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The TSA, used for admissions to Chemistry, PPE and other subjects at Oxford is an incredibly time-pressured test. You have only 108 seconds to answer each question, and subsequently time management is the most important thing to focus on.

We have here a step-by-step guide to the best technique to maximise your capability within the allotted time: 

  1. The first time you are going through the paper, just do all the questions that you can do in a really short amount of time, ideally under a minute. If a question looks complicated, or if you are not sure what it is asking, circle it to return to later. Circle any questions that you think you might struggle with, and just work through the whole paper once, to get as many answers in the bank as possible
  2. On the next go through, try some of the circle question. Begin each one, and if you think you can reach an answer in a good amount of time, do it. You still don’t want to be spending much longer than 2 minutes per question. If there are questions you just don’t understand, mark them out, maybe with a cross, and ditch them for now. 
  3. Now, you should be left with only the hardest questions, which baffled you on the first and second read. If you have enough time, just try and spend some time reaching the answer. If you cannot see the correct answer, but you can see what the answer is not, use deduction to narrow down the possible options it could be, and make an educated guess. If you are really getting nowhere at all, just make a guess and move on. 

Shouldn’t I spend time figuring out questions I don’t understand?

You need to think efficiently, and if you really can’t grasp a question, just ditch it. All the questions are equally weighted, so you are only shooting yourself in the food by spending an irrational amount of time on one question. Even if it is the hardest on the paper, it will not win you any more points with the admissions tutors. 

How can I quickly work through multiple choice questions?

As the TSA is multiple choice, a good way of answering a lot of the questions is by eradicating the statements you know are definitely false. For example if you read a piece of writing, and have 5 possible options for what the argument is, you can immediately get rid of any that seem as if they are completely incorrect and not fitting with the argument. You are then left with fewer to choose from. You can eradicate some of the answers for the harder questions on the first read through of the paper, then come back to them later, and spend some time choosing what you think the correct one is from the remaining possibilities. 

Should I just race through the paper as fast as I possibly can?

Although the TSA is time pressured, you need to read and comprehend all the stimuli given to you as well as possible. A slight misread can lead you to completely the wrong answer. Although moving at a pace is important, there is no point racing through the paper and making a multitude of silly mistakes. It is better to be slightly more careful and not complete the paper. You need to strike the ideal balance for you, and this can only be found through practice. 

Do I need to show my workings?

No! Remember, you get no points for your workings in the TSA. If you can immediately see an answer, or you have used the eradication of incorrect answers technique, do not spend time unnecessarily explaining and showing your workings. Just circle your answer and move on. 


If you want more information about the TSA, take a look at our comprehensive TSA guidebook, full of useful techniques and preparation materials. We’ve also got blogposts on preparing for the TSA, and a complete guide to the TSA, if you’re still a bit unsure about what this strange and highly-pressured test exactly is.