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How can I make last-minute improvements to my admissions test performance?

Congratulations, you've taken the big step and decided to apply to Oxford or Cambridge - you’re now on an exciting, if challenging, path! As the admissions process progresses, one crucial hurdle remains—the admissions test. Whether it's the TSA, BMAT, MAT, or any one of the other challenging admissions assessments, you may be wondering how to make last-minute improvements to your performance before the test itself. Don't worry; we've got you covered. In this article, we'll explore some effective strategies to boost your confidence and enhance your performance in the time you have left.



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  1. Practice, Practice, Practice: At this stage, there's no substitute for dedicated practice. Familiarise yourself with the format of the test by using past papers and sample questions (if available) to get a feel for how the universities are going to be testing you. Understand the time constraints and pattern of questions you'll encounter. This will help you manage your time effectively during the actual test.
  2. Identify your Weaknesses: Practice is all well and good, but it’s only useful if you’re actually working on the areas you need to. If you haven’t already, analyse your practice test results to identify your weakest areas, and focus most intensively on improving your performance in these sections. If you’re struggling to see where you’re going wrong, seek guidance from teachers, mentors, or tutors if necessary; the key is resolving any doubts you have so you can go into the real test full of confidence!
  3. Time Management: Time management is key in any exam, and admissions tests are no different! Learn to allocate a specific amount of time to each question and section; each person is different in their strengths and weaknesses, so this may involve using practice papers to identify which sections you may need to give yourself more or less time on respectively. If you're stuck on a difficult problem, learn when it’s prudent to move on and return to it later; try not to let one challenging question derail your overall performance!
  4. Seek Feedback: Consider taking a mock test under exam conditions at least once, ideally several times, before the test itself, and feed back your performance and feelings to a trusted teacher, mentor, or family member. Reviewing your performance and seeking feedback from others gives you constructive criticism that it can be difficult to give to oneself, and will help point out areas for improvement that you may not have noticed. If you’re struggling to find someone to help you with this, our expert admissions test tutors are an excellent option!
  5. Optimal routine: Leading up to your admissions test, try to prioritise a healthy lifestyle, whatever this may mean for you! It may involve eating regularly to keep you fueled and focused, exercising every other day as a stress reliever, or prioritising early sleep to keep you in routine. Whatever keeps you feeling comfortable and healthy is well worth implementing as a reliable routine can be great to help improve your focus and clarity going into the test.
  6. Stress Management: It's normal to feel some stress, but excessive anxiety can hinder your performance. Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or yoga. Find what works best for you to keep those nerves in check. It’s also important to schedule in regular breaks from preparation or revision to ensure that your brain can work to its full potential when you are working!
  7. Stay Organised: Create a study schedule for the time you have left and stick to it! Plan your revision days, mock tests, and breaks. Staying organised can help you cover all the necessary topics and maintain focus without running out of time.
  8. Revision Techniques: Use effective revision techniques like flashcards, mind maps, or summarisation; which specific method to use will depend on your individual style and preference, so if you have time, try and experiment to find the best method for you - you might even prefer switching between various! Remember that just because one kind of revision style ‘seems’ like the best, if it’s not working for you then it might be time to change it up! Your time at this stage is very valuable, and it’s not sensible to waste it on revision techniques that aren’t helping you.

As you prepare for your admissions test at Oxford or Cambridge, remember that last-minute improvements are always possible with the right approach. Dedicate your time wisely to practise, identify weaknesses, and manage your stress effectively. Seek support from mentors, and maintain a good routine to optimise your cognitive abilities. You've already shown great potential by getting in your application successfully; now, it's time to showcase your skills during the admissions test. With the right mindset and preparation, you can maximise your chances of success. Good luck!

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