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The TSA, used by Oxford for admissions to a number of subjects as diverse as Chemistry and PPE, is a very unique exam. As it is not testing what you know there is not a syllabus to revise, which can make it difficult to figure out how to prepare. However, preparation is still essential to secure a good TSA score.

We have here a few ways to prepare for the TSA:

1) Past Papers

As the TSA is so unlike any other exam, past papers are the best way to prepare. It is important to do at least a couple of past papers in timed conditions, as time management is so important. Since you have 90 minutes for 50 questions, making for an average of 108 seconds per question, you could also set a timer for 108 seconds on loop, to make sure that you get an intuitive sense as to when a question is taking too long and might need to be skipped.

2) TSA preparation courses

At STEPMaths we have also created comprehensive online TSA preparation courses. Here you will find past paper video solutions, plus hundreds of extra section 1 practice questions, with their own video tutorials, to develop your problem solving and critical thinking skills by learning from expert tutors, and also a series of video guides to the section 2 essay. 

3) Critical Thinking Improvement

To improve your critical thinking in preparation for the TSA, it is useful to read and listen to arguments, debates, and speeches: for example politicians talking on the news. Reading is most useful, as this directly mirrors what you will have to do in the TSA, but it is also helpful to listen too, perhaps while you’re in the car or getting ready for school. At the end, pick out the key argument, ask yourself what premises were used, and try to provide as brief a synopsis as you can. Regular practice at this will serve well as preparation for the TSA. 


Undeniably the best preparation for the TSA is practice, practice, practice. This is the only way you will get used to the style of questions asked, and it is through familiarity that you will be able to shave off time, and power through as many questions as possible. Do as many papers as you can, and use the STEPMaths website to find even more questions and resources to help you prepare. 

If you’re looking for more information and more preparation materials, we have a comprehensive guidebook to the TSA – and best of all, it’s free to download! If you’re up to scratch with your preparation, take a look at our expert technique for sitting the TSA and maximising your time in the exam room.