The PAT (Physics Aptitude Test) is an admissions exam designed to rank the applicants to physics-related courses at the University of Oxford
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The PAT is a two-hour long exam which tests general skills and abilities relating to mathematics and physics at the level learned in school through your GCSE and A-level or equivalent courses. The paper itself only consists of one large section, meaning that the maths and physics questions are mixed in together, with both disciplines often being tested at once in the same question. The PAT includes multiple choice questions, stand-alone written questions, and questions with answers in multiple stages. There is no set number of questions year-on-year in the PAT, but it is generally somewhere in the mid-twenties; for example, the Physics Aptitude Test 2021 had 24 questions, whilst the 2020 test had 26 questions. Calculators are allowed in the PAT, but no formula sheet or tables are permitted.
The PAT is set by Oxford University for students applying to study all physics-related subjects. This includes Physics, Physics and Philosophy, Engineering, and Materials Science.
Oxford University uses the PAT as a standardised format for assessing and benchmarking their applicants. The exam rewards problem solving over physics or mathematics knowledge, so that students taking different qualifications at school can access the syllabus. Oxford University uses students’ marks in the PAT to make decisions about which applicants they should invite to interview. The vast majority of applicants to Oxford’s highly competitive physics-related courses will have similarly excellent grades, so an applicant’s PAT test score heavily influences this decision.
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