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What is a good TSA score?

Advice & Insight From TSA Specialists

Since undergraduate courses at Oxford and Cambridge are highly competitive, both in terms of the number of students who apply and the high standard of their applications, your TSA score is going to be an important and weighty piece of information that will be used diligently by the admissions tutors to decide who is invited for interview.

What format does the TSA take?

The TSA is divided into two sections.

Section 1 contains 50 multiple choice questions on the themes of problem solving and critical thinking where 1 mark is awarded per question (there is no negative marking). This section is marked automatically by a machine.

Section 2 consists of a short writing task lasting 30 minutes. It is marked in a different way from section 1; the academic tutors from Oxford University will mark it. Whilst section 1 is longer and tests more skills, due time and consideration are still given by tutors to the assessment of section 2, and it will also be used when determining which students are offered an interview.

Please note that students applying to study the “History and Economics” course at Oxford University only need to take section 1; this is also the case for applicants to Cambridge who are applying to study “Land Economy”.

Will I receive raw scores or scaled scores?

The marks allocated for section 1 and 2 are converted into scaled scores using the Rasch statistical technique. In section 1, each question is weighted differently depending on its level of difficulty so this means that scaled scores can be compared more easily with other candidates’ results. For example, if a question ends up being answered correctly by fewer candidates overall, it will be given more weighting than a question answered correctly by nearly all candidates. This makes it difficult to predict how raw scores will be converted into scaled scores until the whole cohort has taken the test. However, it is possible to look at previous years’ scaled score conversions which might give a very rough idea of what score you need to aim for to achieve a good scaled score.

You will receive a scaled score for each component of section 1, a composite score for section 1 as well as a scaled score for section 2 (for those of you taking section 2):

Problem solving scaled score

Critical thinking scaled score

Composite scaled score

Writing task scaled score

The scaled scores generally range from 0 – 100 and are rounded to one decimal place.

So, what is a good score?

Your scaled scores will be used to help determine whether or not you get an interview, placing you in a band according to your performance. Competitive scores vary from year to year, but, typically, a scaled score of 65 or more is considered competitive. The scale is designed so that typical applicants to the most highly selective courses will score around 60. The best applicants will score more highly, with 70 representing a comparatively high score. Only a very few exceptional applicants will achieve scores higher than 80; extreme scores are rare.

Optimise Your TSA Performance

Learn the best TSA strategies and practice with reflective TSA questions & worked solutions.

What score will guarantee me a place?

It is important to note that there is not a specific score which guarantees your application will be shortlisted. The tests vary each year and your test score will be considered alongside the many other students who apply for your course. Try as hard as you can to optimise your score and chances of being shortlisted for an interview.

Also, remember that the TSA is just one element used in the admissions process. Other information looked at include an applicant’s academic record, predicted grades, the quality of UCAS application, references from teachers, and examples of any recent written work at a high standard.

What is a good score for Oxford?

When shortlisting for interview, Oxford admissions tutors divide the results into quartiles. Being in the top quartile will certainly give you a better chance of being offered an interview but does not guarantee a place on the course. There is not usually a precise cut-off threshold because results vary from year to year. Also, candidates are still sometimes invited for interview even if they have performed less well on the TSA because other factors might play a role (such as systematic disadvantage: being in care, being on free school meals etc.).

What is a good score for Cambridge?

Only one course at Cambridge requires you to take this test which is “Land Economy”. As above, competitive scores vary from year to year but typically a scaled score of 65 or more is considered competitive, with 70 being a comparatively high score and 80 or more being exceptional.

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