TSA Oxford Section 2 Topics

Advice & Insight From TSA Specialists

The essay questions that appear in section 2 of the TSA are usually chosen to offer a broad interest to those applying to the degree courses at Oxford, but you have completely free choice over which one you choose; it does not have to be related to the course that you have applied for. The questions are devised in such a way so as to give you the chance to argue and reason. They often focus on real world issues and encourage debates around issues that are topical and stimulating for young people.

If you were to analyse the questions that have appeared in section 2 over the past ten years or so, it is possible to get an idea of what the recurring overarching themes or topics are. Some questions are clearly rooted in one particular topic area, whereas others often combine two or more issues. There is no definitive way of categorising past questions and this is by no means an exhaustive list, but hopefully the table below might give an idea of the wide spectrum of different topics that section 2 includes:


societal issues





humanitarian intervention







legal system


global issues


You can also look at the article entitled “Oxford TSA Essay Questions” which lists all of the questions from 2008 – 2019.

Do the questions ever focus on current affairs?

It is worth noting that in recent years especially, there have been topical questions following important political decisions in the UK or global environmental issues. For example, in 2011 (a year after the UK saw the creation of a coalition government) there was a question about coalition governments. In 2017 (the year after the UK’s referendum on membership of the European Union) there was a question about whether a referendum was a good way for a country to decide a major question facing a country. And in 2019 there was a question about whether children should go on strike to effect change (this gave the example of climate change but the focus of the question was about striking). So it is interesting that in some years there are sometimes questions that are relevant to the political issues of the day, whether that is locally in the UK or wider global issues.

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