Application

 Oxford

 University

 Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE)

 2002

 offer made

Applicant

 A-levels

 post-qualification

 N/A

 N/A

 Independent – selective

 yes (10 A*)

A-levels

(A at AS)

(A at AS; predicted A; gained NA at A2)

(A at AS; predicted A; gained NA at A2)

(A at AS; predicted A; gained NA at A2)

(A at AS; predicted A; gained NA at A2)

Details about the offer

 unconditional

yes

N/A

 offer met

Decisions about the application

Because of the course really – PPE brings together everything I’m interested in and helps you develop a broad range of skills from essay-writing to calculus. I didn’t like the sound of the whole ‘bop’ social scene, and Oxford is a lot less cosmopolitan than I am used to from living in London. But…academically I thought it would be an inspiring place to be, and hopefully it will be worth it.

My course is only offered at Oxford, never really thought about Cambridge.

Supposed to be one of the best for PPE; central location; and it’s mid-sized so hopefully won’t be too claustrophobic or too impersonal.

Preparation

yes

I had a mock interview which was actually just a chat about A-level Economics and was a bit of a waste of time really – but to be honest there wasn’t much I got asked which you could have prepared for.

Be brief and specific to your course/college, don’t write standard ‘oxford is the best uni in the world’ stuff cos they’ve seen it all before.

Interview

no

yes

Univ are the only college that don’t consider written work for PPE, but we had to give in two essays in case we got pooled to other colleges – I just gave in some A level Economics essays.

yes

There was a written test – it was pretty strange, I found it difficult (though I think everyone did) but you can often tell which PPE related skill they are testing, and in my answers I tried to exaggerate my use of the skill being tested (eg. in the literary question show critical/analytical skills, in the logical question use tables etc to show how you got your answer instead of just writing, etc etc). No way you can prepare for it other than being open-minded!

I had 2, both of which were centred on a discussion of handouts I was given 15 minutes prior to each interview. One interview was with an Economics tutor and the other with two tutors (Politics, Philosophy). The Economics interview was very different from what I had expected (more abstract, no actual Economics questions); but the other interview was more what I was expecting (they got me to suggest ‘ideal’ political/economic situations then starting attacking them and sparked off a pretty intense debate). Strangely, the interview process was more interesting than intimidating; the tutors were all really nice and gave off an air of knowledge and (more importantly) enthusiasm – I am genuinely looking forward to being taught by them.

Economics: the handout was about an abstract game theory situation and I was asked to work my way through to various conclusions and explain why certain outcomes were the most likely. There was a big emphasis on attention to detail and being able to work through complex ideas aloud. At the end I was asked some maths stuff which was easy in itself but phrased awkwardly in ‘real world’ contexts – be prepared to do a bit of lateral thinking. Pol./Phil: The handout was about the distribution of wealth and income in society (actually it was about Ronaldo’s wages). I was asked to propose an ‘ideal’ scenario and was confronted with a whole series of counterarguments. The tutors know infinitely more than you do and have an answer for everything you say, but stick to your guns and be confident. If you get confused and need to think, say so (I did!) – it’s much better than clamming up, or just babbling.

Casual shirt and trousers. I would have felt a bit silly in a suit, but I didn’t want to dress down too much in case other people all went in in black tie or something. They didn’t though, that was just me being paranoid.

Impressions

Nice (but not impressive like Magdalen etc), quite a historical feel though – apparently it’s the oldest college. Which is cool in a way.

Room was big (compared to London Uni rooms anyway) but so cold I woke up shivering every morning (I think my heating could have been messed up though). Had a washbasin, desk, couple of chairs, standard stuff really.

Edible but not great

Friendly, approachable, clever, enthusiastic. No wonder Univ has such a good rep for PPE.

The students that stuck around to help us were called “sea-daddies” which was a bit off-putting and just seemed like the typical Oxford weirdness I was hoping didn’t exist – but they were all nice enough , so I can’t really complain.

Final stage

Relief! I found out in a text from my mum…that’s not as exciting as opening a letter.

Looking back

Yeah because PPE is a unique course which I think I’ll really enjoy…and what’s there to lose?

Be genuinely interested in all that PPE has to offer and read introductory texts to any of the subjects you haven’t studied before, and try to read some more in depth texts as well, there are plenty of appropriate reading lists on the web. You want to show them that you are passionate about these subjects, and reading up on them off your own back, doing it actively and forming reasoned opinions, can only help at interview.

Don’t set your heart on it: that way you feel less pressured so are more likely to perform well in the interview.

Be genuinely passionate about the course and do lots of reading (ideally the two should go hand in hand).