#### Last updated

#### July 31, 2024

# How to Prepare for the ESAT

ESAT#### By

#### Amelia Calladine

If you are taking the ESAT in the October sitting, the best time to start preparing for the ESAT is shortly after Year 12 exams or at the start of the summer holiday. If you plan to take the test in the January sitting (this is not suitable if you are applying to Cambridge), then you may still benefit from thinking about the ESAT during the summer, but the majority of your preparation may understandably come later in the year.

Your preparation strategy will depend on when you start and the amount of time available for study: it is sensible to create a plan outlining which resources you are going to use and the amount of time it will take. The content of the test will vary considerably from student to student, depending on their chosen test sections, so preparation strategies will be individual. We suggest the following outline.

#### 1. Things to Memorise

There is a significant amount of content to learn for the ESAT. Up to three different subjects may be covered in a single exam (depending on module choices), and a formula booklet is not provided, so revising all of the relevant material isn't a small task. We recommend working through the relevant sections of the ESAT specification point by point, taking note of the required formulae and ensuring that you understand every point. This is especially important because you likely won't have revisited some of the content since GCSE level, such as circle theorems and some aspects of thermal physics. GCSE and A Level textbooks, revision guides, notes from school, or reliable website will be useful resources for this.

It is also important to note that the ESAT is a non-calculator test. Students tend to become dependent on their calculator during A Level courses, so all students should spend some time re-familiarising themselves with non-calculator arithmetic, such as methods for multiplying large numbers quickly and accurately. It will also be very useful to memorise the following

- Times tables up to 15
- Square numbers up to 20
^{2} - Cube numbers up to 10
^{3}

Aside from the fact that you might need to know e.g. 18^{2} as part of a computation, spotting that something is itself a square or cube number can itself be very helpful, and is only possible if you have memorised the first few squares and cubes.

#### 2. Taught Resources

All students can benefit from using taught resources (as opposed to past papers) in their preparation for the ESAT, ideally before attempting past papers (or alongside past papers for students starting their preparation later). It allows students to encounter problem solving concepts or techniques in a 'neutral' setting first, and avoid associating them with a particular topic or question type. A further benefit is that a good taught programme will pre-empt challenges that haven’t appeared in previous papers, but are likely to appear in future. Although the ESAT tests A Level knowledge, there is a ‘shadow syllabus’ of exam specific ideas that prominently feature. Some taught resources will help students to become familiar with these ideas.

Good taught resources for the ESAT are not widely available yet, because it is a new admissions test in 2024. You might find your own resources helpful as you work through the ESAT specification, such as textbooks or revision guides. If you don't have your own, a school or public library might have additional resources containing exam-style questions which may be of some use. There are slightly more options for students taking Mathematics 2 as one of their ESAT sections, because there are many well-established mathematics-focused admissions tests, with some good free resources available. Of course, these resources aren't tailored to the ESAT, but they provide additional resources for questions require an element of problem solving:

- The Oxford MAT Livestream is a good entry-level course and may be of some use to students taking Mathematics 2. It covers revision of some key topics, in addition to MAT past paper walkthroughs.
- ‘STEP, MAT, TMUA: Skills for Success in University Admissions Tests for Mathematics’, published by Hodder Education, may be useful for students preparing for the Mathematics. It is a good option for students who have a limited access to paid resources and may be available to borrow from school or public libraries. Be wary when purchasing admissions test books for mathematics: many are of a very poor quality.

At Vantage, we offer a comprehensive, pre-recorded course tailored to the ESAT. The **ESAT Primer Course** is a course of up to 16 lessons, designed to give students the strongest possible foundations for their ESAT preparation. The course was authored by university admissions specialists Rowan Wright and Patrick Seargeant, covering Mathematics 1, Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics 2. Each lesson is approximately 90 minutes long in video form (full course notes are also provided) and provides a thorough, systematic introduction to themes and concepts that frequently recur in ESAT questions. A comprehensive worksheet accompanies each lesson, which students should complete to ensure mastery of the content and exposure to the full range of tricks that can be required. To learn more about our **ESAT Programme**, please visit our ESAT page.

#### 3. Past Papers

There are two sets of ESAT practice materials available, released on the Pearson VUE website. We recommend saving these to take in timed conditions, shortly before the exam. They are most valuable as a way to become familiar with the computer-based test platform. The questions themselves are mostly taken from past papers of the NSAA or ENGAA.

NSAA and ENGAA were used in science and engineering admissions from 2016 to 2023, so they are the most relevant and useful practice materials available. TMUA papers (with the exception of questions on logic, proof, and the trapezium rule) are also very good resources for students taking Mathematics 2.

Students should carefully plan how they will use the past papers. They should determine how many hours they have available for study, work out how many years of papers they have time to complete, then start with the oldest and work towards the most recent. We estimate that it takes approximately 4 hours to completely study a past paper following our recommended structure:

We address the complicated issue of past papers in more detail in the article: 'Which Past Papers Should I Use for the ESAT?'. The article explains in detail which questions should be completed from each paper (to avoid unnecessary repetition), our suggested order of paper completion, and our recommended approach to completing and reviewing past papers.

#### 4. Individual Tuition

All students can benefit from individual tuition with specialist tutors who are very familiar with the ESAT. It can provide a unique opportunity to troubleshoot doubts arising from either taught resources or past papers. It provides an opportunity for students to explore questions further, pursue their own interests, and – most importantly – ask questions. Further to understanding a successful solution to a problem, it is also very important to understand why a particular approach didn’t work, which is uniquely well-served by one-to-one discussion. Individual discussion also builds students’ confidence considerably, in preparation for interviews. We work with expert tutors from a range of specialisms at Vantage.

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For more information about our ESAT Programme, please visit our ESAT page.