Image credit: Cameron Samuel Keys

Disruptions plague Oxford online admissions tests

Applicants taking the University’s new online admission tests were plagued with technical difficulties yesterday. 

Students taking the English Literature Assessment Test (ELAT) could not log on to the platform, were kicked out during the test, or experienced ongoing crashes. 

Many encountered an error message stating “We would like to inform you that we are experiencing slowness in accessing the tests. We request you to wait for a few mins and we will let you know when things are back to normal. We assure you that students will not lose any test time”.

A parent on X, formerly known as Twitter, said the ELAT test was “delayed, going off line, losing annotations, even the exam question was wrong.”

The University has said it will not use results in awarding places for next year’s English courses. A spokesperson expressed that they “understand the difficulty and disappointment some UK students have experienced because of technical problems with online admissions tests.”

They also explained admissions tests make up “only one part of the admissions process”, and the University “will be having further talks with the provider to understand better why these problems occurred”.

Severe issues were also reported with the Mathematics Admission Test (MAT) required for computer science and maths, where candidates were not able to return to their tests. 

One user said they had “over 90 minutes [delay] plus ongoing glitches followed by the issuance of a paper version of the MAT after two hours.”

Applicants were due to take tests in physics, philosophy, modern languages and history using the same online platform. After the first day, test centres will receive the test beforehand and print it locally. 

This year, Oxford opted to use an online platform developed by Tata Consulting Services (TCS) for most of its admissions tests in an effort to fully transition away from using the Cambridge Assessment Admission Testing in 2024.

Only the Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) and Biomedical Assessment Test (BMAT) are still administered by the CAAT, using a paper-based format. 

Bill Watkin, the chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, told the Guardian that “The Oxford University admissions tests were beset by technical problems, largely a malfunctioning platform and inadequate support communications, and too many students were unable to take the test in a calm, orderly environment.

“The big concern is that the technology meltdown will have affected the performance of some candidates and not others and that the unlucky ones will miss out on their university dream.”