TSA (Thinking Skills Assessment)

Further details on arrangements for this test for 2025-entry will be communicated at the earliest opportunity. In the meantime, you are welcome to explore the test preparation and practice materials which you may find helpful. 

What is the TSA? 

The Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) is divided into two parts: a 90-minute, multiple-choice Thinking Skills Assessment and a 30-minute writing task. 

If applying for Philosophy, Politics and Economics, you will be required to take both sections of the TSA.

However, you will be required to take Section 1 only if you are applying for:

Section 1 is made up of 50 multiple-choice questions and aims to assess the following: Problem-solving skills, including numerical reasoning. Critical thinking skills, including understanding argument and reasoning using everyday language.

Section 2 is a writing task that seeks to evaluate a candidate’s ability to organise ideas in a clear and concise manner, and communicate them effectively in writing. Questions are not subject-specific and candidates must answer one question from a choice of four.

How do I register?

Candidates can register for their test between Thursday 15 August and Friday 4 October 2024. Further details on the registration process will be communicated at the earliest opportunity. 

When do I take the test?

Oxford admissions tests will take place between 21 and 31 October 2024. Further details will be communicated at the earliest opportunity. 

Practice materials

We recommend exploring the test preparation and practice materials below.

Section 1 specimen and past papers

The first section of the TSA is made up of 50 multiple-choice questions. Below you can find a specimen paper, in addition to past papers going back to 2008. You can also download answer sheets for each paper and a score conversion chart. 

Section 2 specimen and past papers

Section 2 of the TSA test is a writing task. You will have 30 minutes to write a single short essay. There will be a choice of four essay questions, on general subjects that do not require any specialised knowledge.

The writing task gives you an opportunity to show that you can communicate effectively in writing, organising your ideas and presenting them clearly and concisely. You should start by planning the essay carefully, deciding what are the main points that you want to make in the limited time available, and how to organise your answer to explain and convey them clearly. You will have plenty of space if you want to use it, but a concise and well-structured answer may be more effective than a longer essay.

It is important that your answer is relevant to the question, and addresses it directly. If the question requires you to make judgements and express your own opinions, try to provide coherent arguments to support your views, and consider the merits of possible counter-arguments. Your essay will be judged by the quality of the writing, and the way you use what you know.

The document below, written by an Oxford tutor, gives several example questions from past papers and discusses ways to approach them. 

Below you can find a specimen paper and past papers going back to 2008. 

Test question guide and explanation of results

Explanation of results:

Section 1 scores 1 mark per question. Scores are calculated on the TSA scale to one decimal place (running approximately 0–100). The scale is an estimate of the candidate’s ability, which makes scoring comparable by factoring in the question and overall test difficulty, using the Rasch statistical technique. Marking of this section is automated. 

Section 2 is reviewed by the admissions tutor(s) of the college you apply to.

Further reading

  • John Butterworth and Geoff Thwaites, Thinking Skills (Cambridge University Press, 2013)
  • Anne Thomson, Critical Reasoning: A Practical Introduction (Routledge, 2008)
  • Nigel Warburton, Thinking from A to Z (Routledge, 2000)
  • Alec Fisher, Critical Thinking: An Introduction (Cambridge University Press, 2011)