Can you give me a framework for answering TSA essay questions? (Reader Question)

confused tsa essay structure

Following the recent post about how to prepare for the TSA exam, I have been asked if there is a framework that can be applied to answering TSA essay questions (Section 2) in which you have 30 minutes to write a short essay.

While there is no one size fits all framework, you can use the following tips to focus your thoughts, relax and write a well structured answer to most TSA essay questions.

1) Most TSA questions can be interpreted as proposing a solution to an (implied) problem
2) Clear up any terms open to interpretation
3) Consider PESTEL factors
4) Compare not only the relative effectiveness of different solutions, but also the feasibility of implementing them


A) Should Parking Fines Be Based on the Driver’s Income?

Implied problem: parking fines can often be ignored by wealthier drivers because the amount of the fine is too small to change their behaviour and provide a strong incentive to obey parking rules.

Proposed solution: link the value of the fine to the driver’s income.

Clear up definitions: what is being measured as part of income?

PESTEL and feasibility: would alternative ways of determining parking fines (e.g. by size of car) be feasible to implement?
[Social] would linking parking fines to income (or not doing so) have a disporportionate effect on a particular segment of society (e.g. the poor)?
[Environmental] Are there better ways of determining parking fines – such as by environmental friendliness of the car?

B) Should governments only fund scientific research if it is of direct benefit to society?

Implied problem: government spending on scientific research that does not have a direct benefit to society could be more effective if spent on something else.

Proposed solution: governments should only fund scientific research that does have direct benefits to society.

Clear up definitions: what is mean by ‘direct benefit to society’? How can research be characterised according to this

PESTEL & feasibility: is it always possible to objectively determine if particular research is a direct benefit to society?
[Economic/Social] Would research that is not directly beneficial to society have significant indirect benefits (e.g. space exploration)? Will this type of research still be funded by private agents?

Final Thoughts: Note that this is one way of thinking about TSA essay questions that I have found especially effective – it is not a definitive guide to answering questions and it may or may not work for you and the questions on your exam.

If you are looking for tips on part 1 (TSA maths and logic questions), I recommend Thinking Skills by Geoff Thwaites and John Butterworth, as well as TSA past papers for practice.


Do you have more questions? Leave a comment below.