It’s all about the TSA results!
The TSA results are the be-all and end-all of this process. They determine whether you are invited to interview along with other factors like your personal statement. Some colleges/courses operate a cut-off, so scoring highly is a must!
Section 1 scores 1 mark per question.
Your final section 1 score is calculated on a scale of 0-100, to one decimal place, on the TSA scale. This scale gives a good indication of the candidates ability, along with comparing with the average grade scored and difficult. The higher the difficulty of the questions, the higher the proportional score will be.
The scale has been designed so that typical applicants to the most highly selective undergraduate university courses in the UK (who are by definition academically very able) will score around 60.
The diagram below shows the distribution of scores for TSA results for each category.
The results are split into areas; Problem Solving and Critical Thinking.
As you can see, the majority of candidates score between 55 and 65 for each category. There is no hard cut-off score for acceptance to interview – sources from previous years have suggested no candidates to Oxford were invited to interview who scored below 63, but this depends on the average score achieved by the cohort.
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The next chart shows the overall score for 2017 candidates:
The test is fairly accurate in ensuring most candidates score approximately 60 – anything above 65 should be considered a good score and a very good shot at getting an interview, provided your personal statement and grades are good enough.
Section 2 essay marking
The essay is passed directly to Oxford tutors along with the data collected regarding the applicant’s marks for Section 1.
Individual tutors will have different ways of marking the writing task. Some may consider it in the same way they assess essay submissions from current undergraduates, whilst others may view it as a unique task and consider it under slightly different criteria. Similarly, some tutors may give the essay a numerical score, or a grade; others might provide more verbal feedback.
Regardless of unique marking styles, all tutors will be looking for the ability to organise ideas in a clear and concise manner, and to communicate them effectively in writing. The essay is not returned to applicants by the Admissions Testing Service, and is kept by tutors for reference throughout the application.