What is the Physics Aptitude Test (PAT)?

The Department of Physics has used an admissions test in mathematics for many years. The current Physics Aptitude Test covers both mathematics and physics.

What is the syllabus for the test?

The PAT syllabus is available on our website. If there are parts of the syllabus which you think won't be covered at school by the time of the PAT, we expect you to work on them by yourself. Your teachers might be able to advise you.

How can I prepare for PAT?

Find information on preparing for the PAT on our website.

Are there any recommended text books?

Any text book aimed at GCSE and A-level would be appropriate. We particularly suggest attempting past Physics Olympiad papers as an excellent way to prepare.

Will I need calculators and formula sheets?

Formula sheets, tables, data books and physical calculators are not permitted. A digital calculator will be included as part of the online interface for the PAT from October 2023 onwards.  Candidates should use a pen, and a pencil for sketching.

Do I need to show my working?

You are strongly advised to use the answer booklet to show all your working so that partial marks can be awarded even if the final answer is incorrect.

Are sample papers available?

Sample papers are available on our website. Past papers are posted on the Department of Physics website as they become available, as are reports on each paper. Past papers and sample papers dated before May 2006 are based on an earlier syllabus and are not relevant to the current entrance test. Past papers and sample papers provide general guidance on the likely content of future papers - the format of past papers may be different. Please note that we do not provide sample answers or a mark scheme for these papers.

Are solutions available for the past papers?

Doing past papers is an excellent way to prepare yourself for the PAT test. However, it is not our policy to provide solutions for our past papers. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, it is the process of working through a problem, rather than working towards a solution that is most beneficial to a student. Secondly, there is often more than one way to solve a problem. We take this into account when we mark and check students’ solutions, however we would be unable to guarantee that we covered all of the possible methods in the published solutions. Thirdly, if we provided the solutions for past papers then some students would rote learn all of the answers and taking the test would no longer assess their aptitude for physics. It is for these reasons that we also do not give out solutions to individual problems on request. This is in addition to it being unfair to the majority of students who do not ask for the solutions. We have however published sample solutions to the 2009 and 2010 papers and our Access team has created unofficial sample solutions for the 2019 paper; these can all be found here.

What is the pass mark for the test?

There is no pass mark as such for the test, but there is a threshold mark, below which it is unlikely that candidates will be placed on the interview short-list. This mark will not be determined until the results of the tests are available.