Introduction to the Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA)


What is the TSA?


The TSA, or Thinking Skills Assessment, is designed to test whether you have the problem solving and critical thinking skills which are crucial for your university studies.

It is used by Cambridge, Oxford and UCL (University College London).

The test varies in style and length depending on which university and course you are applying to, however, they all test similar skills in critical thinking and problem solving.

In this blog we will give you a brief breakdown of the TSA for Cambridge, Oxford and UCL.

Thinking Skills Assessment Multiple Choice Papers and Clock


Thinking Skills Assessment Cambridge


The University of Cambridge first introduced the thinking skills assessment in 2001 and it was used in the admissions process for a number of higher education courses, however it is now only used for applications to the Land Economy course.

It is a 90 minute multiple choice test, with a total of 50 questions, awarding one mark per question.

The skills that the Cambridge TSA test are:

  • Spatial reasoning;
  • Numerical reasoning;
  • Critical thinking (reasoning and understanding arguments).

The test will be sat at the college which the candidate has applied to.

The results will go straight to the college, not to the candidate.

See here for more information on the entry requirements for the Cambridge Land Economy Course TSA.


Thinking Skills Assessment Oxford


The University of Oxford use the thinking skills assessment for a range of courses, as below:

  • Economics and Management
  • Experimental Psychology
  • Geography
  • Human Sciences
  • Philosophy and Linguistics
  • Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE)
  • Psychology and Linguistics
  • Psychology and Philosophy.

It is a two hour test and will be sat before an interview takes place in the admissions process.

The Oxford TSA is split into the following two sections:

  • Section 1: Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA);
  • Section 2: Writing Task.

The TSA tests the same skills as the Cambridge TSA. The writing task looks at candidate’s written ability and their ability to communicate ideas and concepts clearly. They are not specific to the subject to which students are applying to.

However, those who apply to chemistry, history and economics will not be required to sit the writing test.

Students will generally sit the test in their own college or school.

See here for more information on the University of Oxford undergraduate entry requirements.


Thinking Skills Assessment UCL


Similar to the Cambridge thinking skills assessment, for UCL candidates sit a 90 minute exam made up of 50 multiple choice questions.

For University College London, this test must be taken by those applying to the European Social and Political Studies course (ESPS).

It tests the same skills as the other TSA’s (critical thinking and problem solving.)

Again, results will be forwarded to the college rather than the candidate.

See here for more information on the UCL entry requirements for ESPS




The TSA Website has further information, as well as practice TSA tests.

Good luck with your tests!

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