How To Prepare For Oxford Physics Aptitude Test (PAT) – Filo Blog
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How to Prepare for Oxford Physics Aptitude Test (PAT)

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PAT or The Physics Aptitude Test is set by The Oxford University for anyone who wants to apply for Physics, Engineering, Material Science, Philosophy or any one of these subjects, combined with one another.  

The main reason this exam is being conducted is to “narrow down the application numbers to more manageable levels”.

What is PAT ?

The PAT is a mixture of both physics and maths questions and you have to complete a lot of questions in only 2 hours. Although formula sheets, tables and data books are not permitted, specified calculators can be used – make sure the calculator you plan to use is allowed. There are no recommended texts for the PAT. 

To begin with, we would like you to copy the whole syllabus from the Oxford Website (University of Oxford) to use it as a checklist. 

How to prepare for the PAT

The following points would help us to be more acquaint with the PAT Exam :

  • Familiarize yourself with the syllabus
  • Look over the range of past papers
  • Try doing some questions under timed conditions. One of the things which students who have taken the test say is hard is the number of questions you need to do in only 2 hours.
  • Get practice doing some problem solving/hard physics questions which are not A level questions

 Department of Physics   

PAT is run by the Department of Physics and features a mix of in-person and online tuition, including mentoring by current students. This course is for year 12 students from state-funded schools, academies and colleges with little or no history of successful applications to the University of Oxford. 

Moreover, it also provides useful and helpful information/websites for the exam.

  • Filo – Filo has a dedicated pool of experts who can help you score well in the PAT Exam. You will have 24×7 access to expert mentors and tutors to ease your way through the exam! You can download the Filo app here
  • BRITISH PHYSICS OLYMPIAD – This website is an excellent resource to prepare for the PAT, it helps alot to stretch the lateral skills of the students as per the syllabus.
  • Isaac Physics – Used for higher level questions especially in physics, This website is made by the Cambridge University, and has quite a good no. of maths & physics.
  • – This website has some resources to test your mathematical and physics knowledge. Questions are usually answered via multiple choice and one of the nice aspects of this website is that you can see how many other people have got the question right or wrong. The ‘daily challenges’ on the homepage are always free but quite a large part of the website requires a subscription to get full access.
  •  UK Senior Maths Challenge – A pretty widely taken test that asks really difficult maths questions in 2 parts (MCQ’s & Long-Solving type questions).
  • Natural Science Admission Assessment (NSAA) – This exam has various sections(Maths, Biology, Chemistry, Advanced Maths)

{NOTE: Since 2020, the Advanced Maths Section is no longer available, but we can refer to older papers i.e – 2019 and before}

Imp. Topics – Differentiation & Integration 

Calculators used for the PAT

Non-graphical calculators may be used but no tables or lists of formulae are allowed. Candidates may be expected to perform standard arithmetical operations by hand, including simple powers and roots, and the manipulation of fractions. Numeric answers should be calculated to 2 significant figures unless indicated otherwise. 

Calculators must be:

  • of a size suitable for use on the desk
  • either battery or solar powered
  • free of lids, cases and covers which have printed instructions or formulas
  • non-graphical

The candidate is responsible for the following:

  • the calculator’s power supply
  • the calculator’s working condition
  • clearing anything stored in the calculator

Calculators Must Not:

  • be designed or adapted to offer any of these facilities:
    • language translators
    • symbolic or numerical algebraic manipulation
    • symbolic or numerical differentiation or integration
    • able to solve inequalities
    • able to solve simultaneous equations
    • able to plot graphs
    • communication with other machines or the internet
  • be borrowed from another candidate during an examination for any reason*
  • have retrievable information stored in them including:
    • databanks
    • dictionaries
    • mathematical formulas
    • text

Examples of calculators which meet the specifications of the PAT are:

  • Casio fx83GTX and fx85GTX
  • Sharp ELW531B
  • Aurora AX-595TV

The Cut-Off Challenge

The cut-off has ranged from 65 to 62 from 2015 to 2019. 

However, in 2019, Oxford changed the Shortlisting Method of the Interview. If we look at the qualifying scores, there is a negative three mark difference in these past four years.

So, one thing we need to always remember while attempting PAT is “The cut-off can vary quite a bit. So, it’s important not to aim for a specific score, But aim for the highest we can get” 

Shortlisting for the Interview

The PAT is a qualifying stage used as a shortlisting method that Oxford uses to narrow down the no. of candidates from roughly 1828 (in 2019) to 500.Students are encouraged to regard the interview as a short conversation tutorial about their subject. On average, it takes around 20 minutes; shortlisted students will have at least two interviews, with two different sets of interviewers, often in more than one college.

Lastly, we’ll recommend the students to make sure that “When you’re taking breaks, Take Proper Breaks”, because it is a very draining & stressful experience while you prepare for the PAT.

Rather meet your friends once in a while, it works wonders !!

                                            Good Luck 🙂 

Content Strategist at Filo | I talk about exam updates, prep guides, important dates and much more on the Filo blog :)

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