The TSA or (Thinking Skills Assessment) is a test that Oxford University requires applicants applying for certain courses to take.
These courses vary widely and include some of the most competitive course at the university, such as Economics and Management, PPE and Philosophy. So, why exactly do applicants have to take the TSA and what are the ‘Thinking Skills’ it tests?
The Thinking Skills
The basic structure of the TSA is split into 2 sections, first a thinking skills test and then a writing task. The ‘thinking skills’ are tested in section 1 with 50 multiple-choice questions to be done in 90 minutes. (More information about the structure of the exam can be found here:
The Thinking Skills are what Oxford consider to be the generic academic skills needed to successfully study an undergraduate or postgraduate course there. These include:
- Problem solving – the ability to create a solution to a numerical, spatial or logical problem
- Critical thinking – the ability to evaluate and understand an argument
It’s easy to see how these skills are essential in order to study a range of degree subjects. The TSA is therefore a chance for Oxford to assess how you tackle problems and how suitable you are for studying there. It’s also a chance for you to showcase to the admissions tutors that you can think quickly, critically and logically!
All of the courses at Oxford University are competitive to get onto 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!). As a consequence, the admissions tutors at Oxford introduced the TSA in order to help them differentiate between different applicants, who otherwise have very similar credentials. This means that the TSA is designed to be a hard exam in order to separate out a cohort of very bright students – don’t panic if you’re finding it hard!
A chance to try it out…
The TSA exam may seem like another annoying hurdle in your application to Oxford, but you should see the TSA as a great opportunity for you to see whether or not you’re well-suited to and would enjoy the course you’re applying for. The TSA was picked as the admissions assessment for certain courses because the admissions tutors believed that the thinking skills they test are integral to being successful in and enjoying the course.
Use the process of preparing for the TSA exam as a chance to test whether or not you would enjoy the course you’re applying for. And if it doesn’t feel right, at least you’ve found out with plenty of time to look for other options, instead of a week into actually starting the course!
The TSA exam is unlike any school exams, so it is very foreign to most students and tests a different range of skills.
It’s worth getting some support to prepare you for the TSA and allow you to perform to the best of your abilities on your test day. We’d suggest looking into some TSA courses, online courses or TSA tuition to help you. Good luck!