ECAA or TSA, Which Should I Take?

Are you interested in economics, wondering which degrees require the TSA or curious about what the ECAA means? We explain the two entrance exams, which universities require it and which degrees require the specific test. You will learn that Cambridge is not just about taking the ECAA and that the TSA is not just an entrance test for Oxford.

Author: Rob Needleman

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Interested in Economics, wondering which degrees require the TSA or curious to know what the ECAA stands for? 

If you have questions, we have you covered. We outline the two Admissions Tests, which universities require it and which degrees ask for the specific test. You’ll learn that Cambridge does not just mean taking the ECAA and the TSA is not an Oxford only Admissions Test. 

What is the ECAA?

The Economics Admissions Assessment (ECAA) is a two hour written exam for students applying for Economics. 

 

The test is used to identify an applicant’s suitability for an academically demanding degree. The questions are aimed to test the applicant’s reasoning and mathematical knowledge applied to unfamiliar contexts. Our ECAA article gives you an in-depth explanation of the Admissions Test here.

 

The ECAA is thought of as a difficult Admissions Test. This is to help differentiate between able applicants who have achieved top grades at school. The majority of economics applicants score in excess of 90% in their A level subjects.

ECAA Structure:

 

The ECAA consists of two sections:

Section 1: multiple-choice assessment with 20 mathematics questions and 20 advanced mathematics questions. The time allowed for Section 1 is 60 minutes.

Section 2: extended essay responding to an excerpt from a text. The time allowed for Section 2 is 60 minutes.

ecaa-timing

ECAA Scoring and Results

 

In Section 1, each correct answer scores 1 mark and is scored on a scale of 1.0 to 9.0. No marks are deducted for incorrect answers. Results for Part A and Part B are reported separately. Most students score between 3.0-5.0 on Section 1A and the strongest candidates score over 6.0. This is the same with Section 1B but you should aim for 6.5 to stand out from other applicants. 

In Section 2, the essay is assessed from the quality of the student’s reasoning, and ability to construct a reasoned, insightful and logically consistent argument with clarity and precision. The essay is scored by individual Cambridge colleges so we can’t comment on the average score or result. 

What is the TSA?

The Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) is a two-hour aptitude test split up into a 90-minute, multiple-choice Thinking Skills Assessment and a 30-minute writing task for a number of different degrees including Politics and Economics and Geography. 

 

The TSA aims to assess problem-solving skills, including numerical and spatial reasoning; critical thinking skills, including the ability to understand an argument; and the ability to reason using everyday language. 

 

The test is used because applicants tend to be very closely matched on paper, with the majority of applicants receiving all A–A* grades and top marks at GCSEs. Applicants are also likely to have great Personal Statements and excellent references so it is difficult to differentiate between candidates. We explain why the test is used in more depth in our TSA Overview article. 

TSA Structure

 

The TSA consists of two sections:

Section 1: consists of 50 multiple-choice questions and assesses problem-solving skills, critical thinking skills, and the ability to reason using everyday language. The time allowed for this section is 90 minutes. 

Section 2: is a writing task, that evaluates an applicants ability to organise ideas and communicate them effectively in writing. Applicants answer one question from a choice of four and the time allowed for this section is 30 minutes.

tsa-test-structure

TSA Scoring and Results

 

Section 1 is marked by a computer and scored on a scale of 1-100. The average score for an applicant to Cambridge is in the high 50s. Only around 10% of students score above 70.

 

Section 2 (for Oxford only) is marked by the college you are applying for; the mark is at their discretion. The “mark scheme” will vary from admissions tutor to admissions tutor but regardless of marking style, all the tutors are looking for the ability to organise ideas in a clear and concise manner.

Which universities require the ECAA or TSA?

The ECAA is only used by Cambridge University for Undergraduate Economics. The TSA is used by University College London, Oxford University and Cambridge University. The TSA test is used differently for each university which is explained below:

UCL TSA

Degree:

  • R990 European Social and Political Studies (ESPS)
  • LV01 International Social and Political Studies (ISPS)

 

Structure:

Section 1 only, problem-solving, numerical and spatial reasoning, critical thinking skills and reasoning using everyday language (50 multiple-choice questions, 90 minutes).

 

Scoring and results:

1 mark per question, scores are calculated on a TSA scale to one decimal place (0-100 scale). The scale estimates an applicants ability by factoring in the question and overall test difficulty using the Rasch statistical technique. Marking of the TSA is automated and results are not released directly to applicants but instead sent to UCL. 

Oxford TSA

Degree:

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

 

Structure:

Section 1, problem-solving, numerical and spatial reasoning, critical thinking skills and reasoning using everyday language (50 multiple-choice questions, 90 minutes) and Section 2, organised, concise written communication essay (1 question, 30 minutes).

Economics and Management or History and Economics applicants will be required to only take Section 1.

 

Scoring and results:

Section 1 is 1 mark per question and scored on a scale of 1-100. Section 2 is marked by the college you are applying for; the mark is at their discretion.

oxford-univeristy-rad-cam

Cambridge TSA

Degree:

  • Land Economy (KL41)

 

Structure:

Section 1 only, problem-solving, numerical and spatial reasoning, critical thinking skills and reasoning using everyday language (50 multiple-choice questions, 90 minutes).

 

Scoring and results:

1 mark per question, scores are calculated on a TSA scale to one decimal place (0-100 scale). The scale estimates an applicants ability by factoring in the question and overall test difficulty using the Rasch statistical technique. Marking of the TSA is automated and results are released via the Results Online system.

cambridge-university

Final words

Cambridge does not just mean taking the ECAA and the TSA is not an Oxford only Admissions Test. Make sure you look up your course code and see which Admissions Test you need to revise for. Be prepared for the test to be difficult too, you can blame the high standard of applicants that apply for Oxbridge and UCL degrees. This means preparing early for the ECAA or TSA to get the best results.

Looking to study Economics at Oxford or Cambridge?

At UniAdmissions, we are experts at maximising your chances of gaining a place to study Economics at Oxford and Cambridge. We provide TSA and ECAA specialised support to help you craft the perfect application.

 

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