TSA Oxford – What is it and what do you need to know?
This year, the TSA Oxford exam was on the 31st October 2018. It most likely would have taken place at your local exam centre (often this is simply just your school). As covered by our other articles, the Thinking Skills Assessment is an entrance exam sat by many Oxbridge candidates as a prerequisite before interviews and forms a significant part of the selection criteria.
Whilst this years’ TSA Oxford exam has already passed, we have provided information on the format of the exam, who needs to sit the test and why it’s an important part to the Oxford admissions process.
The Format of the TSA
The Thinking Skills Assessment is a two-hour exam comprised of two sections:
Section 1 – A multiple choice exam (90 minutes) that tests your verbal and non-verbal reasoning. Questions fall into the camp of either problem solving or critical thinking skills questions. More detail regarding the critical thinking skills section of the TSA is provided in this other article.
Section 2 – This is a short essay (30 minutes) in which a candidate writes an essay on a given topic which will usually be unfamiliar to them.
As we have already covered how to prepare for both these sections, in this article, we cover Oxford-specific details of the TSA exam, where taking the exam is far more commonplace than at other institutions.
Who sits the TSA Oxford Exam?
Nowadays, the vast majority of Oxford applicants are subjected to an entrance exam; it is the case that there are many candidates with stellar GCSEs, A-levels, and personal statements, thus an extra assessment is used to differentiate between the candidates.
For the following subjects, this test is the TSA:
Economics and Management
Philosophy, Politics, and Economics
Psychology, Philosophy, and Linguistics
Chemistry (Section 1 Only)
History and Economics (Section 1 Only)
Note that Chemistry and History & Economics require candidates to only sit the first part of the TSA Oxford paper!
How important is the TSA exam?
The Oxford admissions process is a holistic one; a wide range of your academic performances are considered, including exam scores, interview performance and, of course, the TSA score. Performance in the TSA is hence not entirely indicative of a candidate’s success.
Furthermore, different subjects weight the TSA exam differently. Many subjects require you to sit other entrance exams too, such as the MLAT or the HAT, which will clearly be considered too. Chemistry has only recently introduced the TSA Section 1 exam, and as such the University of Oxford has released the following statement:
‘The University of Oxford can advise that the TSA is being used to enable us to recognise candidates who we wish to shortlist, but whom we would not normally have interviewed. At this stage, we will not use it to exclude candidates.’
Amy Foster, FOI Oxford
It is also the case that the average TSA scores of shortlisted and successful candidates will vary by subject. Successful candidates for 2017 entry for Chemistry scored 64, whilst PPE candidates scored 70+ for 2018 entry. This is due to a combination of the TSA’s weighting as well as a reflection of the subject’s competitiveness.
The TSA Oxford is an area of the admissions process that applicants understandably worry about. It is quite different from anything that has been encountered before! Whilst the questions may seem foreign at this stage, it is a case of cultivating the required skill set through practice. It is worth reading a full overview of the TSA to get to grips with each section and the questions that might come up.
Take the TSA with Confidence
UniAdmissions and our team of expert tutors help students refine and demonstrate their skill set so that they’re confident on the test day for all aspects of the TSA exam. We have dedicated two specific packages to the training and tuition of taking this test. Find a choice between an intensive full-day course where, in less than 12 hours, you will be prepped with all the essential information you need to know to successfully pass the test. Or, if you work better learning over a longer period of time and you would like personal tuition on how to tackle the exam questions, our TSA tuition may be more up your street.
More information on the available packages can be found when you get in touch with UniAdmisssions.
Why Does Oxford use the TSA?
Now you know that Oxford asks candidates who wish to study the subjects above to take the TSA as part of their applications, but do you know why? In this little blog, we explain the reasoning behind the Thinking Skills Assessment and how it tests to see if you are a suitable candidate to become a student at Oxford.