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New Blog Post: 2024 MAT and TMUA university admissions testing

STAT UCL? What the...

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There has been some turmoil with university admissions this year, with the Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing closing down. This seems to have affected the admissions process at several top universities this year, including Oxford and UCL.

UCL have decided to ask applicants for Computer Science to take the STAT exam as part of the admissions process, run by Australian exam board ACER. The STAT has previously been taken by mature students applying to university in Australia.

Only the multiple-choice "Verbal and Critical Reasoning" and "Quantitative Reasoning" sections are being assessed here - no essay section.

I don't personally think this seems like a great or especially relevant test. However, UCL Computer Science is now so competitive that they need some way to filter applicants out, with almost 20 applicants for a single place.

Overall Strategy

Multiple-choice Standardised Tests of this type are not really a feature of the UK Curriculum, so British students may not have much experience of these. The closest thing you might have done is the UKMT Maths Challenge, and that's not super-close.

Just because the questions are multiple choice, does not make them easy. Don't underestimate this type of test: Americans spend the whole of high-school preparing for the SAT.

Some tips:

Manage your time

    • Since every question is worth the same and there are no penalties, you MUST reach the last question in good time,
    • Be aware of how much time you have for each question, and how much time you have left,
    • Don't get stuck! Make a note of harder questions that you want go back to,
    • Make a guess meanwhile - don't leave the exam with any questions blank.

Work on your comprehension

    • Lots of the work is about understanding how to pull the key information out of everything you see,
    • The "question sentence" ending with a ? is often a good place to start, so you know what to keep in mind,
    • Many people find they are more accurate and efficient if they read every word-for-word-for-word: practice what works for you, with the timing.
    • There can and will be red herrings!

Work on the screen

Book a slot!

    • don't forget to book and pay for an exam session,
    • pick a time when you won't be disturbed or distracted.

How can you practice for the STAT UCL?

Official ACER STAT Papers

I always recommend practicing with official exam past papers under timed conditions, as close as possible to the real thing.

ACER offer some questions for free, and some paid past papers.

I haven't seen the paid papers, but there are only a few and my experience of ACER papers is quite poor. ACER papers sometimes have questions which I consider a "trap" with no particularly good options - if so, you will still have to deal with these in the time, just like any other question, without getting stuck and missing the end of the paper.

You'll want to also look at other sources of questions, to give yourself the best chance of impressing the admissions team at UCL.

SAT Papers

CollegeBoard provides some free example papers for the American SAT.

You can also do some example papers from the screen, by downloading CollegeBoard's Bluebook software.

This will give you a great idea of how standardised testing works.

There are some specifically American vocabulary and grammar questions - but these offer helpful ideas for improving your comprehension, anyway.

Looking at comparable US universities, I'd expect a score of 1400+ to be competitive here.

Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) Papers

There are loads of TSA past papers which offer a bit more depth on the comprehension and logic side of the questions.

You're ideally aiming for a score of 7.0+.

Medical Entrance - UCAT/UKCAT, GAMSAT section 1

Medical entrance tests have a variety of these types of questions that will help you avoid any surprises. These are harder to get free access to, though. But, you might know someone who has applied for medicine and can help you out.

There's also the benefit that you'll see longer passages with multiple questions, more similar to the STAT.

UCAT (formerly known as UKCAT) has sections in Verbal Reasoning, Decision Making, Quantitative Reasoning, which will be the most relevant three sections here. Add on the Abstract Reasoning sections only if you would like a bizarre challenge. Once you have some experience, you may want to focus on the types of questions where you think you have the best opportunity to improve.

There are some free online question banks on the UCAT website

GAMSAT is also run by ACER exam board, so that could be a good guide to the right style. Only Reasoning in Humanities and Social Sciences ("Section 1") is likely to be very relevant.

Here are some GAMSAT-style sample questions from MedicMind, involving diagrams

Good Luck and Enjoy!

Your application to UCL will be judged in all its aspects: your predicted grades, teacher reference, personal statement, and GCSE grades, for example - so your test score is not the only important thing here.

You've been invited to sit this test because UCL believes you are potentially a good student for them. With the high level of competition, anything you can do to prepare, and improve your score on the STAT, will be totally worthwhile. But, it's also important to enjoy the process, to keep your own motivation and engagement high 😃. Don't overload yourself and stay aware of your other commitments 😅

Good luck!