TSA Oxford | The Fast-track Online Guide to Success

The TSA, or Thinking Skills Assessment Oxford is an exam taken by those wishing to apply to certain undergraduate courses at the University of Oxford. It aims to help assess whether students possess the desired set of skills and abilities required for the following courses:

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

If you are looking at applying to one of these courses, or indeed already have, then read on for our top thinking skills assessment information and tips!


What do I need to know about the Thinking Skills Assessment test?

Here are a few things to bear in mind regarding the TSA:

    • Those applying for joint courses may need to take part or all of the thinking skills assessment test, and possibly another test for their other subject.
    • You are required to register separately for each test and subject.
    • For example, those applying to study History and Economics will need to take section 1 of the TSA. Those applying to study this course will also need to take the History Aptitude Test (HAT).
    • Calculators and dictionaries are not permitted.


The structure of the test

The full test is 2 hours long.

It is taken at the pre-interview stage in the application process.

The full TSA Oxford test consists of two sections.

1: The Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) – 90 minutes, 50 multiple choice questions.

2: A writing task – 30 minutes, answer one question from a choice of four.


Thinking Skills Assessment Answers, Marking and Results

Section 1 of the TSA is marked by an automated system. Answers are weighted by difficulty of each question and TSA scores are given on a scale of 0 to 99 to one decimal place.
Section 2 of the TSA is looked over by admissions tutors at the specific college that has been applied to.

The exact TSA score needed for interview is not published by the University, and will vary from year to year. The application as a whole will be taken into account including all other aspects of the process up to this point. This includes A-Level grades and UCAS application forms.

Competition is fierce for these places and as such there are no defined pass marks. Each candidate’s full history up to this point will be taken into account when coming to a final decision of whether to offer a place.


How do I prepare for the Thinking Skills Assessment?

We recommend that you look through some TSA test samples to get an idea of the kinds of things that will be required of you for the assessment.

You can find a full range of TSA Past Papers on the Cambridge Assessment admissions testing website.

You will notice from these that year on year both of the papers follow a very similar structure. Have a go at completing some of the TSA past papers under timed conditions and then afterwards mark them with the answer keys also provided on the website. This should give you a good indication of where you are with the questions and what you need to brush up on.

The types of skills that are assessed in the TSA are things like critical thinking and problem solving skills, as well as the ability to form an argument. Candidates will be tested on the way in which they can extract information from questions regarding a whole range of topics, some of which they may not already have studied or be aware of. It will also test candidate’s mathematical knowledge.

The Cambridge Assessment website also has a useful resource on the TSA Test Specification as a PDF download.

This will give you a chance to see how your ideas for responses to certain types of questions compare to the responses and explanations given.

We wish you the best of luck with your TSA exam!

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