TSA Oxford: The Basics of the Oxford Admissions Test

TSA Oxford - What is it and what do you need to know? As we have discussed in other articles, the Thinking Skills Assessment is an admissions test that many Oxbridge candidates sit as a prerequisite for interviews. We describe the format of the test, who should take it and why it is an important part of the Oxford admissions process.

Author: Zayra Morales

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TSA Oxford – What is it and what do you need to know?

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 the test forms a significant part of the selection criteria. In this article we outline the format of the exam, who needs to sit the test and why it’s an important part of the Oxford admissions process.

What is The Format of the Oxford TSA?

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. 


Economics and Management and History and Economics applicants only take Section 1.

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.


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. All of the courses at Oxford University are competitive to get into and all applicants have strong academic records which consist mostly of A’s and A*’s (for a few courses last year, 90% of applicants had all A* predictions at A level).

The TSA is required for the following subjects:

How important is the TSA exam for Oxford Admissions?

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 not entirely indicative of a candidate’s success.

It isn’t uncommon to have the TSA referred to in your interview. You may be asked how you think the test went, or they may disclose your score to you. In Oxford interviews, you may be asked about the content of the essay you wrote. It’s used to gain a better understanding of how you think.

Furthermore, different subjects weigh 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. 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 PPE candidates often score around 70 which is a high TSA score. This is due to a combination of the TSA’s weighting as well as a reflection of the subject’s competitiveness.

Final Words

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. We wish you the best of luck with the TSA!

Looking to boost your TSA score and chances of getting into Oxford?

The UniAdmissions TSA Programme will rapidly boost your score and triple your chances of succeeding in your application.

Our expert tutors will guide you through past papers in mock exam scenarios so that you are well-prepared by the time your exam comes around. UniAdmissions helps students refine and hone their abilities so that they’re exam-ready on test day for all aspects of the TSA exam.

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