Philosophy, Politics And Economics @ St John's, Oxford in 2017

Interview format

2x 30 min interviews, 1 day apart

Interview content

Interview 1 (philosophy and politics): discussion of a common idea, graph; Interview 2 (economics and politics): maths, current affairs

Best preparation

Thought about structure of past paper questions

Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

Tried to have interesting conversations around PPE; be genuinely excited about your subject!

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: 2

Skype interview: No

Time between each interview: 1 day

Length of interviews: about 30 minutes each

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

My interviews were each split in half, ending with a politics half, and starting in the first interview with philosophy and in the second with economics.

For philosophy, we had what was very much a conversation, discussing a common idea and what I thought of it; this included both what I thought it was as a concept, and then how it works in real life - these were questions designed to see how would think analytically about an aspect of our daily lives.

Politics covered two different areas - in the first interview, I was asked to describe a graph, and then discuss what might be the cause(s) of the information shown. Don't worry if you don't have a clue, just be honest and present ideas as you come up with them. The tutors gave prompts and made me really focus in on what I meant when I said something, which made for an interesting conversation.

For the second interview, the politics half was focused on current affairs; they didn't seem to expect an encyclopedic knowledge of anything, but reading the news regularly helps. We spoke about populism, and then European policy concerning North African crises - I knew nothing about this, and just said so! I then made some vague suggestions based on the idea of tackling corruption, as a fairly universal issue.

In the economics section, the first half of the 2nd interview, we just worked through a problem sheet I'd been given 25 minutes to prepare. This was just maths - gotta try your best and if you end up confusing your X and Y axes (!!) just roll with it and use the advice you're given by the professors!

I think it's important to mention that we never discussed my personal statement - this is not the same at every college, but in general they only use questions on those lines to get someone comfortable. Make sure you know what you said in your statement, and you'll be fine!

How did you prepare?

As it was an aptitude test, I looked at a couple past papers and thought, as well as I could, about how the questions worked. What was the logical structure of each question? Lots of them are similar if you think about it!

What advice do you have for future applicants?

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

The core of my preparation was conversations - I challenged myself as much as I could to find interesting conversations surrounding PPE. Not syllabus stuff, and, given I hadn't studied any of P, P or E before I applied, certainly not school subject projects or anything. Instead I just tried to be active in talking with my friends, family, teachers, etc., about what was going on in the news, and the issues that concerned me - things I was excited by, like how the actual meaning of Trump's words didn't seem to matter at all to his supporters!

I think the best thing to be, when you go to an interview, is genuinely excited about a subject you love. So work out why you want to study PPE, or anything else, and live like it!