TSA 2024: 10 Tips for the TSA

3 min read

The TSA exam seems quite daunting. You’ve only got 90 minutes to answer 50 multiple choice questions in Section 1, and if you’re sitting Section 2 as well you’ll then have 30 minutes to write an essay. Don’t panic! Have a read of these 10 TSA Oxford tips and you’ll be able to tackle the challenge. 

How to prepare for TSA

TSA Tips 1: Prepare!

You can definitely prepare for the TSA, and you should. Going into the exam having prepared will make you feel much calmer as you know what you’re doing, and you’ll perform better. Check out our articles on Oxford TSA tips to help you get started. You can also excel with our TSA textbook.

TSA Tips 2: Take care of yourself on test day

TSA tips Oxford
Its important to get a good nights sleep before your exam

You don’t want to add to your stress by being tired or hungry. One of our TSA tips is to make sure you get a good night’s sleep the night before – don’t be tempted to stay up all night doing last minute preparation! Sleep is super important for you to focus and perform at your best, so get those 8 hours. Eat a decent breakfast too. You might not have much of an appetite if you’re nervous but it’s important to fuel yourself for the test. The last thing you want is to be distracted by hunger. 

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Oxford TSA Tips 3: Know your timings

90 questions in 50 minutes for Section 1 means you have 1.8 minutes per question. In practice, some questions won’t take that long, and others might require a bit more time. Another of our TSA tips is to keep an eye on the clock to make sure you aren’t spending too long on a single question. Sometimes it’s better to take an educated guess and move on. 

The same goes for the Section 2 essay – go into the exam with an idea of how much you can write in 30 minutes, and stick to it. Don’t be tempted to write loads for one paragraph if it means you won’t have time to flesh out the others, or finish your conclusion. 

TSA Tips 4: Read the question

This might sound obvious, but in Section 1 the question setters like to try and catch you out with subtle wording or irrelevant pieces of information. Another of our Oxford TSA tips is to read the question really carefully and make sure you understand what exactly it is asking you before attempting to answer. Don’t just skim it – you may miss key details!

Make sure you read the Section 2 essay questions carefully before choosing, and stay on topic. It’s really important that your essay answers the question that is being asked of you, and not your interpretation or a slightly different question you wish they’d asked instead.

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    Oxford TSA Tips 5: Identify the question type

    The questions in Section 1 all fall into distinct categories. There’s three types of Problem Solving questions and 7 types of Critical Thinking questions. Cambridge Assessment have published a guide to the different types: TSA Questions Guide Get familiar with these before the exam so on the day you can spot what type of question it is, which will help you understand what kind of answer they are looking for and what they expect you to do to get to it. Our TSA Past Papers can help you to practise the different types of questions.

    TSA Tips 6: Sometimes, it’s okay to guess

    Person thinking about how to get good scores in their admissions test.
    Try your best to get to the answer for every question but if youre completely stuck an educated guess is a valid option

    The test is multiple choice, and it is not negatively marked. So, although you won’t gain any marks for a wrong answer, you won’t lose any either, so it makes sense to guess if you’re stuck. You might be able to rule out a few of the answers to begin with, and take a guess from what’s left. Ultimately, it is much better to make a thoughtful guess on a question you’re stuck on than spend 10 minutes getting to the right answer and run out of time for the others. Don’t leave any question unanswered – if you are almost out of time or don’t have a clue, just put your best guess. 

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    TSA Tips 7: Aim for full marks

    There’s probably information about the average TSA converted score for offer holders for your course, but it’s not the best idea to try and tactically aim to just reach it. The TSA raw mark that converts to a certain score changes every year depending on test difficulty, so it’s impossible to know how many marks you will need in any particular year. The only thing that is certain is that more marks is always better, so aim for full marks. It’s unlikely you’ll actually get 50/50, and the test is designed that way, but aiming high is always a good idea, rather than trying for the bare minimum. 

    Oxford TSA Tips 8: Listen to the invigilators

    The invigilators are in charge on the test day – you can’t start until they say you can start and you have to stop when they tell you to stop. Don’t try and cheekily look at the questions before you are allowed to begin, or answer one last question after they’ve told you time is up. They will notice (it’s their job), and you could get disqualified. It’s just not worth it. 

    Oxford TSA Tips 9: Make notes if you need to

    A lot of the Problem Solving questions will require several steps that will be hard to hold in your mind all at once. Write stuff down if you need to, it’ll help you avoid mistakes. For the Section 2 essay, it’s a really good idea to write down a super quick plan, so your essay will have a logical structure which is what the admissions tutors will want to see. You can put time limits on the plan as well to help you finish it in the 30 minutes. 

    TSA Tips 10: Use techniques to calm down if you’re panicking

    If you’re really nervous, you might feel a sense of panic during the test. This is normal, it’s a really stressful thing. But there are ways to calm yourself down. Take some deep breaths – breathe in through your nose for 4 slow counts and out of your mouth for 8 (obviously, you’ll have to count in your head, since exam conditions require silence!). This kind of breathing will make you start to feel calmer. Don’t let those panicked thoughts of ‘I can’t do this!’ win. You’re prepared and you can do it – take a second to remind yourself of this.


    There’s plenty of things you can do in the exam to maximise your chances of success and how to prepare for the TSA. The single most important thing you can do, however, is to prepare (there’s a reason that it’s number 1 on the list!). If you go into the exam well-prepared, and keep these tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to TSA success. For help with preparation, why not check out our TSA Online Course or TSA tutoring service? Oxbridge Mind’s 1-1 sessions with expert tutors can help you do your best in the TSA exam.

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