Many universities and courses require you to complete an admissions test as part of your application. Medical applicants may need to take the BMAT, law applicants may need to take the LNAT, and some courses at Oxford, Cambridge and UCL require you to take the TSA.
You might be wondering why. After all, you’ve written your personal statement, provided evidence of all your extra-curricular activities and worked hard to get good grades – what’s the need for another exam?
The main reason for the admissions tests is to make sure you have the necessary skills to succeed on your chosen course. Some of the skills they assess aren’t necessarily covered in your academic subjects so universities need to understand how you’ll cope with this level of study.
It also gives universities one common piece of information which helps them compare applicants fairly when everything else is equal, which has become especially important this year.
With more students receiving top grades, deferrals from last academic year, and an increased demand for places on many popular courses such as medicine, universities are relying on the results of these tests more than ever to distinguish between already strong candidates.
There’s lots of advice out there that says you can’t prepare for the TSA, and with the number of exams you’ve done over the past few years, you might think there’s no need to practise, however admissions tests can be quite different from what you’re used to.
To give yourself the best possible chance of a successful application, it’s important to prepare as much as possible. Here are some reasons why:
1. You are being tested on skills, not knowledge
Admissions tests are designed to check you have the right skills for the course, so they will test things like problem solving and critical thinking, rather than knowledge about your chosen subject. You don’t always get the chance to practise these skills in school, so you might not be used to answering these types of questions.
The last thing you want is to waste time in the assessment itself trying to unpick questions, and by practising you’ll soon learn how to recognise the different question types and what techniques you need to use to answer them.
2. Time is tight – learn how to manage it
For many admissions test, such as the BMAT, LNAT and TSA, it’s recommended you spend a maximum of 2 minutes on each multiple-choice question, so learning how to manage your time is key.
Once you understand how to identify and answer different question types, you can practise answering within a set time limit. The more experienced you are at it, the quicker you’ll be!
3. Refresh your mathematical knowledge
For tests which assess your problem solving abilities, you will need to use some basic maths such as fractions, percentages, shape and measurements. You won’t be allowed a calculator in many exams, so you’ll also need to be comfortable with working out calculations on paper.
If you’re not doing a maths A-Level, it can be good to spend some time refreshing your knowledge and practising things like calculating percentages and extracting information from graphs and charts.
4. Practise essay technique
Some applicants will be required to complete a written essay. This is designed to test how you develop and organise your ideas and share them in writing.
The tricky thing here is that essays are often limited in length – the TSA to 2 sides of A4, BMAT to one, and the LNAT to 750 words. You’ll need to make sure you are skilled at synthesising your thoughts and ideas, to make sure you convey your argument in a clear and concise way, which – you guessed it – takes practice!
5. Boost your confidence
Finally, the better prepared you feel going into the test, the more confident you’ll be which can also have an impact on your performance. A study from Kean University revealed that students who had high confidence levels going into tests achieved significantly higher scores than those who said they didn’t feel confident.
If you’re looking for more ways to boost your confidence ahead of your admissions test, we can help! Take a look at our range of test preparation courses below.