What is the GAT? Your Guide to the Oxford Geography Admissions Test

5 min read
A desk globe on the table - helpful in preparation for GAT for admissions in Oxford Geography courses.

Comprehensive guide about what GAT is & how to prepare for it. Image Source: Unsplash

What is GAT?

Have you set your sights on pursuing a captivating journey into the realm of Geography for your undergraduate studies? The Geography Admissions Test (GAT) is your gateway to this exciting academic expedition. Designed to gauge your aptitude in critical thinking, problem-solving, and essay composition, the GAT is an essential component of your application to top-tier institutions, such as the esteemed University of Oxford. 

Let’s delve into the intricacies of the GAT, uncovering its purpose, format, preparation strategies, and more.

Why the GAT?

“Why do we have a Geography Admissions Test?” you might wonder. 

The answer lies in the multifaceted nature of Geography. This captivating discipline encompasses far more than just memorising maps; it requires the ability to analyse complex interactions between the physical environment, human societies, and the intricate connections between them. 

The GAT was conceived to assess your readiness to embark on this academic journey, ensuring that you possess the cognitive skills necessary to thrive in this dynamic field.

Who is Required to Take the GAT?

The GAT is mandatory for all applicants seeking admission to the Geography programme at Oxford University.

Cost and Considerations

As an aspiring geography scholar, you might wonder, “Do I have to pay to take the GAT?” The answer depends on your chosen institution. 

While the University of Oxford offers the Geography Admissions Test (GAT) as part of the application process with no additional cost, some test centres may require a modest fee. It’s essential to check the specific requirements of the institutions you’re applying to, ensuring that you are well-prepared both intellectually and financially.

1-1 GAT Tuition
GAT tutoring including personalised support, individualised study plan and regular progress updates

What Essential Skills are Required for GAT?

The GAT is meticulously designed to assess a trio of crucial skills that underpin success in Geography and beyond:

a) Cultivating Critical Thinking:

In the ever-evolving landscape of Geography, the ability to critically analyse information is paramount. The Geography Admissions Test (GAT) evaluates your capacity to dissect complex concepts, discern patterns, and draw meaningful conclusions, all of which are fundamental in addressing the intricate challenges posed by our world.

b) Navigating Problem-Solving Waters: 

Geography is rife with intricate problems that demand innovative solutions. The GAT tests your problem-solving prowess, gauging your aptitude for tackling real-world issues through a geographical lens. Your capacity to identify, evaluate, and propose resolutions to these challenges is a cornerstone of success in this discipline.

c) Crafting Compelling Essays:

Akin to a skilled cartographer mapping uncharted territories, the GAT assesses your ability to navigate the landscape of essay writing in response to unseen material. You’ll be presented with thought-provoking prompts that necessitate coherent and insightful compositions. This skill is vital not only for academic success but also for effective communication in your future endeavours. 

A person pointing at a map with pinned locations - focus GAT preparations on analysing real-world problems through a geographical lens.

GAT evaluates your critical thinking, problem-solving, and written communication skills. Image Source: Unsplash

How is the GAT Structured?

The Geography Admissions Test (GAT) follows a computer-based format that lasts 1 hour and 45 minutes. It comprises three distinct components, each offering a unique insight into your geographical acumen:

Part A: Critical Thinking (Approx. 30 minutes)

In this segment, your critical thinking prowess takes centre stage. Comprising two subsections, this part requires reading a passage followed by sets of multiple-choice questions that gauge your comprehension and analytical skills.

Focus your GAT Preparations to showcase your understanding of concepts, theories, and practical applications through these thought-provoking questions.

Part B: Problem-Solving (Approx. 30 minutes)

In this segment, you’ll confront complex geographical challenges that demand analytical thinking and creative problem-solving. Demonstrating your ability to decipher intricate issues, you’ll increase the chance of gaining a good GAT score. 

This part also has two sub-sections. You’ll analyse a set of information and respond to multiple-choice questions in 30 minutes.

PART C: Essay Composition (Approx. 45 minutes)

The final leg of your GAT journey beckons you to showcase your essay-writing finesse. This section assesses your aptitude for crafting compelling essays rooted in critical analysis and structured argumentation. You’ll engage with unseen materials, synthesising information to present a coherent narrative. 

You’ll read a passage and answer an essay question. Allocate the remaining time to complete this section, approximately 45 minutes.

What is a Good GAT Score?

Since the Geography Admissions Test (GAT) is a newly introduced test for 2023 applicants, historical admissions statistics are not available yet to determine average GAT scores. 

We advise applicants to simply give their best effort on the test and aim for excellence! Your dedication and performance on the paper are what truly matter.

Multiple maps lying on top of one another - resources for GAT preparations

GAT helps assess your comprehension and analytical skills. Image Source: Unsplash

GAT Readiness: Focus on Skills, Not Content

The GAT evaluates essential skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, and data interpretation, prioritising these over specific content knowledge.

While the test doesn’t align with a particular school syllabus, the skills assessed are akin to those taught in A-level (or equivalent) Geography courses. Utilise your school studies to practice these skills effectively. 

Engage with a diverse array of geographical literature, ranging from academic texts to contemporary articles

Foster your critical thinking and analytical skills by dissecting complex issues, forming your own perspectives, and engaging in thought-provoking discussions. 

Practice essay writing to hone your ability to convey your insights eloquently and persuasively during GAT Preparations

Consider engaging with online resources, mock tests, and study groups to increase your scores in each facet of the Geography Admissions Test (GAT).

Identifying suitable tasks for skill practice might be challenging, but our adept tutors, experienced in guiding students through various qualifications, are here to help bridge knowledge gaps.

Eyeglasses on a map photo - a person holding a pen interpreting data & preparing for GAT.

Focus on critical thinking & problem-solving skills during GAT preparations for admissions in Oxford. Image Source: Unsplash

GAT Registration Details for 2023

How to Register for the GAT

To take the Geography Admissions Test (GAT), candidates need to follow a clear registration process. The test date for 2023 is set for October 19th, requiring all applicants to participate on this specific day. 

Test Date for 2023: October 19th

This date might coincide with half term, but the advance notice should ideally allow schools and colleges to accommodate the test. 

It’s important to note that missing this date would forfeit the opportunity to take the GAT on an alternate day, potentially affecting your application’s consideration.

What is the Deadline for GAT Registration?

For successful GAT participation in 2023, applicants must register between September 1st and September 29th to secure a spot for the test. 

While applicants cannot register individually, they must be registered through an official test centre. Usually, this centre will be the applicant’s school or college. However, if not, registration can be arranged through an open test centre. 

For a comprehensive understanding of the registration process, visit the Oxford University GAT page.

Deadline for Registration: September 29th

Ensure that all your details are submitted to the test centre and that you receive your candidate entry number (the proof of registration) by midnight on September 29th. 

If you encounter extenuating circumstances beyond your control that hindered timely registration, promptly inform the Oxford college you applied to, explaining your situation. Your diligence in adhering to registration guidelines will set you on the path to a successful GAT experience.

As you embark on your GAT odyssey, remember that it’s not only a test but a voyage of self-discovery and intellectual growth. The GAT is your compass, guiding you towards the shores of academic excellence and a rewarding journey through the captivating landscape of Geography. So, embrace the challenge, prepare diligently, and set sail towards a future enriched by the wonders of geographical exploration.


1. What role does the GAT play in my application to a Geography undergraduate programme?

The GAT is a crucial component of your application, offering universities insights into your critical thinking, problem-solving, and essay-writing skills. It goes beyond testing mere factual knowledge, showcasing your readiness to excel in the multidimensional field of Geography.

2. How can I enhance my problem-solving skills specifically for the GAT?

To sharpen your problem-solving abilities, immerse yourself in real-world geographical issues. Engage with case studies, analyse spatial data, and attempt to devise innovative solutions. This hands-on approach will prepare you to tackle advanced problem-solving questions with confidence.

3. Can I prepare for the GAT by solely memorising geographical facts and concepts?

While factual knowledge is valuable, the GAT delves deeper, assessing your capacity to analyse, synthesise, and communicate. Instead of focusing solely on memorisation, invest time practising critical analysis, forming independent viewpoints, and refining your essay-writing skills to excel in all test sections.

4. Are there specific time management strategies for the GAT’s multiple components?

Indeed, effective time management is essential. Consider allocating a proportional amount of time to each section based on its weightage. Begin with the multiple-choice questions to secure foundational marks, then proceed to advanced problem-solving and finally dedicate ample time for crafting well-structured essays.

5. Is the GAT a mandatory requirement for all Geography undergraduate programmes?

The GAT requirement varies among institutions. While some universities, like the University of Oxford, include the GAT as part of the application process, others might not. It’s crucial to review the admission requirements of the specific institutions you’re applying to and determine whether the GAT is required for your chosen programme.

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