What subjects are in the TSA Test?

Advice & Insight From TSA Specialists

The Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) is a pre-interview test used by certain UK universities to assess candidates’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Section 1 of the test has two components: Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking, whilst Section 2 involves writing an essay. While there is no set syllabus for the TSA test, it is known that the test questions are generally based on topics taught in secondary school. The TSA test covers simple Mathematics and English ability, which must then be deployed across increasingly complex problems and arguments. Let’s explore each of these subjects in more detail.

Mathematical Knowledge and Skills Needed for the TSA

For the problem solving component, you will need to be able to apply mathematical concepts to real-world situations. The questions are designed to test the candidate’s ability to reason quantitatively, interpret data, and solve problems.

The mathematics section of the TSA test covers a range of topics, including:

Number concepts
-simple fractions,  place value (for example, knowing that the “5” in “7654” indicates “50”),  ideas about percentages (for example, the idea that 1% could be thought of as “1 in every 100”, and that if 20% of a group of adults are men, 80% must be women).

Numerical operations
 the four rules of number (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division),  percentage operations (for example, if something was sold at £10, and is now advertised at “20%
off”, how much would the customer pay?),  calculations in everyday contexts (complex calculations with fractions and decimals are not required).

 time and the calendar,  money,  measures (lengths, weights areas), and knowledge of the terms for measurements which are used informally in daily life (e.g. feet, miles).

Space and spatial reasoning
– area (including the calculation of the area of a rectangle), perimeter (including calculation), volume (including the calculation of the volume of a box), reflections (in mirrors) and rotations of simple shapes, two-dimensional (2D) representations of three-dimensional (3D) shapes (for example, being able to interpret a “bird’s eye view” of a house).

Recognition that some operations are generalisable, for example, that converting 24 to 3 and 40 to 5 both involve division by 8 (formal algebra is not required)

Tables and graphs
extracting information from graphs, extracting information from tables.

You will not need knowledge of advanced mathematics, but you should have a strong foundation in basic mathematical concepts. Candidates should be able to apply these concepts to real-world situations and solve problems.

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English Critical Thinking for the TSA

The TSA test also includes a critical thinking component. This section of the TSA test assesses the candidate’s ability to comprehend, analyse, and communicate complex written material. The questions are designed to test the candidate’s ability to identify key ideas, evaluate arguments, and more.

Questions are centred around the concept that, in an argument, ‘reasons are put forward as grounds for a conclusion. The argument is a good argument provided its conclusion follows from the reasons. That is to say, if you accept the reasons, you must accept the conclusion.’ Questions therefore cover summarising the main conclusion, drawing a conclusion, identifying an assumption, assessing the impact of additional evidence, detecting reasoning errors, matching arguments, and applying principles. Thus English components covered include:

Comprehension: understanding the meaning of written passages, including identifying main ideas, supporting details, and inferences.
Analysis: evaluating the arguments presented in written material, including identifying assumptions, evaluating evidence, and recognizing fallacies.
Vocabulary: understanding the meaning and usage of common words and phrases.

Section 2

Section 2, the essay-writing component, does not require specific knowledge of any one academic subject. However, you will be required to have a strong knowledge of current affairs and of how to construct an argument. This therefore interplays with many humanities subjects, namely English, History, etc. Here, your writing skills will be on display, and as such you will need to demonstrate an ability to communicate effectively in written form, including organising ideas, developing arguments, and using proper grammar and syntax.

We recommend that you augment your knowledge of current affairs and topics of debate through reading broadsheet newspapers (or their websites), and high-brow magazines and journals, like The Atlantic, The New Yorker, etc.

What subjects are in the TSA Test?

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