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TSA (Thinking Skills Assessment)
Students seeking admission to some of the UK’s leading universities may be required to sit an assessment known as the TSA (Thinking Skills Assessment). This psychometric test is specifically designed to ensure applicants have the required skills to succeed in higher education and beyond.
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Most applicants to the University of Oxford will also complete a writing task as part of their TSA, though some degree subjects are exempt from this section. You’ll be told in advance whether or not the writing task applies to your chosen course.
This is an essay assignment in which you’ll choose one of four question prompts to formulate a response to. You’ll be given 30 minutes in which to complete your essay, with a maximum count of 750 words.
The question prompts given will not be subject specific so, just like the rest of the TSA, no prior knowledge is required. You will however need to show a strong ability to formulate opinions based on sound arguments and to express these in a clear, concise manner.
Top tips to prepare for and pass the TSA
1) Read the TSA question guide
The TSA question guide is available for free online and walks you through the various skills under assessment, as well as providing example questions and answer explanations for each question type. Study these carefully to get to grips with the nature of each question, and the type of logic that needs to be applied.
2. Brush up on fundamental maths skills
Though the TSA is not a maths test, numerical reasoning questions do require you to apply basic mathematical knowledge, so spend some time working on your skills here. Key areas to focus on include interpreting tables and graphs, quantities, number concepts like fractions and percentages and numerical operations including addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and averages.
3. Complete past papers and practice tests
Familiarity with the test format is essential, so make use of the past papers provided for the TSA online. It’s also important to remember that, although these skills are inherent, they will develop the more you apply them. The type of practice tests useful for the TSA includes numerical reasoning, verbal reasoning and logical reasoning. Take these under timed conditions to practice working at speed with accuracy.
4. Always take your best guess
There is no negative marking in the TSA, which means that you won’t be scored down for any incorrect answers. With that in mind, it’s always better to take a well informed guess, rather than leaving a question blank. The multiple choice nature of the assessment means you stand a one in five chance of selecting the right answer, even if you’re completely stumped by the question.
5. Use your time wisely
You only have 90 minutes in which to work through 50 questions, so try and allocate a set amount of time to each. Generally speaking, questions get harder as the test progresses, so you may want to consider allowing more time per question towards the end of the assessment.
How is the TSA scored?
For the standard TSA, one mark is given per correct answer to provide a raw score, which is then converted to a scaled score ranging from 0 to 100. Scaling is used to enable comparisons between students that have taken different versions of the test. Scoring for the written task on the Oxford TSA is completed by a qualified tutor.
What is a good TSA score?
The majority of test-takers will achieve a score of around 60 for the standard TSA. This signals the high level of academic ability required of applicants to Oxford, Cambridge and UCL. A score of 70 may be seen as competitive, with scores of 80 and above achieved only by an exceptional few.
Where is the TSA taken?
You must sit the TSA at an authorised test centre, which may be your own school or college, or an authorised open test centre in your local area if your school is not registered to administer the test. Your school’s exam officer will be able to advise you here.
What do I need to complete the TSA?
In most cases the test centre will provide you with a computer through which to take your TSA, but you will be advised if you need to bring your own. Note that calculators are not permitted, nor are any learning materials or preparation notes.
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