What is the Philosophy Test?
All candidates applying for Philosophy and Theology are required to sit the Philosophy Test.
If you are applying for Philosophy, Psychology and Linguistics (PPL) or Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE), you need to take the TSA.
If you are applying for any Philosophy and Modern Languages course at Oxford, you need to take the relevant parts of the MLAT. Please note that the content of the Philosophy section of the MLAT is the same as the Philosophy test mentioned here but you should register for the MLAT.
The Philosophy Test is a computer-based test, lasting 60 minutes and sat under timed exam conditions.
The Philosophy Test is designed to test a candidate's philosophical reasoning skills. There is no expectation that you will have undertaken any formal study of philosophy, and it is not a test of philosophical knowledge.
You will normally be asked to undertake a comprehension exercise and write a short essay or answer a structured question. Tutors are looking for the use of precise and careful reasoning to answer the question asked, and particularly answers which anticipate and are able to answer objections to the reasoning given. You should avoid stating an opinion without evidence or argument to support it.
This Oxford admissions test is now computer-based. You will need to take this at an authorised test centre which in most cases, will be your school or college.
All applicants taking this test will be invited to practise taking the 2022 past paper (or equivalent) online in advance of their test day. Please note that as the content and structure of this test has not changed, all existing online resources and past papers are still valuable preparation for you and we strongly recommend you exploring these.
Why do I have to take a 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.
How are the tests designed and reviewed?
When a department wishes to introduce a new admissions test for their course, there is a substantial consultation process within the University, including a pilot testing phase, designed to ensure that the test is suitable. 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. Use of the tests is carefully reviewed and we undertake substantial statistical evaluation of each test.
How do I register?
All candidates applying for Philosophy and Theology are required to sit the Philosophy Test. Make sure you are registered for your Oxford admissions test anytime between 1 September and 29 September.
Test arrangements for other courses including Philosophy
If you are applying for any Philosophy and Modern Languages course at Oxford, you need to take the relevant parts of the Modern Languages Admissions Test (MLAT). From this year, the content of the Philosophy section of the MLAT is the same as the Philosophy test mentioned here but as it is available for Philosophy and Modern Languages applicants within the MLAT, candidates only need to register and take that test.
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:
- Date of birth
- Chosen course name and code (this is on the course webpage)
- UCAS ID number (you will have been given this when you opened your UCAS application)
- Email address (as it appears on your UCAS form)
- 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
Read the candidate preparation checklist.
Taking any type of test or exam can be stressful, but you can help build your confidence by doing some preparation ahead of time.
You are likely to do better in the real test if you've practised some past papers and got used to the format and timings of the admissions test you have to take. Although the test now takes place online, you will still find it helpful to practise for the test with the past papers and other practice materials on this page.
Our general advice is to follow these steps:
- 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.
- 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.
- Watch the video demonstrating how to use the online test platform and prepare for your test.
- 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 the 2022 past paper. You might want not to look at this past 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.
- 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 Philosophy Test:
- Watch our video with a Philosophy tutor giving insights and tips on preparing for the Philosophy Test.
- Review the sample papers for the Philosophy Test on this page. This will help you to feel familiar with the test paper and know what to expect.
- Read through our 'Preparation advice' in the section on this page.
- 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.
Don't worry if you find the past or specimen papers very difficult - they're supposed to be! All our tests are designed to stretch you further than you have been stretched before – most candidates will find them really hard.
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.
The Philosophy Test is a 60-minute exam designed to test a candidate's philosophical reasoning skills. There is no expectation that you will have undertaken any formal study of philosophy, and it is not a test of philosophical knowledge.
You will normally be asked to undertake a comprehension exercise and write a short essay or answer a structured question. Familiarise yourself with the format of the paper using the following past papers and remember to sit at least one paper in test conditions.
- Philosophy Test 2022 (also used for the online practice test)
- Philosophy Test 2021
- Philosophy Test 2020
- Philosophy Test 2019
- Philosophy Test 2018
- Philosophy Test 2017
- Philosophy Test 2016
- Philosophy Test 2015
- Philosophy Test 2014
The University does not endorse, or allow use of, its tests that are protected by copyright for commercial use
The following information, written by an Oxford tutor, outlines the different types of questions you will come across in the test and discusses ways to approach them.
- Guidance for Part A comprehension-style questions
- Guidance for Part B logic-style questions
- Guidance for Part B half-hour essay questions
The University does not endorse, or allow use of, its tests that are protected by copyright for commercial use.
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.