Aptitude tests on rise at Oxford

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More than four-fifths of would-be Oxford students are being asked to sit extra aptitude tests to win a place at the prestigious university, and the numbers have soared in recent years.

“Significant” increases in applications have meant the institution has to use additional measures besides looking at exam results to identify the best candidates, according to Oxford’s undergraduate admissions director.

Mike Nicholson said the university is using the tests as a “sifting process” to give tutors additional information before deciding who to interview for places.

In the coming year, around 85 per cent of applicants will take “some form of aptitude test”, he said, which are used by 70 per cent of subjects offered by Oxford.

This has gone up from just under two-thirds of candidates, between 60 and 65 per cent, three years ago, and could rise further.

“It’s predominantly been driven by the significant increase in applications that we’ve seen in the last five years,” Mr Nicholson said.

In a subject such as economics and management, there are now around 1,300 applicants for 96 or 97 places, whereas 10 years ago there were half as many applications for the same number of spots.

Mr Nicholson said the tests are used to help compare candidates from different countries.

“Part of the value of the tests for our tutors is that it benchmarks the candidates against each other within a discipline, so we’re not having to try and make up complicated algorithms to offset what the German Abitur is against US SATs against the International Baccalaureate.”

Mr Nicholson admitted Oxford is not able to interview every applicant, with around 65 per cent being offered one – about 24,000 interviews in total.