The result is that with more and more applicants gaining the highest A-level grades, universities are finding it increasingly hard to sort out the 'good' from the 'very good'. Admissions tutors will take into account other pieces of evidence such as the UCAS personal statement but how can they be sure that these represent solely the work of the student in question? School references also, for able and gifted students, may not help in this differentiation process.
The result is that over the past few years there has been a shift towards more detailed assessment of the students applying to university, in order to discover their suitability and aptitude for studying at undergraduate level.
This process began within the highly competitive area of medicine, dentistry and veterinary science/medicine. However, the array of tests is increasing at a rapid rate and it is very important that students are aware as to what they are required to do; when they need to do this by and how best to prepare for this additional burden upon their time.
Traditionally additional tests and examination papers have been linked with Oxbridge entrance. This process broadened a little with the introduction of the Bio Medical Admissions Test (BMAT) to include Imperial College, UCL, and The Royal Veterinary College (seven colleges and fourteen courses (2014). However, the National Admissions Test for Law (LNAT) and the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT (formerly UKCAT) for dentistry and medicine) now mean that very many more institutions and courses are now included within the test system. From 2006 applications for 2007 entry (or 2008 deferred entry) it was no longer sufficient to just apply through UCAS with A-levels to secure a place on any of these courses.
All tests are seen, by those responsible for setting them, as an additional means by which to identify the students who are best suited to the courses being offered. The tests are not meant to be 'content heavy' but are instead looking for the potential and aptitude which is required to succeed.
There is no doubt that students today face a higher burden in terms of examinations. The key is to be prepared and to see these tests as an opportunity to show an admissions tutor that they have what is needed to succeed.
So how should a student proceed?