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Oxford PAT Test: A Comprehensive Guide

Table of Contents
Oxford PAT Exam - A Comprehensive Guide
Table of Contents

The Oxford PAT (Physics Admissions Test) is a test conducted by the University of Oxford for students applying for engineering science, materials science, and physics courses.

I. Latest changes in 2024 Oxford PAT test

1. Changes in the test organiser

In 2024, Oxford University will deliver its admission tests through Pearson VUE, a global leader in online testing. Previously, Oxford terminated its cooperation with Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing (CAAT) in 2023 and with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) in 2024.

Note: The Oxford Department of Physics will still set the test papers.

2. Changes in the test format

The Oxford PAT test will be online and no longer have paper-based answer sheets.

In 2024, the Oxford PAT test will consist only of multiple-choice questions, but the number and the mark of the questions have not been released yet.

3. Change of the test name

Oxford changes the ‘aptitude’ in the full name of PAT to ‘admissions’ on the official website, which is consistent with the names of other written tests.

II. Key dates for 2024 Oxford PAT test

August 15

Registration for Oxford PAT test begins

October 4

Registration deadline for Oxford PAT test

Late October

Test date for the PAT to be determined

Late November

Interview invitations sent [1]

January of the following year

Results released [2]

[1]Oxford University notifies candidates who meet the requirements for an interview by email, also known as the “interview invitation.”

[2]PAT results are not released to the public, and students must email the college to get their results.

III. Who has to sit the Oxford PAT test?

All students applying for Engineering, Materials Science, and Physics courses at the University of Oxford are required to sit the PAT test before the interview:



Engineering Science


Biomedical Engineering


Chemical Engineering


Civil Engineering


Electrical Engineering


Information Engineering


Mechanical Engineering


Materials Science




Physics and Philosophy


IV. How to register the Oxford PAT test?

Due to the change in test organiser, the details of Oxford PAT test 2024 have yet to be released. Please refer to the Oxford official page for the latest information.

V. Test format

Delivery method

Online computer-based test


2 hours

Question type

Multiple-choice questions

Formula Booklet

Not allowed


The latest policy for 2024 is yet to be announced

VI. How is it scored? How is the score threshold determined?

1. PAT scoring method

The Oxford PAT test is worth 100 points.

Starting from 2024, the PAT test will be changed to all multiple-choice questions. The number and the mark of questions have yet to be announced.

2. Reform of the interview shortlisting mechanism

Before 2019, candidates received interview invitations based mainly on their PAT scores. Since 2019, Oxford has incorporated the PAT score and weighted GCSE scores to calculate an R-score, which heavily influences the chances of receiving an interview invitation.

However, due to COVID-19, Oxford temporarily replaced the R-score with the C-score in 2021, essentially the PAT score, and the interview list was then determined based on the C-score. Furthermore, an official statement from Oxford indicated that students typically ranked in the top 100 by C-score have a high likelihood of admission.

From 2024, the Physics Department will again use the R-score as a decisive factor in sending interview invitations and as one of the most important factors in the admission process.

VII. Contents assessed in Oxford PAT test

1. Updates in the syllabus

The PAT syllabus is not revised annually; the latest version is the 2018 version. That is, after the PAT test format is reformed in 2024, the syllabus and the scope of the test will remain unchanged.

2. Brevity of syllabus does not equal limited test scope

The PAT syllabus is concise, encompassing the entire syllabus of A Level Mathematics, AS Physics, and portions of A2 Physics, all within a compact format of less than two pages of A4 paper. There is no A Level Further Mathematics in PAT syllabus which will also not be tested on in the test.

The concise syllabus does not mean Oxford PAT test is easier than high school mathematics and physics tests. The syllabus aims to provide a fair assessment by covering content commonly taught in high school mathematics and physics courses, which ensures that most students know how to handle PAT without facing unfamiliar concepts.

3. What will be assessed in Oxford PAT test?


  • Knowledge of elementary mathematics, particularly topics in arithmetic, geometry including coordinate geometry, and probability.
  • Algebra, including quadratics, polynomials, graph sketching, inequalities, trigonometry, exponential and logarithmic functions, arithmetic and geometric series, and the binomial theorem.
  • Calculus, including differentiation and integration of polynomials, finding slopes and extrema, calculating area through integration, and utilizing symmetry to integrate odd and even functions.


  • Mechanics, waves and optics, electricity and magnetism, modern physics, astronomy, and without thermodynamics.

4. Beyond-syllabus questions

Each year, Oxford PAT test includes “out-of-syllabus” questions similar to the competition questions, such as rotational inertia, magnetic fields generated by electric currents, number theory, etc. These questions are typically in short-answer format and aim to assess students’ ability to apply their knowledge effectively. Meanwhile, these questions will give the relevant definitions and formulas.

5. Is there a pattern to the knowledge tested?

The PAT mathematics questions cover various topics, including algebra, plane geometry, coordinate geometry, calculus, probability, and other topics typically taught in the A Level mathematics courses. Out-of-scope topics, such as number theory, have only appeared once in the test, while most questions remain within the syllabus.

The following statistics show the distribution of test points and the difficulty of some PAT maths questions in recent years for reference.

Oxford PAT Test A Comprehensive Guide-1

The focus topics in PAT physics questions change noticeably each year. For example, modern physics and astrophysics have been popular in recent years, while electrical questions were prominent in previous years.

Oxford PAT Test A Comprehensive Guide-2

Moreover, “out-of-syllabus” questions usually appear in the physics section, which caught the students off guard.

Check the blog below for more in-depth analysis on of PAT topics and difficulty.

Oxford PAT Secrets - An In-depth Research

VIII. How difficult is Oxford PAT test?

Some indication of the changes in the difficulty of Oxford PAT test can be seen in the fluctuating trend of average scores over the last few years. (Check two sets of statistics below)

1. 2006-2022 PAT interview cut-off scores and average scores

Oxford PAT Test A Comprehensive Guide-3

2. Comparison of PAT scores in two time periods

Oxford PAT Test A Comprehensive Guide-4
Oxford PAT Test A Comprehensive Guide-5

The rise in the difficulty of the PAT test in recent years reflects the growing mathematical proficiency of the candidates and the intensifying competition.

Please refer to the following blog for an in-depth analysis of the difficulty of Oxford PAT test.

Oxford PAT Difficulty Analysis

IX. How to prepare for the test? Is there any recommended resources?

1. Preparation strategies for Oxford PAT test

There are mainly two categories of the preparation strategies:

  • Systematic review + question practice
  • Question practice + targeted training

Students can choose a suitable strategy according to their circumstances.

The specific time to start preparing depends on whether the student has experience in mathematical competitions, and their educational curriculum.

Please check the blog “How to prepare for Oxford PAT” for more detailed preparation strategies and planning suggestions.

How to prepare for Oxford MAT

2. Official preparation resources

Students can visit the Oxford Physics Department’s official website, which provides preparation materials for the PAT test, including past papers, syllabus, and live classes. Additionally, it recommends several external websites offering practice questions in mathematics and physics.

3. UEIE "PAT preparation set"

The 2024 PAT standard course (the 7th edition), edited and taught by Professor Xie Tao, includes the “PAT preparation set” – PDF materials, detailed lecture videos, and practice workbooks.

With a total of 36 lectures, approximately 30 hours of detailed videos, and over 1200 practice questions, this course provides thorough coverage of the Oxford PAT test.

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