The Next Stage

So, you've decided between Oxford or Cambridge, what degree you would like to pursue, and put your personal statement together. You've sent it off by the 15th of October deadline and now what?

It's easy to imagine that that's it and you just wait for a call to interview but the reality is that the hard work for the next stage now begins. Almost all degrees for Oxbridge require an aptitude test of some kind usually subject specific. For Oxford, the History Aptitude Test (HAT) was both specific to the course and to Oxford, with Cambridge history applicants having to sit a slightly different exam. 

To find out whether your subject requires an aptitude test head over Oxford Aptitude Tests, it's quite possible that you may not need to sit a subject specific one but sit the TSA instead which is the general Thinking Skills Assessment.

The exam is usually sat at the end of October, often in the half term holidays so you will have to notify your school or college ASAP so that they can make any arrangements necessary. You must register as quickly as possible as the deadline is the 15th of October. Registration is very easy to do but must be done with your school or college's exams officer as they hold the important details. If you don not register for your aptitude test your application is essentially null and void unless there is an extenuating circumstance of some kind. At my school there were about 10 people taking different tests and despite the high numbers of applicants I wasn't reminded or pushed on to register for the test so don't be complacent and expect someone else to do it for you.

Once you have found out what papers if any you need to sit and registered for them the reality can hit you, as it did for me. I suddenly thought "Oh my gosh, how on earth am I supposed to prepare for these tests?!". After the initial panic subsided I did some research and found that it was quite easy to access past papers along with their mark schemes. The set up was very similar to GCSE or A Levels. So  I went back as far as possible and printed off every question and mark scheme I could lay my hands on. I initially just attempted the questions without worrying about timed conditions, marked them and then reflected. To be perfectly honest it was a deeply dispiriting process. My marks were quite low. I was doing History which is quite subjective and the mark schemes were open to interpretation but nevertheless I began to doubt my abilities. However, I persevered I began to feel like I knew what the mark schemes were looking for and so was able to tailor my answers into being the kind of answers that tutors would like. I started being more tentative and much more  broad in terms of scope of the question.

I found that with lots of practice I did begin to improve but I felt a little hampered as none of my history teachers were really able to help by marking them, being unfamiliar with the question, mark schemes and marks. I was pretty much on my own. I have come out of a state school, however if you're in a public school there may well be teachers with personal experience of the admissions test who can mentor you. If you can find one this can help immensely but if you can't don't worry. You can't predict the tests and so can't be coached. You can only do your best and everyone feels exactly the same way.

What are you guys applying for and what are the aptitude tests like, comment below!

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