Aptitude tests: preparing for an unpreparable test

As university application season approaches, many students will be gearing up to take one of the many aptitude tests increasingly used by top universities to differentiate between the brightest candidates.  Aptitude tests assess general academic skills and thought processes rather than academic achievement or concrete subject knowledge, so many assume they cannot be prepared for in the same way as an A level or a GCSE.

While an aptitude test may not be the kind of examination that can be revised for in the traditional sense, encouraging students to prepare for the question styles they will face puts them in a better position to succeed.  Whether the student is up against the U.K. Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT), the Law National Aptitude Test (LNAT), the Thinking Skills Assessment Test (TSA) or any of the numerous other forms of assessment, preparation can help achieve better scores and increase their chances of securing their first choice university place.

Keeping up with aptitude tests in the U.K.

With so many different aptitude tests now in use, one needs to be aware of the demands of each, how the test is used by the institution, and when and how to prepare for each of the tests.  At the very least, there will be great differences between preparing for arts subjects and for the sciences; for instance, essay practice will be a significant focus for the English Literature Admissions Test (ELAT) and the History Aptitude Test (HAT), while the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) assesses aspects such as mathematical ability and, perhaps of all the tests, is the one where more actual subject knowledge is required.

Supporting students as they prepare for aptitude tests also means keeping on top of changes so that students are not confronted with the unexpected in the examination room.  Like any other syllabus, aptitude tests are subject to modifications and redesigns.  An example of this kind of change is a recent update to the UKCAT, which sees the piloting of a new logic and analysis subtest called Decision Making.  This subtest is designed to replace Decision Analysis, testing problem-solving ability and reflecting the kinds of decisions doctors and dentists must make in the course of their jobs.  This example also highlights the kind of question approach for which guidance may be necessary: discussing the ethical dilemmas in a group enables a deeper understanding of the problem than trying to prepare alone at home.

Because tests focus on aptitude and analytical skills rather than specific knowledge, prolonged coaching is not necessarily advantageous.  However, candidates tend not to have equal skills in all areas of the test, nor may they be acquainted with the kind of examination techniques and time management which the tests demand.  However academically capable a student, being familiar with the format and content of the test, and learning to cope with the pressures of time and question styles, require practice and thought.

How can we help?

There are of course many preparatory courses available for the aptitude tests.  However, Greene’s has developed a series of what it considers to be short and effective courses to tackle the problem of preparing for the tests efficiently.  Prolonged preparation is not only unnecessary: it can also be unproductive and costly; we also appreciate how packed school timetables are, and busy enough without the added pressure of helping students prepare to sit aptitude tests.  To find out more about how we can work with you to support your students, please contact us.

Matthew Uffindell
Senior Tutor

Posted on: August 16th, 2016 | Categories: Education, News, Revision, Study & Exam Tips, Upcoming courses