A Guide to UK University Admissions Tests

12/06/202311 minute read
A Guide to UK University Admissions Tests

With a wide range of exams to choose from, each with its own unique structure and significance, understanding the intricacies of UK college admissions tests is vital for students and parents alike. This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the various tests in the UK, key features, and their impact on university admissions. Whether you're a student preparing for these exams or a parent seeking guidance, this article will serve as a valuable resource to navigate the complexities of UK college admissions tests and make informed decisions about your educational future.

College admissions tests play a pivotal role in shaping the educational landscape in the United Kingdom. These tests serve as a crucial benchmark for students aspiring to pursue higher education at prestigious universities. Based on the course and university there might be multiple tests you have to take. 

Most admissions tests happen between August and November the year before you're due to start your studies – some even earlier, before you’ve sent your UCAS application! Many courses that require you to sit a test have a 15 October UCAS application deadline, but your course may be different, so it’s important you check key dates and deadlines. 

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Course-Specific Exams

For certain courses at UK universities, students have to appear for specific admission tests. Here are a few of them:


National Admissions Test for Law (LNAT) - This admissions test doesn’t test your knowledge of law or any other subject. Instead, it helps universities assess your aptitude for the skills required to study law. It is a two-part test: multiple choice questions based on passages of text, and an essay. The following universities require the LNAT:

  • University of Oxford
  • University of Cambridge
  • University of Bristol
  • Durham University
  • University of Glasgow
  • King’s College London
  • London School of Economics and Political Science
  • University of Nottingham
  • SOAS, University of London
  • University College London

*Cambridge used to require its students to take the Cambridge Law Test, but from 2022 candidates started taking the LNAT instead. 


BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) – The BMAT is required to be taken by any applicant to medical, dental, biomedical and veterinary degree programmes. The Biomedical Admissions Test lasts 2 hours and is sat under timed conditions. The BMAT is divided into three sections. The universities that ask for BMAT are:

  • Brighton and Sussex Medical School
  • Imperial College London
  • Lancaster University
  • University College London
  • University of Cambridge
  • University of Manchester Medical School
  • University of Leeds
  • University of Oxford
  • Keele University

Graduate Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT) – The GAMSAT test is required for students who want to enter a Medical graduate program in Australia, UK or Ireland. It's split into three sections: reasoning in humanities, written communication and reasoning in biological and physical sciences. The following universities accept GAMSAT:

  • St George’s Medical School, University of London
  • University of Nottingham
  • University of Liverpool
  • Swansea University
  • Cardiff University
  • University of Plymouth
  • University of Exeter
  • University of St Andrews (ScotGEM)
  • University of East Anglia
  • Ulster University

University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) – The University Clinical Aptitude Test is a university admissions exam used by a number of university medical and dental schools to distinguish you from other applicants to these competitive courses. It tests verbal, quantitative and abstract reasoning, as well as decision analysis and situational judgment – all inherent skills which students should possess should they get on to those courses. Many top universities, including Kent and Medway Medical School, King's College London, University of Leicester, and University of Liverpool use the UCAT.

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Mathematics Admissions Test (MAT) – The MAT is a paper-based test that aims to grade the applicant’s skills in a particular mathematical subject. It is required for a variety of undergraduate or graduate courses in mathematics and computer science. The following universities require MAT:

Sixth Term Examination Paper (STEP) – This admissions exam tests your ability to answer similar questions to those you should expect on a degree course. There are two Step examinations: Step 2 and Step 3, both 3 hours long. There used to be a Step 1 exam as well, but this was scrapped from 2021. The following universities require STEP:

  • University of Cambridge
  • Imperial College London
  • University of Warwick

Test of Mathematics for University Admissions (TMUA) – This test aims to measure your mathematical reasoning abilities. It is designed to give you the opportunity to demonstrate that you have the essential mathematical thinking and reasoning skills needed for a demanding undergraduate Mathematics or Mathematics-related course, such as Computer Science or Economics. The following universities require STEP:

  • University of Cambridge
  • University of Bath
  • Cardiff University
  • Durham University
  • Lancaster University
  • London School of Economics and Political Science
  • University of Nottingham School of Mathematical Sciences
  • University of Sheffield
  • University of Southampton
  • University of Warwick

English Proficiency Exams for International Students

To get into most UK universities and for student visas, a minimum B2 level English language proficiency is required. International students may choose to appear in the following exams with a minimum validity of 2 years:

University-Specific Admissions Tests
Oxford- Classics Admissions Test (CAT) - English Literature Admissions Test (ELAT) - Geography Admissions Test (GAT) - History Aptitude Test (HAT) - Modern Languages Admissions Test (MLAT) - Oriental Languages Aptitude Test (OLAT) - Philosophy Test - Physics Aptitude Test (PAT) - Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA)
Cambridge- Engineering Admissions Assessment (ENGAA) - Natural Sciences Admissions Assessment (NSAA)

*It is important to note that in November 2022, Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing announced that it was to withdraw from running a series of university admissions exams with effect from 2024-5. This includes BMAT (medicine), ENGAA (engineering), NSAA (natural sciences) and TMUA (mathematical skills) tests. There will be no change for next academic year's entry system, as Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing services will continue for 2023.

For the academic year 2024/25 onwards, the seven UK medical schools that use BMAT tests as part of their admissions process (Brighton and Sussex, Imperial, Lancaster, UCL, Cambridge, Leeds and Oxford) as well as medical and healthcare schools in other countries will put alternative arrangements in place. Our experts are tracking the situation closely to stay up to date with the latest developments.

Preparation Strategies for College Admissions Tests

Here are a few strategies to help you prepare for your college admissions tests:

  1. Understand the Exam Format and Syllabus
  2. Start Early and Create a Study Plan
  3. Utilize Official Study Materials
  4. Seek Additional Resources
  5. Practice Regularly
  6. Time Management
  7. Develop Effective Study Techniques
  8. Seek Guidance and Support

Remember, success in college admissions tests is not solely determined by your performance on exam day. Universities also consider other factors such as personal statements, recommendations, and extracurricular activities. Strive for a holistic approach to your application, highlighting your strengths and showcasing your passion for your chosen field of study.

Final Thoughts

It is clear that performing well in college admission tests can greatly influence your chances of gaining admission to your desired UK university. Admissions committees rely on these exams as objective measures of academic ability and potential. However, it is essential to remember that while exam results hold weight, they are just one piece of the admissions puzzle. Universities also consider additional factors such as personal statements, recommendation letters, extracurricular activities, and interviews when making their decisions.

For students preparing to take these exams, diligent research, effective study strategies, and careful planning are crucial. It is important to familiarize yourself with the requirements and expectations of each exam, select appropriate subjects or subject combinations, and utilize quality study resources. Additionally, understanding the exam format, managing time effectively, and staying calm under pressure are essential test-taking skills that can contribute to success.

If you need additional help with the application process, book a free consultation with one of our expert UK admission strategists. They can provide individualized and highly informed support in every aspect of your applications.

Our support includes:

  1. Matching every student with a team of supporters who are graduates from Oxbridge and other top UK universities
  2. Addressing every part of the UCAS application in detail - from test prep to personal statements, extracurriculars to interview prep.
  3. Providing oversight by former Oxbridge admissions officers
  4. Sharing years of inside UK admissions consulting knowledge unavailable elsewhere

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