TSA Oxford Preparation Guide
Advice & Insight From TSA Specialists
Careful preparation for the TSA Oxford is definitely advised because the exam takes on a very specific format and may contain particularly styled questions that you are not necessarily familiar with. You should prepare as early as possible once you know that you are going to be taking the exam. Here is a guide to how you might approach your preparation.
Step 1 – What thinking skills do you know you already possess?
At the beginning of your preparation, think about what thinking skills you already possess. Are you good at comprehending language? Do you have fine-tuned mathematical ability? Identifying your strengths and areas for development provides a good basis. Once you know what areas you need to develop, you will be able to focus more specifically on where your preparation will have the biggest impact.
Step 2 – Reading material
On the TSA website there are several books that are recommended to read that might help you with your understanding of critical thinking. You should also get into the habit of reading good quality newspapers as this will help with section 2 (the essay) and will also help you build your stamina when reading passages (which you have to do in section 1).
Step 3 – Plan your preparation
As you prepare for the TSA you are still likely to have other academic work to complete. Therefore, you should dedicate some time to planning your preparation before you begin the hard work. This will include making sure you have access to past papers and questions from the TSA website, and drawing up a schedule so that you are dedicating enough time to preparation before the exam.
Optimise Your TSA Performance
Learn the best TSA strategies and practice with reflective TSA questions & worked solutions.
Step 4 – Familiarise yourself with the format of the exam
As mentioned, the TSA has a specific format which you need to be familiar with to optimise your chance of doing well. Make sure you know the timings for each section, the different types of problem solving and critical thinking question types, and make sure you can access practice questions as you will need to do lots of these.
Step 5 – Prepare for section 1
One of the most important things to know about the TSA is that it tests your intellectual stamina as much as your thinking skills. So you need to ensure you practise the different types of questions below, but that you also practise working under timed conditions and for sustained periods of time:
Problem solving questions: Relevant selection, Finding procedures, Identifying similarity.
Critical thinking questions: Identifying the main conclusion, Drawing a conclusion, Identifying an assumption, Assessing the impact of additional evidence, Detecting reasoning errors, Matching arguments, Applying principles.
The difficulty of questions is randomly distributed throughout the paper. It’s not the case that the later questions are harder but they might feel more difficult as you will be tired by this point. This is why timed practice is crucial, starting with individual questions and building up to whole papers.
Revise your Maths skills
You also need to ensure you know what Maths skills are needed and make sure that you are confident in those areas:
Space and spatial reasoning
Tables and graphs
+ – x ÷
Operations with %
Calculations in everyday contexts
Calculating an average
Time and the calendar
Extracting information from graphs, charts and tables
Step 6 – Section 2 preparation
You need to be confident at communicating your thoughts on paper in a clear and logical manner. Practise writing outlines of essay questions. There are at least 50 past essay questions available (see article on “Oxford TSA Essay Questions”) for you to try out. You could go through these and choose some that you use to practise writing an outline. Oxford tutors themselves have stated that the most successful essays are those which have been carefully planned. If you have the opportunity, go through your answers with other people as they can give you specific feedback.
Step 7 – The day before the exam
Section 1 is designed to tire you out so you have to be able to respond to this by showing you have the endurance and discipline to retain focus throughout the whole exam. Be energised, sleep well before the exam, and ensure you are well-hydrated and have eaten enough.
Step 8 – The actual exam
Make sure that you are mentally prepared for the day. If you are used to doing exams under controlled conditions, then you shouldn’t feel too worried about the exam experience. Use the exam as an opportunity to show off your excellent skills.