Philosophy, Politics And Economics @ Trinity, Oxford in 2016

Interview format

2x 20 min interviews, over 1 day

Interview content

Interview 1 (politics): interests, political philosophy; Interview 2 (philosophy and economics): ethics passage given beforehand, globalisation and trade

Best preparation

Timed practice papers, repeatedly

Advice in hindsight


Final thoughts

Listen to podcasts; read widely and copiously; practice having debates with other people.

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

Interview spread: 1 in morning, 1 in afternoon

Length of interviews: about 20 minutes each

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

My teachers didn't really have any experience with sending students to Oxford, so they had told me that the questions would probably be about what I wanted to do in my career or why I wanted to go to Oxford. This turned out to be completely wrong and the questions were entirely academic.

In both interviews, I was interviewed by two people, who spent about 10 minutes each questioning me.

My first one was politics, and I spent the first 10 minutes talking about what interests me in comparative politics with the first tutor, and then 10 minutes talking about freedom in political philosophy with the other one. I was extremely nervous at the beginning but settled into it a bit towards the end.

Before my second interview, I was given 30 minutes to study a philosophical passage on meta-ethics and prepare answers to a series of questions. Then, in the interview I spent 10 minutes talking through my answers with my philosophy tutor. Following this, I was asked a question by the economics tutor about globalisation and trade.

The universal feature of the interviews with all the tutors was that there was not a series of questions, but rather one initial question which we then discussed and explored. I had to give and defend my arguments and make my assumptions explicit.

How did you prepare?

Practice papers were the most useful thing for me, especially for section 1. I did them over and over again in timed conditions, and went through what I got wrong.

What advice do you have for future applicants?

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

Interview success (at least for PPE) is based on two things. 1. Interest and knowledge of your subjects. 2. The ability to intellectually engage with someone, making compelling arguments, and defend them while taking valid criticism on board.

To cultivate (1), podcasts are especially useful because they introduce you to concepts and debates that you otherwise might not know to pursue. Other than that just read widely and copiously.

On (2), the best way is just to practice having debates about your subject with other people. If you have friends applying for the same subject, having them interview you would be the best preparation. Failing that, recruit teachers, parents, or carers.