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About the TSA

The Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) test is used by three different academic institutions: Oxford, Cambridge, and UCL. The format of the test varies from institution to institution.

The Cambridge and UCL tests have a 90-minute time limit and contain 50 additional multiple-choice questions (divided evenly between two main question types, which are problem-solving and critical thinking).

The TSA Oxford Test has an additional 30-minute writing task in which candidates have to write an essay (there are four options available for the essay). The purpose of this section is to measure your ability to organize your thoughts and ideas, and express them in a clear, concise manner.

TSA Oxford

The TSA as administered at Oxford in its full version includes two papers: A paper test with 50 multiple-choice questions and an essay writing task. Moreover, the test is used to choose candidates for any of the following programs: Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, Economics and Management, Experimental Psychology, Psychology, or Philosophy.

TSA Cambridge

Most programs and departments at Cambridge use the multiple-choice section of the test. Primarily the test is used for admission into the politics, psychology, and sociology programs, among others. For this purpose, you are only required to take the critical thinking section of the test (which consists only of 25 questions). 


Much like in Cambridge, the European Social and Political Studies at the University College London also requires the multiple-choice section of the TSA for the application process.

TSA Problem Solving Questions

As a whole, the TSA contains 25 problem-solving questions. You will be presented with questions that demand numerical and spatial skills and have to think of a way to reason using those skills. This section is divided into three groups, the groups are relevant selection, finding procedures, and identifying similarity.

  • Relevant Selection – In this group of questions, you need to isolating information from a data set. The data is presented by a graph or a table, often big in order to confuse you with irrelevant information. Therefore, to succeed in this portion, you need to learn how to separate crucial information, and find the information necessary to answer specific questions.
  • Finding Procedures – In this group of questions, you face a problem and need to think of a method in which you use the information and find a solution. On average, you use three different sources of information and through different operations arrive to the desired answer.
  • Identifying Similarity – In this group of questions, you are presented with a situation and have to choose among the answers a situation that has a similar structure to the one given.

Critical Thinking Questions

These questions are based on analysis of passages. You will be presented with a passage of 120 to 150 words and will be asked questions related to it. The questions may require you todo any of the following:

  • Summarize the main conclusion: “Which of the following best expresses the main conclusion of the above argument?” To find the answer, you will need to read the entire passage and extract its meaning while searching for its connection. After that, choose the answer choice that has a similar relation to the structure of the paragraphs.
  • Drawing a Conclusion: “Which one of the following conclusions is best supported by the passage above?” Here, you need to consider all the answer choices and understand whether they are justified and follow from the passage or not.
  • Identifying an Assumption: “Which of the following is an underlying assumption of the argument above?” An assumption is not directly stated in an argument, but rather taken to get to the conclusion. Ask yourself what the conclusion is to find the underlying argument. For this, it is important to draw main points of arguments and then decide which one supports the conclusion.
  • Assessing the Impact of Additional Evidence: “Which of the following, if true, would most weaken the above argument?”. Approach this question by understanding first what the argument is and evaluating the impact the answer choices have on the argument.
  • Detecting Reasoning Errors: “Which of the following is the best statement of the flaw in the argument above?” Analyze the argument, try to understand why the conclusion does not follow from the argument, and approach the options to find the one directed at the same flaw.
  • Matching Arguments: “Which of the following most closely parallels the reasoning used in the above argument?” The similarity of the arguments is not centered on topic, but on the structure or pattern of the argument. Extract the basic structure of the argument by exchanging the subjects to single letters, since the content of the argument is not important.
  • Applying Principles: “Which one of the following best illustrates the principle underlying the argument above?” First, identify the principle of the argument by summarizing the passage, and then searching through the options for one that matches with the same underlying principle.

Prep for the TSA with TestPrep-Online!

To succeed on this exam, you will need to be in full control of arithmetic operations, fractions, number theory, percentages, etc. The test focuses on information found in everyday life such as dates, time, money, weight, height, measurements, and conversion. You will also have to exhibit strong writing and analysis abilities.

To effectively prepare for the exam, both in terms of content and testing format, we recommend giving our brand new TSA Practice Pack a try: Our pack comes equipped with two full-length practice exams, several practice drills, tips, and score reports, allowing you to pinpoint and improve ability and skill before the exam.


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