The Physics Aptitude Test is a test, set by academics at the University of Oxford. The PAT is a 2 hour, single assessment. It includes maths and physics which is equivalent to the first year of A-level. Candidates are allowed to carry a calculator but a strict set of rules are to be followed. Total questions will be 24 which include everything from 2 marks multiple-choice questions to 10 marks linked- calculations. This article includes PAT Exam Analysis: What Students Must Know!
Difficulty level of PAT
All the content is carefully checked so as to make sure that it’s at the standard you’ll already be working at, so the aspirant doesn’t need to do a lot of extra work or teach themselves something new just for the application.
The only point to focus on here is that your school may not be teaching you maths and physics in the same order that Oxford expects a candidate to be aware of. Hence, the candidate has to work through the syllabus and make sure that they pick up any bits that they haven’t seen themselves.
What sets the PAT apart is the way it asks the candidates to apply the content in new or unusual contexts. If candidates have ever taken a maths challenge or physics Olympiad paper at school, then they will be able to use the type of lateral thinking which is expected. This is why practising with questions and past years is of utmost importance.
Check the results and cutoff for the PAT exam by clicking the following link PAT Oxford Results 2021 – Check Your Score And More!
How the level of PAT has changed over the time?
After looking through the 2013 test paper, it seems that the mathematics section is very straightforward indeed, aside from some trickiness in the phrasing of a few questions. You need a simple integral calculus, a little knowledge of conic sections and algebraic techniques for instance completing the square, a facility at reducing some complicated-looking but solvable simultaneous apparently non-linear equations, and some basic knowledge of elementary functions and plane geometry, and some basic probability theory.
Apparently, a candidate is needed to achieve a grade of 68 out of 100 to be shortlisted, and a little less than half the candidates make the list after some adjustments are made for exigent circumstances for instance illness during the test or other evidence of excellence.
The problems are not ridiculously hard. They are intended to show basic competence, not great brilliance. This is not like a physics Olympiad, and certainly nothing like as hard as the Putnam exam.
Careful attention has to be paid to the distribution of marks, as some questions are worth more. Two questions amounted to 40 marks out of 100. The first target on them and then do the easier ones as possible.
Since the selection rate is highly competitive, which is 1 candidate is selected in 6 candidates so it is suspected that the interview portion will be the important barrier.
Pushing for higher marks?
These resources should push you to think more creatively about the content. The questions which will most resemble the questions the candidate will face in the PAT will be the past papers provided by Oxford, so I would prioritise trying out those questions.
- Professor Povey’s Perplexing Problems
This book is compiled by one of the tutors at Oxford University. The style is very similar to what a candidate may see as a problem in an interview. This book is useful in style for both PAT questions and in preparation for the interview.
- The Stanford Maths Book
The standard of this book is much more challenging than the type of questions a candidate may find in the PAT, but useful if you’re looking for more practice.
This is another resource that is useful for interviews (Engineering especially), but some of the problems will resemble some content in the PAT, so if you are stuck for extra questions, check this book.
- Physics Olympiad Past Papers
This is another resource recommended by Oxford, although note that the questions tend to be more challenging than the type of content tested in the PAT.
Tips and Tricks for PAT
Candidates may see adverts for paid courses and PAT tutoring. These can be very expensive and absolutely aren’t necessary to score well in the PAT.
The test is a time-pressured paper. That is the speed; along with knowledge is an important skill to develop. When preparing with the past papers, try to complete them in the time given. Mark yourself after the allotted time and then try to work through some more questions to see if the candidate would have completed them with a little more time. Then practise until you get faster!
Working together with someone else through tricky problems is also a useful way of prepping. Don’t worry if a candidate doesn’t have someone to do this with though, it isn’t essential!
To know more about the exam, also go through the following link How to Prepare for Oxford Physics Aptitude Test (PAT)
How hard is the physics aptitude test?
The test is considered to be one of the most difficult tests out there. Hence, the great challenge for budding physicists.
How to prepare for the PAT test?
Practising past year papers will help you to familiarize yourself with the format of the test and the content covered.
Familiarizing yourself with the syllabus will be of great help. The syllabus is aimed at AS level maths and physics plus knowledge of material covered at GCSE.
Start solving physics which are not A level questions. It is also advisable to do questions from various sources. You can also refer to our page
Try solving some questions under time conditioned. Also, students should be very clear that the test is hard and questions are to be done within 2 hours only. Hence, solving some questions under timed conditions near the date of the test will mean you are likely to finish the test on time.
Are we required to pay for the test?
The University does not charge anything. Whereas, some independent test centres charges administration fee from the candidates, so it’s better to contact your centres for more details.
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