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When the day of the PAT finally arrives, you need to make sure you perform at your absolute best. You’ve done all the preparation you can, but how can you show the admissions tutor that you deserve an interview, and a place, more than the other candidates?

Here are our top tips for exam techniques for the PAT and maximising your score!

Time Management: 

  • The format of the PAT often changes, but it is currently split into a multiple choice section and a long-answer section. You get two hours for the PAT, and there are 12 multiple choice questions and 15 long-answer questions. The majority of the marks will be in the latter section, so this is where you want to spend most of your time. 
  • A good time split may be half an hour on the multiple choice questions and an hour and a half on the long-answer questions. You may be able to race through the multiple choice questions faster, and you don’t want to be spending longer than about 3 minutes per question.
  • If there is a multiple choice question you find particularly hard, just move on and come back to it at the end – it’s not worth wasting a lot of valuable time on it, and the same applies in the long-answer section. In the long-answer section, work out the solution as far as you can, and then leave it if you are spending too long answering the question. 

Strategies for answering questions

  • In terms of the bigger picture, it might be a good method to solve the questions that attract you first. This will build up your confidence for the questions you are less comfortable with. 
  • Also, you can leave out later parts of a question. Make sure you have a go, but it’s not the end of the world if you can’t get every answer. Unlike the multiple choice section, there are marks available for workings in the long-answer section, in fact, this is what they are interested in seeing – your maths and physics reasoning
  • When you get to the longer questions, it is a good idea to write down a list of relevant facts and equations that you may need. Then, when you are working through the question you will have a reference point, and something already written down, which may gain you some marks. 

“I can’t answer the question, what do I do!”:

  • If you can’t answer a multiple choice question and you’re running out of time, just guess – there’s no harm in it. 
  • The long-answer questions are worth more marks, and if you are running out of time, these are the questions you want to focus on. 
  • If you aren’t reaching an answer, I would recommend writing down everything you can, and everything you think is relevant – you don’t know where you’ll pick up a rogue mark!
  • Also, if you are running out of time but you can see how to solve the question, sketch out a rough solution. Try and write down the relevant calculations, as this will still get you some marks. 

Staying Calm:

  • It is understandably stressful doing the PAT, so try and stay calm. If you have prepared well, this will be reflected in your answers, and the admissions tutors will see this. 
  • Remember not to spend too long on a question, and answer all of the multiple choice questions even if they are just guesses.


The PAT is a difficult test, but there’s no need to panic. It’s designed to separate out the very best Physics students in the country – so you should find it at least a little tricky! As well as refining your exam technique, there are plenty of resources for preparing the actual content – take a look at our guide to preparing for the PAT.

If you have any more questions, take a look at our comprehensive guidebook to the PAT, which will answer any question you could possibly have!