The Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) is required by a handful of universities for a select number of courses. It helps admission tutors identify whether you have the critical thinking, problem-solving and communication skills that are essential for success in higher education. It is also a standardising test, allowing universities to compare a wide variety of candidates from different educational backgrounds, using a uniform measure.
The TSA is a paper-based test. There are some small differences in the test depending to which university or course you are applying, however in common is the requirement for all candidates to take section 1 of the test. This section comprises 50 multiple-choice questions to be answered in 90 minutes. The questions are designed to test problem-solving skills: including numerical and spatial reasoning; and critical thinking skills: including understanding argument and reasoning using everyday language. Each question is worth one mark and the scores are rescaled to give a percentage.
For a number of courses at the universities of Leiden or Oxford, in addition to section 1, you are also required to complete section 2. This is a 30-minute Writing Task section. You are asked to choose and answer one question (from a choice of four). The question is designed to test your ability to organise ideas in a clear and concise manner, and communicate them effectively in writing. Questions are not subject-specific.
The best source for further information for the test may be found on the TSA website: http://www.admissionstestingservice.org/for-test-takers/thinking-skills-assessment/
Because the TSA tests aptitude and potential rather than specific knowledge, prolonged coaching is not necessarily advantageous. However, candidates tend not to have equal skills in all areas of the test, nor may they be acquainted with the kind of examination techniques and time management which the test demands. However academically capable you are, and whatever your predicted grades, being familiar with the format and content of the test, and learning to cope with the pressures of time and question styles, require practice and thought.
There are numerous self-help books and practice tests available, however the purpose of the Greene’s course is to provide an intensive introduction to the structure and content of the TSA. It enables you, with the guidance of a tutor, quickly to become familiar with question types and approaches, and to think about planning your own future preparation. The Greene’s course demonstrates a systematic approach to each of the two main sub-sections of section 1 of the test (problem solving and critical thinking), and then looks at approaches to the Writing Task of section 2. With this knowledge and practice on the related questions, you can go into your test feeling prepared and positive. However, while our course helps to give impetus and structure, it must be stressed that, to ensure you optimise your chances of success, you will need plenty of self-administered practice.
We discuss the three kinds of problem solving question in the test (in total 25 questions), each assessing a key aspect of insight into unfamiliar problems: relevant selection; finding procedures; and identifying similarity. Although most questions fall into one category, some questions fit into one or more of the categories.
We examine this sub-section, which requires you to understand and evaluate arguments (in total 25 questions). The course looks at arguments varying in length and complexity, analysing the seven kinds of questions: summarising the main conclusion; drawing a conclusion; identifying an assumption; assessing the impact of additional evidence; detecting reasoning errors; matching arguments; and applying principles.
You will have 30 minutes to write a single short essay, from a choice of four essay questions, on general subjects that do not require any specialised knowledge. We offer guidance on planning the essay and organising your ideas so you can communicate effectively, clearly and concisely in a limited time. Relevance to the question is crucial, as is a recognition and evaluation of any counter-arguments. The Greene’s course will help to ensure that your essay is judged by the quality of your writing, and the way you use what you know.
The teaching of each section and sub-section will include examples of questions and how best to apply a methodical approach. You will be provided with practice questions to work through, either independently or as part of a small group, which we will then review together. We organise the teaching so that students who are required to take the Writing Task section can learn alongside those for whom it is not a requirement.
– Course length: six hours
– Course fees: £155 per student per course (for payment details please see registration form)
– Course date: Sunday, 11th September, 2016
– Location: Marlborough College, Wiltshire, SN8 1PA
– Registration: https://www.greenes.org.uk/tsa-introductory-course-2016
For further information, please contact Matthew Uffindell (Greene’s Tutorial College, Oxford)