Thinking Skills Assessment

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The Thinking Skills Assessment (also known as TSA) is a generic admissions test, which is used as part of the admissions process for entry to some undergraduate courses at the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford and University College London.


TSA was developed and is run by Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing. It was developed to help universities assess whether applicants have the skills and aptitudes considered essential for Higher Education study.

The test was first introduced for undergraduate entry to the University of Cambridge in 2001, and was used as part of the admissions process for a number of undergraduate courses. It is currently used for application to the Land Economy course only.[1]

In 2007, the University of Oxford introduced TSA as part of its admissions process for Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE). At this stage, the test was known as the ‘PPE Admissions Test’. The use of TSA was extended for entry to Economics and Management in 2008; to Experimental Psychology, and Psychology and Philosophy in 2009, and in 2012 to Geography, Philosophy and Linguistics, and Psychology and Linguistics. Since 2016, candidates applying for Chemistry have been required to sit a version of TSA consisting of Section 1 of the test only, with History and Economics requiring the same from 2017.[2]

Since the 2008–09 application cycle, University College London has used TSA to assist in the selection of applicants to European Social and Political Studies (ESPS).[3]


TSA consists of two sections, where Section 2 is optional.

Section 1 (90 minutes): 50 multiple-choice questions testing problem solving (including numerical and spatial reasoning) and critical thinking skills (including understanding argument and reasoning using everyday language).

Section 2 (30 minutes): Candidates must answer one essay question from a choice of four (questions are not subject specific). It tests the ability to organise ideas in a clear and concise manner, and communicate them effectively in writing.[4]


The multiple-choice answers (Section 1) are marked by Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing with 1 mark available per question. Final scores are calculated to one decimal place on the TSA scale (running approximately 0–100) using the Rasch statistical technique.

The writing task component of TSA (Section 2) used by the University of Oxford is reviewed by admissions tutors.[5]

Timing and results[edit]

For the University of Oxford: TSA is held at the beginning of November as a pre-interview, paper-based test taken at schools, colleges or authorised test centres globally. Results are issued in mid-January of the following year, via Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing’s Results Online website.

For the University of Cambridge: TSA is normally taken when applicants come to their Cambridge interview in November or December, as a paper-based test, either at the College to which the student is applying or at a central test site in Cambridge. Results are reported to the university only.

For University College London (UCL): TSA is taken during the interview stage. It is administered as a paper-based test. UCL admissions interviews are held on specific dates from December to March. Results are reported to the university only.


The exact use of results varies between the subjects which use the test, and candidates need to refer to their chosen course for precise details.[6]


Practice materials, including specimen questions and past papers, can be downloaded for free from the Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing website.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]