The History Aptitude Test

Since I applied to study History I thought i would dedicate a post to the HAT test, knowing more about it than other aptitude tests having sat it myself.

As of 2018 the HAT test was changed from a 4 question paper with lots of different (and very interesting questions) such as summarise this historian's argument in a single sentence etc. to one long source with a quite broad question at the end.

To prepare for the test, the Oxford HAT test page suggested practicing Question 3 of the old style paper. Which I diligently did. There are lots of past paper examples and mark schemes are also provided so you don't have to guess at how well you've done. Having said that it was still quite difficult to gauge how well I'd done as I didn't have any teacher advice-themselves not really knowing what the Oxford tutors were looking for, and the mark schemes naturally being open to interpretation. I felt a little overwhelmed until I stumbled across a really useful video on the Oxford History website which got together three First years to go through a HAT paper source with a tutor. You can find the source they discuss on the website.

It was really eye opening in terms of the specific detail the tutor was looking for and the overall themes that the students could identify within the source. I thought "This is source analysis on a higher level that I've been used to!" but I remained optimistic. I think I completed at least six HAT papers in total before the actual exam, but of course I'm not suggesting you need to-I found that was what I could fit in with my A Levels and how many I felt I needed to be confident.

The sources are from authors you probably wont' have looked at before and possibly from time periods or locations unfamiliar. You don't need to be worried if you think "I have no prior knowledge to help me with this question. Aghhh!" Good. Because tutors don't want you to use outside knowledge and the mark schemes, at least some of the older ones, specifically mark you down if you do. All of the practice sources before the 2018 revised HAT are much shorter so be aware of this when you practice. The 2018 source was about 2 and a half sides of A4 and I almost cried when I realised the length of it and how much I had to do in the little time available.

Something I found useful when practicing these papers was to discuss the sources and mark schemes with my family, teachers, my friends to see what they thought of the source. I found that it highlighted alternative ideas and approaches and generally broadened my ideas and the way I approached the source. My other top tips would include:

  1. Practice lots and start early
  2. Talk to other people sitting the HAT if you know of any- you'll be reassured
  3. Watch the video mentioned above!
  4. Try to identify themes when your analysing a source
  5. Focus on word or phrase level and look at what that tells use
  6. Be broad in your thinking
  7. Don't be afraid-everyone is intimidated by the paper, it's how you handle it that counts
  8. Look over the mark schemes and find patterns in the way they are marked e.g identifying themes
  9. Don't be afraid to contradict and argue with yourself, that's how I found lots of views and points within the sources, they aren't going to be easy and straight forward 
  10. Use all your skills acquired in A Levels, they're an excellent grounding. Talk to your teachers if you're really struggling
  11. The Student Room is an excellent tool for applications, check it out
Let me know how you get on and what works well for you and of course hit me with any of your questions!


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