location of maxima and minima.
  • Integration as the reverse of differentiation and as finding the area under a curve.
  • Simplifying integrals by symmetry arguments including use of the properties of even and odd functions (where an even function has f(x)= f(-x), an odd function has f(-x)= - f(x)).

Syllabus for the Physics content

Mechanics:

  • Distance, velocity, speed, acceleration, and the relationships between them, eg velocity as the rate of change of distance with time, acceleration as rate of change of velocity with time. Understand the difference between vector quantities (eg velocity) and scalar quantities (eg speed). Knowledge and use of equations such as speed = distance / time, acceleration = change in velocity / time or the SUVAT equations.
  • Interpretation of graphs, eg force-distance, distance-time, velocity-time graphs and what the gradient of a curve or area underneath a curve represents.
  • Response of a system to multiple forces; Newton's laws of motion; know the difference between weight (= mg) and mass; vector addition of forces.
  • Circular motion including equations for centripetal force (F=mω2r or F=mv2/r) and acceleration (a=v2/r or a=ω2r).
  • The meaning of the terms friction, air resistance and terminal velocity and how they can be calculated.
  • Levers (including taking moments about a point on an object), pulleys (including calculating the tension in a rope or the overall motion in a system of ropes and pulleys) and other simple machines combining levers, springs and pulleys.
  • Springs, including knowledge of Hooke's law (Force = - kx) and stored potential energy ( = 1/2 kx2 ).
  • Kinetic energy (= 1/2 mv2) and gravitational potential energy (= mgh in a constant gravitational field) and their inter-conversion; what other forms of energy exist (eg thermal, sound).
  • Conservation of energy and momentum (=mass x velocity); power ( = energy transfer/time) and work ( = force x distance moved in direction of force).
Waves and optics:
  • An understanding of the terms longitudinal and transverse waves; and that waves transfer energy without net movement of matter.
  • Be able to define the amplitude, frequency, period, wavelength and speed of a wave. Knowledge and use of formulae for the wave speed = wavelength x frequency and frequency = 1 / period (with units of hertz, Hz).
  • Basic properties of the electromagnetic spectrum, eg identify and correctly order parts of the spectrum by wavelength or frequency (radio waves, microwaves, IR, visible light, UV, X rays and gamma rays) and the nature and properties of electromagnetic waves (transverse, travel at the speed of light in a vacuum).
  • Description of reflection at plane mirrors, where the angle of incidence (the angle between the incident ray and the normal) = angle of reflection (angle between the reflected ray and the normal).
  • Refraction, including the definition of refractive index (n) as the ratio of the speed of light in a vacuum to the speed of light in a material and Snell’s law n1sinθ1=n2sinθ2. Elementary properties of prisms and optical fibres including total internal reflection, where total internal reflection occurs at an angle θc when sinθc=n2/n1
  • Qualitative understanding of how interference, diffraction and standing waves can occur.
Electricity and magnetism:
  • Understanding of the terms current ( = charge / time), voltage (potential difference = energy / charge), charge, resistance ( = voltage / current) and links to energy and power (power = voltage x current, power = energy / time). Knowledge of transformers, including how the number of turns on the primary and secondary coils affect the voltage and current.
  • Understanding circuit diagrams including batteries, wires, resistors, filament lamps, diodes, capacitors, light dependent resistors and thermistors. Knowledge of current, voltage and resistance rules for series and parallel circuits.
  • Knowledge of the force between two point charges (Force= kQ1Q2/r2(where k is a constant)) and on a point charge in a constant electric field (Force = charge x electric field).
  • Understanding that current is a flow of electrons; the photoelectric effect, where photoelectrons are emitted if they are given sufficient energy to overcome the work function of the material, and how to find the energy of accelerated electron beams ( energy = charge x potential difference).
Natural world:
  • Atomic structure; that atoms consist of protons, neutrons and electrons, definition of the atomic number, Bohr model of the atom.
  • Basic knowledge of bodies in our Solar System, including planets, moons, comets and asteroids. (Name and relative positions of the planets should be known but detailed knowledge of their physical parameters is not required).
  • Know what is meant by the phrases ‘phases of the moon’ and ‘eclipses’ and how the position of the observer on the Earth affects their view of these events.
  • Knowledge of circular orbits under gravity including orbital speed, radius, period, centripetal acceleration, and gravitational centripetal force. This may include equating the force between two masses due to gravity (F=GM1M2/r2) to centripetal force of a smaller body orbiting a larger body (F=mω2r or F=mv2/r) and use of centripetal acceleration (a=v2/r or a=ω2r).
  • Understanding of the terms satellites; geostationary and polar orbits.

Problem solving:

  • Problems may be set which require problem solving based on information provided rather than knowledge about a topic.

If there are parts of the syllabus you haven’t yet covered in school, we recommend talking to your teacher about how best to tackle these topics before the test date. This may require you to do some independent study by reading through your textbook or looking at the online resources provided by your exam board. You can then test yourself using the further resources outlined on this page and picking relevant questions.

Websites and resources

Visit the Physics website for a list of other helpful resources and websites to help you to prepare for the PAT. 

When do I take the test?

Candidates will take the PAT at Pearson VUE test centres on 28 October 2024.