University and Careers

University Admissions Tests

One in twelve A-level exams (8%) has been awarded the A* grade.  Some 25.8% of entries gained an A or A*. (Source BBC News). 

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 others.  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.  

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?

  • Students need to be proactive in the way in which they go about their research of courses and they need to keep their tutors informed as well as the guidance team in terms of their intentions.  Course codes and institutions need to be checked carefully against the ever increasing list of courses which require the new tests.
  • They need to be aware that a number of these tests are administered by outside agencies and that it is necessary to register for a 'test slot'.  This should not be left to the last minute.  Students will require their UCAS reference number when they register for one of these tests.
  • Students should use these web pages as a starting point for their own research into the detail of the tests they need to sit.  The menu on the left of the page will direct you to further information specific to each of the tests.
  • External tests such as BMAT, LNAT and UCAT only allow you to make one attempt in an application cycle, so preparation is the key in terms of understanding what you need to do for the test.
  • Some institutions will require students to undergo a test of some sort at the actual interview.  This is particularly the case for Oxbridge applications.
  • Students should keep their tutors and appropriate Heads of Department aware of their intentions and should in turn act on their advice and recommendations.