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Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing
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by Andy Chamberlain, Head of Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing
So, you’re thinking of applying to university. You might have started looking at the entry requirements for the types of courses you would like to study.
You’ll find that some universities require you to take an admissions test as part of your application. Some of these tests focus on assessing your thinking skills, such as BMAT (BioMedical Admissions Test) and TSA (Thinking Skills Assessment). You might be wondering, why are thinking skills so important?
We’ve been developing admissions tests that assess thinking skills for over 20 years. Here’s what they are, why universities want to know about them and why they’re important for a future beyond education.
The move from school/college to university is a big step and your studying will be taken to the next level.
At university you won’t just be asked to learn new information, you’ll be expected to think.
Proficiency in thinking skills is fundamental to your success at university. In particular you’ll need to develop two types of thinking skills – problem solving and critical thinking.
Critical thinking is about the appraisal of written arguments. It’s about being able to understand a variety of arguments from different points of view, how they are structured, and the supporting evidence they rely on. You then need to be able to assess whether the arguments establish their claims.
Problem solving is about reasoning using numerical skills. It may include selecting relevant information from a pool of data, identifying similar numerical or spatial patterns, or finding the correct procedure to solve a problem when none is readily apparent. Many of the problems encountered in academic and professional work are new and unusual and there is no ready-made solution available. Problem solving is about finding or creating a solution.
Students with good thinking skills are likely to do well on their university course. They will show strengths in:
Some universities assess applicants’ thinking skills as part of their admissions process to help identify students who have the potential to do well on their course.
By testing thinking skills, universities are giving you some insight into what’s to come at university and getting you in the right mind-set for that next-level study.
It’s important to remember that an admissions test is only one part of the application process. Universities consider all aspects of your application and you should check how each institution considers your admissions test results.
Critical thinking and problem solving are widely identified as among the most important skills for study but also for employment (Whiting 2020).
It’s important to develop your thinking skills at university as they are some of the main skills that employers will be looking for when hiring graduates.
The workplace nowadays and in the future is driven by information and technology. Flexible thinking skills enable you to adapt and change to new ways of working and new roles, making you a valuable employee to any organisation.
Our admissions tests are designed so that they don’t require a lot of extra studying. We suggest familiarising yourself with the test paper and reading the test specification or question guide for an idea of the type of questions that will come up.
Practising under test conditions is a great way to prepare. We provide free past papers and practice papers for BMAT and TSA on our website.
Whiting, K (2020) These are the top 10 job skills of tomorrow – and how long it takes to learn them, World Economic Forum.
Available online: www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/10/top-10-work-skills-of-tomorrow-how-long-it-takes-to-learn-them