HAT Advice

Are you applying to read History at Oxford University? Take a look at these top 3 tips for doing well in your History Aptitude Test (HAT).

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Are you applying to read History at Oxford University? Take a look at these top 3 tips for doing well in your History Aptitude Test (HAT).

The Oxford History aptitude tests can be one of the most daunting parts of the whole process: you are sat in exam-style conditions and given two hours to complete a paper designed to make you think hard.

However, it is also a great opportunity. The aptitude tests were introduced into the Oxford admissions system to make it fairer. All candidates are put in the same conditions and each of you has the chance to show the university your natural ability in your chosen subject – some people even enjoy it!

Here are my top tips for doing well in the HAT:

  1. Register to sit the test. This may sound obvious, but having spoken to one of the Oxford tutors who introduced the test, this is one of the main issues preventing the HAT from being fair. Some schools – usually state schools – are actually unaware of the test, and do not register their students to sit it. Whilst you cannot register yourself to sit the HAT, make sure your school does so in good time. This year, candidates have to be registered by 5pm, Thursday 15 October 2015 at the latest.
  1. Know what you’re up against. To be able to time manage well when taking the HAT, it is a good idea to understand the structure of the test. It is split into three different sections each testing a different historical skill: defining and explaining; essay writing; and interpretation of a primary source. The 100 marks are split 30, 30, 40 through the three questions and so make sure your time management reflects this. You could always ask your history teacher to give you a mock HAT test to let you have some practice. HAT papers and their corresponding mark schemes are available online.
  1. Don’t try learning new material. The HAT is described as ‘a test of skills, not substantive historical knowledge’ and so there is no point trying to fill your brain with random historical facts. Your time will be better spent understanding what each part of the exam is asking for, instead of trying to memorise the date of Henry VIII’s second divorce. The material you are studying for A Level or equivalent will be fine to use in the HAT. Make sure you know the topics you are studying well, and think about how they could be adapted to varying perspectives and ideas, to prepare yourself for a range of different questions.




Finally: remember that the HAT is only one part of the admissions test. It is another factor that they will take into account, but your previous grades and personal statement are still important. If you think you have done terribly in the test, it is probably because they are just testing unfamiliar skills.

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