Philosophy, Politics And Economics @ Merton, Oxford in 2018

Interview format

3x 25 min interview (+ 2x 20 min reading time), over 2 days

Interview content

Philosophy: subject of interest, logic problem; Economics: scenario given beforehand, broader questions; Politics: problem sheet given beforehand

Best preparation

Past papers, including essay plans

Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

Had mock interviews; reviewed personal statement; did some debating / public speaking

Remember this advice isn't official. There is no guarantee it will reflect your experience because university applications can change between years. Check the official Cambridge and Oxford websites for more accurate information on this year's application format and the required tests.

Also, someone else's experience may not reflect your own. Most interviews are more like conversations than tests and like, any conversation, they are quite interactive.

Interview Format

Test taken: TSA

Number of interviews: 3

Skype interview: No

Interview spread: 2 interviews, a few hours apart, on first day; 1 interview on second day

Length of interviews: 25 minutes each; for 2 of the interviews, 20 minutes reading time each

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

For the philosophy interview I was asked about a subject I was interested in and we talked about that for around 15 minutes. Then we tackled a logic problem for the remaining ten. It was quite a challenging discussion and fairly in depth. (I was also often left thinking silently with no contribution if I was struggling with something, though it was definitely a discussion rather than monologue.)

For economics I was given a hypothetical scenario (including some numbers) before the interview. in the interview I was asked to do some maths/work with graphs. Then at the end there were some broader economics questions - more ‘real world’.

For politics I was given a problem sheet to complete before I came in, based on a political theory. We talked about my answers and then their real world applications.

My personal statement/past work only came up in passing, almost as small talk, in my economics interview, (and not at all in the other two) though friends from other colleges say this was not true for them, so I certainly wouldn’t neglect to revise/look over your own!

How did you prepare?

I used past papers and planned past essays.

What advice do you have for future applicants?

Looking back, what advice would you give to your past self?

My school luckily had serveral teachers who have been through Oxbridge (though it was a state school) so I had mock interviews from several sources (including people brought in by the school specially).

I reread a couple of the books mentioned on my personal statement and made sure I knew what I had mentioned. I also did some basic maths revision because I’d heard that you often get asked to do maths.

I think I was also quite fortunate to have had some experience in debating/public speaking as I think one thing that can let people down is an inability to express ideas verbally (though I’m certainly prone to rambling!). In this area I think just getting into the habit of explaining things out loud, or just getting a teacher to give you a mock interview are quite helpful.

I had expected much more questioning on my personal statement when in reality it was less than a minute's worth of discussion. In some ways I think it’s almost impossible to prepare for the style of interview I experienced as I think they were trying to see what you are like with new topics.

However, friends who also went through the process (different colleges and/or subject) had quite different experiences (lots of focus on personal statement, asked about previous knowledge), so don’t rely on my advice too much!!