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

Interview format

2x 20 min interviews, a day apart

Interview content

Interview 1: philosophy questions, politics graph analysis; Interview 2: problem given beforehand, politics question

Best preparation

Past papers

Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

Chat about relevant topics with family, friends, and teachers; think aloud.

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 20 minutes each

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

There were 2 interviews. One was Philosophy and Politics. The other was Economics and Politics. Each was divided equally between the 2.

In the first, I was asked a series of challenging questions about ethics for Philosophy. For politics, I was asked about a graph - the exercise was to read the graph and interpret the data it represented, as well as to question what other info would be needed.

In the second, we worked through a problem we had been given to prepare about 10 minutes before the interview about a model of economic growth. The second half was a conversation about a particular political concept, and how it can be best defined and understood.

It's hard for these interviews to ever be relaxing, but I found that the tutors created a nice atmosphere and were genuinely interested in what I had to say.

How did you prepare?

I took past papers.

What advice do you have for future applicants?

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

A teacher of mine has done PPE at St John's, so she gave me some advice, and my school offered a practice interview, which was nice. The best thing you can do though is just have an interest and curiosity in the subject, and that will take you a long way. Especially for PPE there's both no real way to prepare and no expectation of 'preparedness'; the exercise is to see how you respond rather than how well you can prep. Other than that, conversations about the topic are helpful. They don't need to be formal practice interviews like I had (though that was good for getting you used to the nerves) but could be chats with family or fellow applicants or school mates or teachers about these kinds of topics. I would also recommend, as a point of interview technique, that you should think out loud. Often, interviewers (and University examiners in general) are more interested in your thought process than the answers you arrive at, and if you're finding it difficult to come up with an easy answer, that's probably a good thing, and you probably have intelligent reasons for it: just think aloud so that the interviewer knows what those road blocks are. "What I'm struggling with here is that on the one hand X but on the other hand Y" is your best friend!

Overall I don't think there's too much more to add. I wouldn't change anything and had my expectations met, if not slightly exceeded on how fun the interviews actually ended up being! The only other thing I'd add is to stay positive and stay focused on you. Don't compare yourself to the other people at interviews, or get caught up if they seem more confident or more prepared or whatever - chances are they're bluffing, and chances are you're jolly good! In fact, I would recommend limiting interaction with other applicants, and doing something calming for yourself during the interview period (I watched blue planet!) unless socialising actually makes you calm down. Also, if you think it's going badly or that part of it is going badly, don't get disheartened and just keep on going. I thought my economics section was awful, but I still got in, because they're not expecting perfect, and often things that you think are bad actually have some value to them.