Aptitude tests: Essential info for parents | Varsity Education

Aptitude tests: Essential information for parents…

Elite universities are more competitive than ever, prompting a rise in the use of aptitude tests to distinguish between applicants – especially at Oxbridge.

That’s why some of the most common questions we receive here at Varsity concern aptitude tests. After all, the vast majority of applicants to both Oxford and Cambridge are now required to sit some kind of test (either before attending an interview or during the interview process itself).

In fact, our expert guidance can prove particularly crucial when it comes to aptitude tests. Firstly, we run aptitude test workshops where we outline the best preparation strategies. Then we undertake individual tests in subject specific groups, before students sit the actual tests (from past papers they haven’t previously seen). Finally, every paper is marked by a professional tutor from Oxbridge, who provides valuable feedback

Oxbridge’s most important aptitude tests include:

  • For prospective medical students the BMAT is a two-hour, pen-and-paper test divided into three sections: Aptitude and Skills (problem solving, understanding arguments and data analysis); Scientific Knowledge and Applications (applying scientific knowledge); and a Writing Task (showing the ability to develop and organise ideas concisely and effectively).
  • For prospective law students (at Oxford)… the LNAT helps universities assess aptitude for the skills required to study law, without testing knowledge of law or related subjects. This two-part test includes multiple choice questions based on passages of text, and an essay.
  • For prospective English students… the ELAT is a paper-based test which tests candidates’ close reading skills, and their ability to shape and articulate an informed response to unfamiliar literary material. Candidates focus on elements such as language, imagery, allusion, syntax, form and structure.
  • For prospective social sciences students (including courses related to Economics, Philosophy and Psychology)… the Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) measures ability in critical thinking and problem solving skills. These include numerical and spatial reasoning, understanding argument and reasoning by using everyday language, and organising and articulating ideas in writing.

According to Dr Sam Lucy, Director of Admissions at University of Cambridge, admissions decision-making is supported by the introduction of aptitude tests.

“They provide a way of assessing our applicants against the same criteria… which reassures parents and schools alike,” she reports. “Our research shows a positive relationship between test scores and on-course success. This helps select applicants with the greatest potential to succeed.”

Meanwhile, Oxford offers the following advice for prospective students. “Our admissions tests are timed, written exams which are designed to show us how you think: how you analyse and solve difficult questions; how you apply your knowledge to texts or problems you won’t have encountered before.”

With most Oxbridge aptitude tests running in October or November, our 2018 summer schools are perfectly timed to ensure your child has the optimal chance of success in this ultra-competitive field.

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