A Guide to the Thinking Skills Assessment

The Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) is listed as part of the entry requirements into some colleges. So, there is a probability you would be taking it if you are applying to Oxford, Cambridge, or University College London (UCL). The TSA exam is intended to evaluate your problem-solving, numerical reasoning, and critical thinking capabilities, which are crucial for university-level studies.

You may or may not have taken an exam with a TSA difficulty level or tackled a similar test of your intellectual dexterity in secondary school-level exams before. It is demanding and hard, but not impossible to pass. Consequently, you must prepare for it and discover practical tactics for smooth sailing.

That’s where Oxbridge tutoring comes in. Oxbridge TSA tutors can assist you in performing well in the TSA test because they have first-hand expertise with the exam content, tried-and-true approaches to the questions, and a grasp of how it fits into the larger admissions process to your university of choice. There are no safer hands!

TSA: Now to the “What”

Universities use TSA for application for a wide variety of subjects. It tests a student’s ability to think through problems and arguments, which helps show if they have the right skills for their chosen course. It also gives the universities relevant information about all applicants, enabling them to compare everyone fairly, regardless of educational background.
The test is not subject-specific, so there is no curriculum content to learn. Preparing for the test helps students develop thinking skills, which will be used in their future studies.

Which courses do I need the TSA for?

Oxford, Cambridge, and UCL are the three universities that require the TSA test. Let’s list out the courses.

Courses requiring TSA Oxford:

  • Geography
  • Economics and Management
  • Human Sciences
  • History and Economics
  • Experimental Psychology
  • Psychology and Linguistics
  • Psychology and Philosophy
  • Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE)
  • Philosophy and Linguistics

Courses requiring TSA UCL:

  • European Social and Political Studies (ESPS)
  • International Social and Political Studies (ISPS)

Course requiring TSA Cambridge:

  • Land Economy (But this is gradually being phased out as a requirement for Cambridge).

How is the TSA test structured?

Each university has its own ‘style’ or delivery of the TSA test. It lasts 2 hours at Oxford and 90 minutes at Cambridge and UCL.

It comprises two sections:

  • ·         Section 1 consists of 50 multiple-choice questions divided into problem-solving (or numerical reasoning) and critical thinking tasks. It is conducted by all three universities and lasts for 90 minutes.
  • ·         Section 2 is a writing task known as the TSA essay and is only taken at Oxford university. It lasts an extra 30 minutes to make up a total 2-hour span. The writing task is intended to gauge students' proficiency in communicating clearly and concisely in writing.

The TSA tests your ability to use critical thinking and mathematical reasoning whilst staying on task under time constraints. In section 1, you will have about 2 minutes to answer each question. Therefore it is crucial to practice quick comprehension skills under pressure. Similarly, you will only have 30 minutes to produce roughly 1,000 words for Section 2 of the TSA, so you must be able to translate complicated ideas into understandable written work swiftly.

What is the Scoring system?

As earlier highlighted, the first section of this exam is multiple-choice and awards 1 mark for every question answered correctly, making a maximum of 50 marks available to each candidate. Then, scores are determined using the TSA scale (about 0-100), which equalizes candidates' results by considering both the difficulty of each question and the test as a whole. The test is marked by an automated system, which makes remarking unnecessary.

Section 2, on the other hand, has a more subjective scoring system. These essays taken at the Oxford TSA are marked by individuals who neither have a ‘right’ nor ‘wrong’ answer listed for each question. An applicant’s score is based on their ability to convince the marker with a good argument.

What is a good score? There is no precise answer to that because the scores vary each year and depend on how well the applicants do. Despite this, the TSA scoring scale was designed so that applicants to the most competitive university programs in the UK would score around 60 on the exam (on a scale of 0 to 100).

Tips to consider while taking the Thinking Skills Assessment

Critical Thinking Tips

  • Read the passage carefully: Take enough time to read the short passage of text each question is based on carefully rather than skimming through.
  • Understand the argument the text is putting forward: Try to understand what the passage is trying to say before you answer the question.
  • Try several practice papers: Becoming familiar with the style of texts and the way the questions are asked will help you develop a feel for how to approach the test, which will help you answer the questions faster.

Problem-solving Tips

  • ·   Read the given information quickly and decide which parts are relevant to figuring out the solution.
  • ·   Don’t miss steps while working out your answer.
  • ·   Avoid slip-ups in mathematical calculations.
  • ·   ry practice papers to familiarize yourself with the question styles and how best to approach them.

How should I prepare?

Practice under timed constraints

Attempt as many 50 multiple-choice questions as possible within the 90-minute time frame. Running out of time is one of the issues students have in the TSA. Therefore it's crucial to practice being strict with your timing. Calculate how long it takes you to respond to each question as you practice answering past papers. The amount of time you devote to each question depends on your speed and skills. Set a limit you believe should be spent on each question. If you reach it, move to hit the next.

Seek help from a professional Oxbridge tutor

Considering how important this exam is, preparation is unquestionably essential. Sadly, institutions and colleges occasionally cannot offer specialist TSA tutoring to their applicants. Due to these challenges, professional TSA tutoring should be a viable option.

Working with Oxbridge tutors would increase your chances of getting into your chosen college. Not only would you gain invaluable independent study skills, but understanding more profound philosophical concepts would be a walk in the park.

Reach out to Oxbridge tutoring today.