top of page

What does the Problem-Solving Essay (PSE) look like?

The Math/Science Problem-Solving Essay (PSE) is a writing exam where the applicant will write a response to a Math or Science problem, typically a multi-step word problem, in essay format. Apart from the Student Portrait Sheet (SPS), this is a major component in the admission process.

Format: 1 prompt, maximum of 3700 characters, 30 minutes total time limit; computerized exam (typed, not hand-written)

Sample Question (1 question that showed up on the 2021 admissions exam):

  1. (TJ 2021 Test) You and two friends want to meet up at a location equally distant from each of your homes. One of your friends lives 4 miles north of your home and the other lives 4 miles east. Determine the best place to meet such that you each travel the same distance to that point. A third friend will ride her bicycle to your meeting point from her home 4 miles northwest of your home. Assume that you and your first two friends walk at 4 miles per hour, what speed should the third friend ride to meet the group?

This essay is intended to help demonstrate the applicants’ ability to both problem-solve and communicate complex ideas in STEM in a thorough, clear, and concise manner. The paragraphs should often detail mathematical steps and assumptions to reach or support the final answer.

It is crucial to consider that the PSE is not all about stating the correct answer. Instead, there is a much bigger emphasis placed on how the student explains their steps, resulting in the final answer. Therefore, it would be highly likely for a student to be admitted to TJ with a strong explanation but a wrong answer, rather than having a correct answer but a weak explanation. Ultimately, the PSE is evaluating the ability to utilize problem-solving methods and communicate the process undergone to get the answer, in a concise manner.

Want to learn more about the TJ Admissions Process? Visit and consider one of our prep options. Questions? Reach out to us at

1,918 views0 comments


bottom of page