Advice & Insight From TSA Specialists

The TSA is used at UCL for only one course – the school’s prestigious European and International Social and Political Studies degree courses. Here, we will assess the format of the TSA as used at UCL – where it is known as the TST – the course that it is used for, and why it is used.

TSA / TST Format for UCL

The TSA here is just the TSA Section 1. Section 1 is a multiple-choice test that assesses problem-solving and critical thinking skills. The test consists of 50 questions, which are based on short passages of text or data. Candidates have 90 minutes to complete the Section 1 test. Tasks include selecting information, finding
procedures, drawing conclusions and identifying assumptions.

The university states that, in addition to an EISPS Admissions Day, you will be required to sit the TST. This is an online test, and is the ‘same format as Section 1 of the Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) from Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing.’ However, a very limited number of exceptional candidates can be given an offer through their UCAS form alone.

The TSA at UCL will be sat in January and in March, and if you are not given an automatic place in the first stage of selection then you will be invited to one of these test days.

Note that the TST has been sat both online and in-person at UCL, so you should ensure that you are au fait with the format being used in advance.

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The TSA is currently taken by students applying to UCL’s European and International Social and Political Studies degree courses. Per the university, these are ‘challenging programmes in which students study History, Law, Philosophy and Politics, specialise in a humanities and social science subject and gain fluency in another language.’ As such, it is rare to be awarded a place on the basis of grades alone, and the majority of students will  be asked to take the TSA. The TSA test scores can then be used to help the admissions team identify students with the potential to excel. As the university states further, ‘most of our applicants apply with A Level grades of A*AA or higher (or equivalent) and having an admissions test such as TSA seems a fairer means of selection’ as well as allowing the university to standardise the admissions procedure somewhat.

There are currently three EISPS programs on offer: the European Social and Political Studies BA; European Social and Political Studies BA: Dual Degree with Sciences Po; and International Social and Political Studies BA. ESPS and ISPS are multidisciplinary programmes, with the BA in European Social and Political Studies having been created in 1991, the Dual Degree beginning in 2012 and the BA in International Social and Political Studies having started in 2019.

Tips for TSA / TST at UCL

The TST is equivalent to the TSA Section 1. Top tips for this test include:
– Practise with past papers. One of the best ways to prepare for the TST is to practise using TSA past papers. This will give you an idea of the types of questions that are asked and the level of difficulty. You can find past papers on the official TSA website or through our site.
– Read widely. The TST consists of short passages of text or data. To prepare for this, it is important to read widely and expose yourself to different types of texts. This will help you to develop your comprehension and critical thinking skills.
– Use a question bank to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills. The TST requires you to  identify patterns, make logical deductions, and think creatively.
– Manage your time. The TST consists of 50 questions that you have to answer in 90 minutes. This means that you have less than 2 minutes per question. It is important to manage your time effectively and not spend too much time on any one question. If you are unsure about a question, skip it and come back to it later. Through practising under timed conditions, you can ensure that you are ready for the test itself.
– Accept that you will need to use a process of elimination. You won’t be 100% certain on the answers to every question. If you are unsure about a question, you can use the process of elimination to narrow down your options. Eliminate the answers that you know are incorrect and then make an educated guess from the remaining options.


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