Everyone who applies to study physics or physics and philosophy at Oxford, without exception, must take the Physics Aptitude Test (PAT), a two-hour test that evaluates a student’s ability in both physics and maths.
The University is currently making arrangements to deliver its tests. As soon as this information is known it will be published at Undergraduate Admissions. The University would encourage candidates planning to apply to sign up to our Choosing Oxford newsletter and explore our digital prospectus and Undergraduate Admissions website so they are in a strong position to start work on their applications from June 2023, allowing plenty of time for submission before Oxford’s UCAS deadline.
The date of the next PAT is Friday 20 October 2023. Registration information for the PAT can be found here.
What is the 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. Please note that formula sheets, tables and data books are not permitted. A digital calculator will be included as part of the online interface for the PAT from October 2023 onwards. Candidates must use this and may NOT bring their own calculators, of any description, into the exam. There are no recommended text books for the PAT. As well as the information you can find here on the Department of Physics website, there is also information on the University of Oxford website.
How to prepare for the PAT
- Look over a range of past papers to help to familiarise you with the format of the test and the content covered. We also publish reports for each test; reports contain information such as the average mark on the paper and the mark students needed to achieve an interview. Do not expect to get all of it correct – most years the average is 50-60%.
- Familiarise yourself with the syllabus. The material is aimed at AS level maths and physics plus knowledge of material covered at GCSE. However we cannot guarantee when the material will be covered in your school so you might find you need to teach yourself a few topics before the exam.
- Get practice doing some problem solving/hard physics questions which are not A level questions. It is advisable to do questions from a range of other sources, not just A level type questions which can be more structured in nature than the PAT. See our page on useful websites and resources for the PAT.
- 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. Practising some questions under timed conditions near the date of the exam will mean you are more likely to get to the end of the paper.
Solutions to papers
We do not generally provide solutions to the past papers; when marking the PAT, all suitable methods for solving the questions are allowed and we would not want you to feel only one specific way of solving the problem will gain you marks. 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 on the PAT past papers page.
To get the greatest benefit from the past papers, don’t look at the solutions too soon and note that the solution presented is by no means the only or the best way to solve the problem – it is just one possible route.