FAQ: PAT

What is the aptitude test?

Oxford Physics has used an admissions test in mathematics for many years. Originally this test was sat during the admissions period. In 2006 this test was replaced by two new admissions tests, one in physics and one in mathematics, each lasting one hour, which were sat before the interview period, during late October or early November, and used to draw up a short list of candidates who were invited to interview. From 2008 these tests have been combined into a single 2 hour paper.

What is the syllabus for the test?

The syllabus is available on the web.. Candidates who have studied physics and mathematics at GCSE and AS level should already be familiar with the great majority of the syllabus. If there are parts of the syllabus which you think won't be covered at school by the time of the PAT, we expect you to work on them by yourself. Your teachers might be able to advise you.

Are there any recommended text books?

Any text book aimed at GCSE and A-level would be appropriate. We particularly suggest attempting past Physics Olympiad papers as an excellent way to prepare.

Will I need calculators and formula sheets?

No calculators or formula sheets may be used when taking the test. Candidates should use a pen, and a pencil for sketching.

Do I need to show my working?

You are strongly advised to use the answer booklet to show all your working so that partial marks can be awarded even if the final answer is incorrect.

Are sample papers available?

A sample paper is available on the web at the Physics web site.. Past papers are posted on the Physics web page as they become available, as are reports on each paper. Past papers and sample papers dated before May 2006 are based on an earlier syllabus and are not relevant to the current entrance test. Past papers and sample papers dated from May 2006 but before May 2008 involved two separate papers and the use of calculators was permitted in the physics test but not the maths test. These papers can, therefore, provide general guidance on the likely content of future papers, but retain the old format and can include quite complicated numerical computations on the physics papers. Please note that we do not provide sample answers or a mark scheme for these papers.

Are solutions available for the past papers?

Doing past papers is an excellent way to prepare yourself for the PAT test . However, it is not our policy to provide solutions for our past papers. There are a number of reasons for this.

Firstly, it is the process of working though a problem, rather than working towards a solution that is most beneficial to a student. Secondly, there is often more than one way to solve a problem. We take this into account when we mark and check students’ solutions, however we would be unable to guarantee that we covered all of the possible methods in the published solutions. Thirdly, if we provided the solutions for past papers then some students would rote learn all of the answers and taking the test would no longer assess their aptitude for physics.

It is for these reasons that we also do not give out solutions to individual problems on request. This is in addition to it being unfair to the majority of students who do not ask for the solutions.

What else can I do to prepare?

Past Physics Olympiad papers are recommended. Past British Physics Olympiad papers can be found on their web-page.

What is the pass mark for the test?

There is no pass mark as such for the test, but there is a threshold mark, below which it is unlikely that candidates will be placed on the interview short-list. This mark will not be determined until the results of the tests are available.

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