The PAT is an important part of your application for Oxford Physics. It’s also something you can do extensive preparation for. There’s a syllabus, so you have a decent idea of what might appear – unlike interview, where the tutors could bring up anything they fancy talking about. It makes sense, therefore, to make the most of the chance to show your skills in a situation that’s relatively under your control. Here are our top tips for preparing for the PAT:
Looking over the syllabus
As we said in our guide to the PAT, the onus is completely on you to familiarise yourself with all the content covered in the PAT, which may be a little wider than your A-level syllabus. Although you will probably have studied most of the content in your A-Level course, you don’t want to be caught out in the exam with a topic you haven’t learnt – you want to catch as many marks as you can!
PAT past papers
There are lots of past papers available online, and this is the best way to prepare. The questions are of a slightly different and more involved style compared to those on the A-Level syllabus. So it’s important to do a good amount of practice, probably a minimum of four papers.
Although Oxford do not publish their mark schemes, the STEPMaths website has worked video solutions to all of the PAT questions. This is a great way to understand the reasoning behind the questions and develop your own methods for solving them.
There are lots of past papers available online, but if you run out, you can find more questions of a similar style to practice with. Professor Povey’s Perplexing Problems includes lots of these, as does the Isaac Physics website.
We also offer extra PAT past paper-style questions on the STEPMaths website, again with worked video solutions. There are also PAT courses, where tutors will help you with mock paper questions, and help you hone and develop the necessary skills to succeed in the exam.
Practice is the most important thing for the PAT, so make sure you do lost of timed papers! It is good to originally do some papers not in timed conditions, so that you can fully understand the structure and style of the questions. As you get closer to the exam, it is important to practice in timed conditions.
Working to Time Constraints
The PAT is time-pressured, so it is important to practice putting yourself under the time constraints. Try and answer individual questions in short amounts of time, and practice moving through the multiple choice questions as fast as you can. Remember, with the multiple choice questions, you do not have to find the exact answer. You can also use deduction and rule out the answers you know are long, which is another way of finding the correct answer.
Preparing your Mathematics
As lots of the test is focused upon mathematics, it is very important to practice your maths as well as your physics. Make sure you revise your A-Level maths syllabus too, and practice more problem solving in maths – the UKMT papers are a good resource. Also, at STEPMaths, we run a one-day course that addresses problem solving in mathematics, which proves invaluable for both the physics and maths elements of the PAT.
Multiple Choice Preparation
MAT Multiple Choice Questions
It is important to get fast when solving the PAT multiple choice questions. You don’t want to waste lots of time on the questions, as you want to reserve time for the harder later questions. The best way to do this is to practice, and you can also practice the MAT multiple choice questions to improve.
Although these will be entirely mathematical, some of the PAT multiple choice questions will also be entirely focused on maths, so this can be useful.
For more advice on preparing for multiple choice questions, take a look at our guide to the MAT short questions.
Long Answer Preparation
These questions are more developed than the short answer questions. These are more likely to involve both physics and maths skills, and require a little more time and thought than the short-answer questions. The BPho Physics Challenge online at AS level has lots of questions that are very similar in style to the long-answer questions in the PAT, so this is another great resource to use for preparation.
Although the prospect of sitting the PAT might seem scary at first, there’s plenty you can do to prepare. It’s an exam with a syllabus, so you at least have an idea of what could be on the paper – as long as you’ve prepared properly, you won’t be going in entirely blind! Talking of sitting the exam – why not take a look at our top tips for sitting the PAT, and maximising your score in the exam room? And if you can’t get enough of the PAT, check out our complete PAT guidebook, which comprehensively answers every question you could possibly have.