What is the GAT? A Guide to Oxford’s Geography Admissions Test  

Are you aspiring to study Geography at the prestigious University of Oxford? Then you need to familiarise yourself with the GAT (Geography Admissions Test). 

The Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) replaced the GAT several years ago. However, the GAT is being reintroduced by Oxford from the 2023 application cycle onwards. The TSA and the GAT are very different so it’s important that you learn what to expect and prepare accordingly.  

This article will explore what the GAT is, how to prepare for it, and the structure and content of the GAT.  

Check out our previous article on how to get into Oxford for more advice!  

What is the GAT? 

If you are applying for the undergraduate course in Geography, you will be required to sit the Geography Admissions Test (GAT). 

The GAT, or Geography Admissions Test, is a Geography aptitude test specifically designed for prospective Geography students applying to the University of Oxford. It plays a crucial role in the admission process by evaluating candidates’ aptitude, knowledge, and analytical skills in the field of Geography. Scoring well on the GAT is essential for securing a place in the prestigious Geography programme at Oxford. 

The GAT is intended to be equally challenging for all students, no matter what they have studied or what exams they are doing at school.

The importance of the GAT  

Never overlook admissions tests! The GAT holds immense significance for prospective Geography students applying to the University of Oxford. Successful Oxbridge applicants are typically those who prepare in advance and practise for their admissions tests just as much as their A levels. After all, your score could make or break your offer. 

By understanding the test’s format, and honing your analytical and critical thinking skills, you can increase your chances of success. Stay focused, practice diligently, and seek expert guidance to maximise your potential and achieve your aspirations of studying Geography at one of the world’s leading institutions.  

What does the GAT assess?  

The GAT is specifically designed for Geography students applying to Oxford as a component of the admission process. It is a subject-specific test that assesses:  

  • Critical thinking 
  • Problem solving 
  • Essay writing in response to unseen material

Feel like you could do with some support so that you can SMASH the GAT? Allow us to help you! University applications and admissions tests are our forte.

How will the transition from the TSA to the GAT affect my application?  

So, we’ve established that the TSA has been replaced with the GAT but how will this change affect you and your application? 

Oxford claims that the switch could make your application a bit more difficult because the change is so new – meaning there are now fewer preparation resources.  

However, unlike the TSA, the main focus of the GAT is subject-specific knowledge, which may be preferred. 

What is the difference between the TSA and the GAT?  

The TSA is a general admissions test that aims to assess candidates’ critical thinking, problem-solving, and reasoning skills. It was used for a wide range of undergraduate courses at the University of Oxford, including Humanities, Social Sciences, and some Sciences. Hence, the TSA does not require subject-specific knowledge. It tests candidates’ ability to apply critical thinking and problem-solving skills to a range of scenarios. It aims to assess intellectual aptitude rather than subject-specific knowledge.  

On the other hand, the GAT is specifically designed for students applying to study Geography at the University of Oxford. It focuses on assessing candidates’ knowledge, understanding, and analytical skills in the field of Geography.  Thus, the GAT specifically evaluates candidates’ knowledge and understanding of Geography. It covers topics such as human geography, physical geography, environmental issues, spatial analysis, and case studies within the field of Geography. The GAT is exclusively used for Geography admissions at the University of Oxford. It is specifically tailored to assess candidates’ suitability for studying Geography at an advanced level. 
Check out our previous article on the TSA for more information!  

How to prepare for the GAT: 5 Steps to Success 

Oxford claims that no specific knowledge (from GCSE or A level) is required of applicants and that it is not essential to prepare specifically for the test. However, we recommend preparing as much as you can. As admissions experts, here is the roadmap we suggest:

  1. Familiarise Yourself with the Test Format: The GAT typically consists of multiple-choice questions, short-answer questions, and essay questions. Understanding the test format will help you to prepare accordingly.  
  2. Master Key Geographical Concepts: The GAT assesses your understanding of fundamental geographical concepts, theories, and case studies. Reviewing key topics such as human geography, physical geography, environmental issues, and spatial analysis is crucial. Start by understanding the key geographical concepts that are likely to be assessed. 
  3. Practice Past GAT Papers: The best way to familiarise yourself with the GAT is by practising past papers. These papers can provide insight into the types of questions asked and help you develop effective time management skills. All applicants taking the GAT will be invited to practise taking an online sample paper in advance of their test day. As it is a new test, there are no past papers yet but there are two specimen papers which Oxford strongly recommends you use as practice materials.
  4. Enhance Analytical and Critical Thinking Skills: The GAT evaluates your ability to analyse information, interpret data, and think critically. Engage in activities that promote logical reasoning, data interpretation, and argument construction to sharpen these skills. Enhance your analytical and critical thinking abilities by engaging in activities that promote logical reasoning and data interpretation.
  5. Practise your essay skills: For the GAT, you will need to read passages carefully, plan what you are going to write and produce a well-written, balanced argument drawing on evidence from within the passage. 
  6. Conduct background reading: Read the resources on Oxford’s Geography department website
  7. Familiarise yourself with the online system: It is recommended that you familiarise yourself with the online system before the test. Remember to plan your time, read the question carefully, and check your work. Watch this video for some advice. 
  8. Seek Expert Guidance: Enlisting the help of our talented and experienced team of expert GAT tutors could drastically help you get an offer from Oxford. We have plenty of experience when it comes to Oxford admissions and the GAT test.  

Still worried? Check out Oxford’s video on the GAT and chat with us. 

Layout, Structure, and Content of the GAT  

 The GAT is a computer-based test, utilising an online platform and lasting 1 hour and 45 minutes. It is comprised of three parts:  

  • Part A (30 minutes): This section assesses critical thinking and has two sub-sections that ask candidates to read a passage and answer multiple-choice questions. 
  • Part B (30 minutes): This section tests problem solving and has two sub-sections. Candidates must look at information and answer multiple-choice questions. 
  • Part C (45 minutes): Candidates must read a passage of text and answer an essay question.  

 How we can help  

Here at The Profs, we have excellent, talented, and expert tutors with experience in university admissions and the GAT test. We have the knowledge and resources needed for success. So, if you feel like you need some help to ace the GAT, allow us to help you!  

University applications and admissions tests are our THING, and we have tonnes of experience when it comes to Oxbridge. Don’t trust us? Trust our 55% Oxbridge success rate (triple the national average)! Unlock your potential with The Profs, your trusted partner in academic success. 

Also, don’t forget to check out our previous article on how to get into Oxford for more information!  


When do I take the GAT

You must register for the GAT before the registration deadline (usually the end of September), and you will typically take the test in October. You should check the specific date and time for your circumstances as it varies annually. Key dates for each year are updated here

How do I register for the GAT?

You must register in September before the deadline. Note that you won’t be automatically registered through your UCAS application and you also cannot register yourself. This must be done on your behalf through an authorised test centre (school, college, open test centre). 

Unsure whether your school or college is an authorised test centre? Check here. If not, get in contact with your exams officer as soon as possible 

Where do I take the GAT? 

The GAT is usually taken at a designated testing centre (usually your school/college).  

How do I get into Geography at Oxford? 

To get into Geography at Oxford, you would need to apply through UCAS by the deadline (typically in October for entry in the following year). You would need to submit an application that demonstrates outstanding academic history, a polished personal statement, and glowing references. You will need to do well in the GAT and possibly attend an interview. Oxford looks for students with high academic potential, so strong grades are important, and a background in Geography or related subjects is recommended. It’s always best to check the specific requirements of the programme on the Oxford University website or contact the admissions office directly.  

Further advice can be found here, and don’t forget that we have a 55% Oxbridge admissions rate so contact us for help to get your offer

Does the GAT see your screen or monitor your tabs? 

No, but during the test, the platform will lock if you try to click outside of it. Don’t worry if this happens by accident as your test centre administrator can unlock it.