The PPE Test
The new PPE admissions test (to be known as TSA Oxford
from 2008, as it will also be sat by Economics and Management applicants) replaced the old test, which used to take place during interviews, in 2007 (there is now no test at interview). It is taken by in late October / November (November 5th 2008 for the next cycle
), and candidates sit in in their own centres. If you are an applicant, you need to make sure that you have been entered for the test.
The test lasts two hours and has two components; a ninety minute, fifty question multiple choice section known as a "Thinking Skills Assessment", and a thirty minute writing task. The former is marked externally by Cambridge Assessment, who then pass a score onto Oxford, which you will then receive some time after you have had a decision on your application. The latter is marked internally by Oxford, and you will not necessarily receive feedback on it. Those in the 2009 applications round will not be required to submit written work, so the writing task in the test will be Oxford's main gauge of your ability to write
Further information on the TSA Oxford, including a practice paper, can be found on the website here
. Bear in mind that there is only one practice paper available, so it would probably be a good idea to wait until reasonably close to the test date before trying it. An explanation of Thinking Skills Assessment scoring (from the 2007 test) can be found here
. As you can see, you will be given three scores, one for Problem Solving, one for Critical Thinking, and an overall score. A score of “60” is expected from “typical applicants”, whilst “70 represents a comparatively high score and only a few very exceptional applicants will achieve scores higher than 80”
. These scores, however, are not raw percentages
, so don't get too excited if you score highly on the practice test! The questions are weighted, taking into account their difficulty. To give you a rough idea of the ballpark, I (Budgie) scored 44/50 on the practice paper, and went on to achieve an overall score of 72.1 in the actual test. However, this is only a rough guide, as every paper will be different depending on its difficulty (just as with UMS conversion at A level).
In the 2008 round, as the test was new, scores were only used for selection post-interview. From the 2009 round onwards, I understand it will also be used to deselect candidates pre-interview (although cannot currently find a source to prove this). As written work is no longer required, the writing task can also be viewed as comparatively more important than last year.