Applying to PPE - Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at Oxford

Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, often referred to as PPE, is one of the most popular courses of study at Oxford University. PPE was born of the conviction that study of the great modern works of economic, social, political and philosophical thought would have a transformative effect on students’ intellectual lives, and thereby on society at large. This conviction remains as firm today as it was then. As the world has evolved, so has PPE. The course brings together some of the most important approaches to understanding the world around us, developing skills useful for a wide range of careers and activities.

PPE is a highly flexible degree which allows students to shape their own path: they may choose to specialise in two branches at the end of the first year, or continue with all three. Students can also explore a wide variety of disciplines under the overarching headings of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics.

Academic Requirements
- A-levels: AAA
- Advanced Highers: AA/AAB
- IB: 39 (including core points) with 766 at HL

Why did you choose this course?

Want to go into Politics, have always loved Philosophy and was good at Economics at school. (Profile 720)

It just seems to me that all of the disciplines corroborate and compliment one another perfectly! I also really enjoy the study of each of them. (Profile 658)

This is what I really want to do. I think it is worth pointing out I applied for this course at all of the universities I went for. Some people at my interview only applied for PPE because that is what Oxford offered. This way round made writing my personal statement a lot easier. (Profile 602)

I was originally planning to apply for law but then began to really enjoy my politics a-level course. I also developed an interest in philosophy and the economics seemed to add relevance to the package. (Profile 570)

I've always wanted to study Politics (as in, I told people I was gonna be PM when I was 10), decided I wanted to add Economics in my early teens. I was planning on doing two undergrad degrees at the same time (which is possible where I'm from) and was considering taking some Philosophy classes. Then I discovered PPE and it was just perfect for me. (Profile 908)

Do you have any advice for future applicants in terms of preparation?

Not much of the prep i did for the interview actually helped but it makes you feel confident which is really important. Make sure you read up on current events and that you can draw graphs and find the intercepts etc. (Profile 720)

If you have named a book of your personal statement, think laterally about what quesitons they will ask you. It won;t be 'What do you think of this book?' This means you have to know it really well. Also, make sure you know a lot of detail about any recent political or economic events, especially if you haven't studied the subject before because they will ask you about it assuming you will know what they are talking about. (Profile 602)

Read the newspapers and ensure you know why you are interested in your subject but don't try and learn much about it unless you have studied it. You just need to be able to explain what it is about it that interests you and appear to have not made up your explanation!! (Profile 570)

For PPE specifically, prepare for the TSA test! Practice really helps, it made a huge difference for me.

For interviews, try to relax a bit (I know it's hard) and just explain what you're thinking. I found my debating experience came in really handy because it had trained me to explain thoughts analitically, so you might try that. (Profile 908)

What questions were you asked during your interview(s)?

In Philosophy, I had to look at a sheet of arguments and decide whether they were valid or not, then we moved onto my personal statement.

In economics, it was basic theory about inflation and exchange rates but based on current real life issues. Then I was set a problem about imperfect market knowledge. (Profile 602)

Whether "Do not do what is morally wrong" is a good law. To choose a political issue and talk about it. In general about mergers and takeovers. (Profile 720)

I actually had six interviews. At Christ Church I had 2 interviews on the Monday, one with a politics and economics tutor, one with a philosophy tutor. I found out that I had been summoned by 2 other colleges on the day I was meant to leave, Oriel and Mansfield so i went to these. At Mansfield I had an interview with three tutors all at once and at Oriel I had three interviews with the specific tutors, which was very probing.

My interviews were all based around puzzles or challenges. A few economics tutors asked me to draw graphs on the spot, like y= 5x/2. Philosophy had logical puzzles, you had to deduce the correct answer from various statements. Politics was discussions on a certain political event which i had to read about. (Profile 113)

politics- something from personal statement i was asked to expand on a concept.

economics- discussion followed by an AS/top GCSE level maths question. 

philosophy- discussion on moral dilemma/laws. (Profile 658)

Well, economics was the first; I was asked what aspects of my syllabus interested me, so I talked around the submitted assay while the tutor argued with me and also the minimum wage debate. In Philosophy I was asked to discuss a hyperthetical case about identity, which went off to a tandem of the nature of truth. Finally, Politics he asked about any texts I had read, at which point I was able to talk about the dull, yet worthy book I'd been ploughing through. Then there was discussion of coalition governments, domestic power and the difference in left and right. (Profile 116)

For Politics, I got a set of graphs 20 minutes in advance. When I came in, I was just told to talk about them, which caught me off-guard but I managed. I then had to give the argumentation of why those things were correlated. Then for Philosophy, I got a thought-experiment-puzzle-thing during the interview and I had to talk about what people would do and why. For Economics I got a set of questions about game theory 20 minutes in advance. During the interview I had to explain what I had done and why, and when we got to the questions I hadn't done yet I had to do them out loud. (Profile 908)

What was your general impression of the college that you applied to/any others you visited?

Christ Church was beautiful and the dining room was used in Harry Potter!

Oriel is not in one geographical area some parts are in a different place and Mansfield is a little bit out of the city centre and quite small. (Profile 113)

I really liked the atmosphere, right from when I first entered on the Open Day and during the interview period. I'm very happy with my decision. (Profile 908)

What advice do you have for potential applicants based on your experiences?

Read your subject- not because you will talk about it at interview (well i didn't), but because; a) it's your subject you should find it interesting and want to read it anyway, b) it shows through in you're intellegence, analysis and terminology used etc, c) it will make you feel much more prepared and calm before the interview. (Profile 658)

Don't be put off by thinking your GCSEs aren't good enough of that it is too much work. If you think you are capable of getting in, try. (Profile 602)

Know your subject matter. Honestly, don't try and name drop or bluff, they will latch onto anything you say and argue with it...I don't know how I got away with a lot of what I mentioned.

Know your material, don't have your heart set on it (like me) and RELAX. Be very enthusiastic in the interviews, and, if stumped - use the magic words: "Well, I'm not familiar with that subject area but my first thought/instinct would be to say......" It goes down far better than sitting getting red in silence. (Profile 116)