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How to Approach the Oxford HAT Exam

How to Approach the Oxford HAT Exam

4 min Read|February 07 2024
|Written by:

Thomas Babb


The History Aptitude Test, also known as the Oxford HAT, is an admissions exam sat by anyone that wants to study history at Oxford. As Oxford gets a large number of applicants each year for history, this test is specifically designed for top-grade A-level History students that want to distinguish themselves from other candidates.

While this exam is, of course, about history, it is more so a test of your analytical ability. The whole HAT is just one question that’s based on a singular primary source, with students having one hour to answer the question with an essay.

As the Oxford HAT is a deciding factor to see who the Oxford colleges will make offers to, it’s an important exam that you should prepare for ahead of time. Score really does matter here, with the average Oxford HAT score being 57.2, but the average for candidates that received an offer being 68.2.

Oxford HAT mark distribution 2017


The higher your Oxford HAT score, the further up the initial rankings you will be, helping you as you move into interview rounds.

In this article, we’ll be exploring absolutely everything you need to know about the Oxford HAT exam, ensuring that you’re as ready as possible come exam day. Let’s get right into it.

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What Does the Oxford HAT Test?

Unlike the vast majority of admissions exams for university, the HAT is not made up of large question pools; with only one question, you need to be sure that you’re on the right pathway from the beginning of the exam. Part of that is knowing exactly what Oxford is looking for.

On Oxford’s Admissions Website, they offer the following guidance for the HAT, suggesting that it is a test of the following skills:

  • Close reading
  • Analytical method
  • Relevant essay writing skills
  • Constructing arguments
  • Originality
  • Precision

Originality is one of the skills that sometimes trips students up. If you go on to study history or a similar humanities subject like English Literature at university, having an original argument is something that will become vital.

Our top tip for demonstrating originality within your answers is to take a perspective. While almost everyone who sits the paper will understand what’s going on, originality comes when you express your own specific views and ideas within the exam. By paying attention to the skills the Oxford HAT examines, you’ll be much more prepared to construct an effective revision pathway.

How is the Oxford HAT Marked?

The Oxford HAT is marked out of 90, with your essay being scored on a range of factors. When accessing the HAT mark scheme for a previous year of the exam, you can see the categories that you are primarily scored on.

These categories are:

  • Historical Insight and Perceptiveness - Do you have an imaginative engagement with the text, pulling out historical inferences and critically reading them?
  • Comprehensive, Content, and Analysis - Demonstrate a mature and intellectual understanding of the text.
  • Use of Evidence - Always densely populate your answers with close references from the text to substantiate any of your ideas or arguments.
  • Coverage - Do you engage with a range of themes throughout?
  • Structure, organisation, and Relevance - The general flow of your answer, commenting on your essay structure and the themes you’ve chosen to explore throughout.
  • Presentation and Use of English - The depth and precision of your use of language. To score well, focus on a clear presentation with varied grammar, sentence structure, and vocab.

While these areas are all a part of the exam, they are not all weighted equally. In fact, the first three, historical insight, comprehensive, and use of evidence, and weighted 4, with coverage being a 3, structure being a 2, and use of English being weighted a 1.

Due to this, you must demonstrate strong essay writing skills that focus mainly on the first three sections in order to score well.

How to Prepare for the Oxford HAT Exam

The single most effective way of getting better at the Oxford HAT exam is to use past papers. Not only do past papers give you the chance to practise your skills, but when you work with a HAT tutor or history teacher that can mark your papers, you’ll be able to see exactly where you’re scoring well or need some improvement.

In this modern age, you can find a range of Oxford HAT exams online.

Past Papers for the Oxford HAT

There are a range of different Oxford HAT exams online that you can use for practice. As there is only one question per paper, you only have one opportunity per paper to test your skills. However, considering that the format of the question, the length of the source, and the style of writing that you need to produce is similar every year, these are a vital resource.

By working through Oxford HAT past papers, you’ll be able to practice the skills that you’ll be encountering in your exam. What’s more, considering that you can also find the mark scheme for each of these papers, you’re able to look at the skills that get you marks.

By focusing on each of these areas, you’re able to improve your exam technique over time and lead up towards scoring as well as possible on the Oxford HAT.

Final Thoughts

When attempting to get into Oxford University to study history, you’re going to have to perform as well as possible on the Oxford HAT exam. This history admissions test will put your analytical skills to the test, asking you to create a detailed, convincing, and perceptive argument in response to a source.

If you’re looking to give yourself the best possible advantage when it comes to taking the Oxford HAT, then we suggest that you work with an online HAT tutor. At TutorChase, all of our top HAT tutors have sat the Oxford HAT, performed extremely well, and gone on to study History at Oxford.

Working with an online HAT tutor will help you to finetune your skills, develop your critical thinking, and perform as well as possible when it comes to the day of your exam. Best of luck with your Oxford HAT!

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Professional tutor and Cambridge University researcher

Thomas Babb

Written by: Thomas Babb

Oxford University - PhD Mathematics

Thomas is a PhD candidate at Oxford University. He served as an interviewer and the lead admissions test marker at Oxford, and teaches undergraduate students at Mansfield College and St Hilda’s College. He has ten years’ experience tutoring A-Level and GCSE students across a range of subjects.

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