1. Admissions Tests are designed to match the skill set of the candidate
Admissions Tests encourage you to think through the course you’re applying for and/or your career choice. When tests are well-designed (as most of the tests are), they give an excellent idea of the skills required in the course. This allows you to see whether you have theseskills (as they are not always tested in your school studies) and if you’d enjoy using these skills in your future career. This can allow you to think ahead, or at least to consider your plans for the next three or four years. For example, the BMAT (for Medicine at many leading Medical schools) tests scientific knowledge, common-sense through skill with numbers and words, and ability to formulate an argument/persuade. All of these skills (and more) are present in a great doctor. The ELAT (for joint and single honours English at Oxford and single honours English at Cambridge) tests ability to compare and contrast texts from different media on a particular theme, through a long (hopefully well-constructed and developed) essay. Again, these are essential skills for a burgeoning English scholar. Poorly thought through decisions about whish course to take at university may be minimised when you’re confronted with the skills you’ll need to employ during your time there. If you are a suitable candidate then you will have strengths in the fields required for your Admissions Test.
2. Preparing for Admissions Tests should also improve the skills you already have
The Admissions Tests help to give you a fresh perspective on studying your subject at IB or A-level. For example, the HAT test, which I have helped successful students prepare for, is conducted manner than can seem quite alien, but which really pulls up your historical understanding. You’re asked to understand and articulate the argument of a historian in a given passage, pull together evidence to support your own argument to a thematic question using any period of history you’re comfortable with, and show sensitivity to a culture and time period you’ve likely never studied through interpreting a source.
3. Preparing for these Admissions Tests, when they are good tests, can give you skills that can set you up for life
For example, the Thinking Skills Assessment, required for many courses at Oxford and Cambridge from Economics to Experimental Psychology, gives you a great work-out in a number of key skills:
Numerical Reasoning includes:
Extracting and interpreting data
Verbal Reasoning includes:
Identifying and drawing conclusions
Identifying assumptions and spotting flaws in arguments
Weakening and strengthening arguments
These are extraordinarily useful skills that are required in a supermarket, when choosing between insurance providers, realising whether a project will break-even and when analysing an argument that is put together in a newspaper or in a work context. They also support the academic development you’ll need to put in a good performance in some of the psychometric tests you might face when you’re trying to secure your first job out of university. Have a go at our example of a numerical reasoning question tested in the TSA here. With preparation to ensure you are comfortable with the format and structure, Admissions Tests can be a great experience that can confirm that you’re applying for the course that will suit you best at the university where you’ll be happiest!