Student Advice

What is the PAT (Physics Admissions Test)?

Ben Maples  · Oct 26th 2023  · 3 min

For many, university admissions tests are essential parts of the university application process. More and more universities have begun to introduce them as a means of telling the good from the very best.


The PAT is one of the many university admissions tests that students will encounter when applying to the University of Oxford. The test is a challenging and engaging exam that tests students on their knowledge of both elementary and advanced mathematics and physics.

What is the Physics Aptitude Test?

What is the PAT?

The PAT is the Physics Aptitude Test. The Physics Aptitude Test is a university admissions test for students who are hoping to study at the University of Oxford.

The PAT is only sat for specific subjects at the university. At the moment, students need to sit the PAT for engineering courses, materials science degrees and physics courses. Equally, if students are going to study a joint honours degree involving any of these subjects, then they will also need to sit the PAT.

Why do I have to sit the PAT?

The PAT is part of the admissions criteria for the University of Oxford. Though not a requirement at the University of Cambridge, Oxbridge as a reputation for having very high university entry requirements and for demanding that students applying for certain degrees sit various admissions tests.

The competition for places at Oxbridge is incredibly high. Admissions tests such as these allow the university to pick the students best suited to the course.

What is studied on the PAT?

The PAT’s content changes each year. Generally, the test has a selection of different topics and areas that may be covered.

For mathematics:

  • Algebra.
  • Elementary trigonometry, including relationships between sine, cosine, and tangent (sum and difference formulae will be stated if required).
  • Graph sketching, including the use of differentiation to find stationary points.
  • Knowledge of elementary mathematics.
  • Knowledge of the formulae for the sum of arithmetic and geometric progressions to n (or infinite) terms.
  • Knowledge of the properties of polynomials, including the solution of quadratics either using a formula or by factorising.
  • Properties of logarithms and exponentials and how to combine logarithms, e.g. log(a) + log(b) = log(ab).
  • Solutions to inequalities.
  • Transformations of variables.
  • Use of the binomial expansion for expressions such as (a+bx)n, using only positive integer values of n.

The physics section has a similarly in-depth set of topics that will be covered, including mechanics, waves and optics, electricity and magnetism, problem-solving and the natural world.

What is the PAT?

What is the format of the PAT?

The PAT is a two-hour exam. The exam mainly focuses on maths and physics questions, which are mixed.

To start off with, you will have a multiple-choice test. The questions on this test are scored out of two. After this, students then move on to the three-mark questions, with questions that are similar to other physics tests you will have sat before. There are, mercifully, no essay questions.

Students are allowed to use calculators in the test. However, check to see which brand of calculator you have and whether it is permitted in the test.

When do I have to sit the PAT?

The PAT is always sat in October, usually around the 15th, though the specific date changes every year. Oxbridge has a much earlier application deadline than other universities, which means that their admissions tests are also sat sooner too.

If you miss the October deadline, you will need to wait until next year to sit the exam. Despite being an Oxford-specific admissions test, the PAT is administered by Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing (CAAT).

What is the PAT (Physics Aptitude Test)?

What is the best score for the PAT?

The maximum score you can get in the Physics Aptitude Test is 100. Generally, a score of 60 or higher is enough to get you a university interview.

You won’t receive your scores back automatically. If you want to know what your overall score was, then you need to ask for the scores from the CAAT.

Are there past papers available?

Yes, you can revise for the PAT with past papers. The Department of Physics at the University of Oxford offers a selection of PAT past papers for students to have a look at.

The university does not offer solutions to past papers. The reason for this is that the university does not want students to feel pigeonholed by one specific answer technique and encourages all students to try different answer methods.

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