More University of Oxford Applicants to Take the Thinking Skills Assessment

16 July 2009

Following a successful trial last year, the University of Oxford has announced that applicants to their undergraduate courses in Experimental Psychology (EP) and Psychology, Philosophy and Physiology (PPP) will be required to take the Thinking Skills Assessment admissions test this November. The Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) is developed and delivered by Cambridge Assessment’s New Developments Division.

The TSA was first introduced at the University of Cambridge in 2001. In 2008, the TSA Cambridge was taken at interview by over 3,000 candidates applying for a range of different courses, from Computer Science to Economics, at Cambridge Colleges. The TSA Cambridge consists of 50 multiple-choice questions testing problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

In 2007, the University of Oxford introduced a variant of the original TSA, with an additional writing task designed to give candidates an opportunity to show that they can communicate effectively in writing, organising their ideas and presenting them clearly and concisely. The TSA Oxford was first used as a pre-interview admissions test for students applying to study Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE). The use of the TSA Oxford was expanded in 2008, when the Economics & Management (E&M) course introduced the test. With the addition of EP and PPP candidates in 2009, many more University of Oxford applicants will now be taking the test for 2010 entry.

The results of the test enable tutors to assess whether candidates have the skills and aptitudes that are required to study subjects such as Experimental Psychology, including the ability to think critically, reason analytically, and use language accurately and effectively, without having to rely on specific subject knowledge.

Suki Gahir, Senior Operations Manager in Cambridge Assessment's New Developments Division, said of the University's decision: "The TSA is already used by other undergraduate subjects at Oxford University, to assist in differentiating between highly able candidates for courses where critical thinking skills are crucial. The increasing uptake of the TSA underlines the usefulness of the test outcomes in this decision-making process.”

The TSA is part of Cambridge Assessment's suite of Higher Education admissions tests, comprising: the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT), the English Literature Admissions Test (ELAT) and STEP Mathematics. In the 2008 test sessions, the New Developments Division successfully delivered admissions tests to approximately 13,000 candidates, on behalf of five elite UK universities. Test development is supported by an ongoing programme of research into the tests' reliability and validity.

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