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Oxford moves towards digital admissions testing

Oxford’s unique admissions tests may be moving online as the University switches providers.

Long-time partner Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing (CAAT) has announced its decision to withdraw from administering Oxford’s admissions tests. From 2023 onwards, eight of the ten Oxford admissions tests will be delivered by Tata Consulting Services (TCS). These are the CAT (Classics), ELAT (English), MLAT (Modern Languages), OLAT (Oriental Languages), PAT (Physics), HAT (History), and Philosophy tests, which are all unique to Oxford.

The other two tests, the Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) and BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT), are used by multiple universities. CAAT will administer the TSA and BMAT for one more year, using a paper-based format, before withdrawing entirely from running any admissions tests used by Oxford.

In explaining its decision, CAAT said: “The bespoke tests are operationally unsustainable over the medium term, given their significant complexity and the need to deliver them affordably to students and higher education institutions”.

Oxford’s new partner TCS believes that the solution lies in a digital transformation. TCS is India’s second largest company by market capitalisation and widely regarded as a leader in information technology services.

Dr Samina Khan, Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach, said of the partnership: “This new agreement with TCS offers exciting opportunities for the future of our admissions testing, including the possibility of wholly digital delivery and marking. 

“I am confident that our new arrangement with TCS will help in time to modernise how the tests are delivered and over the coming months we will be consulting with a range of stakeholders, including students and schools and colleges, to ensure their views are considered throughout the development phase”.

Oxford’s webpage for admissions tests indicates that further details on new test arrangements, including the registration process, “will be available shortly”.

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