I have been successfully helping candidates prepare for their Oxford PPE interviews for a number of years.
Having taught PPE students at the University of Oxford, as a post-doctoral philosophy tutor, I'm naturally very familiar with the application process.
The Oxford PPE interviews attempt to recreate the kind of academic exchange you can expect to experience in a typical PPE tutorial.
I offer help and advice on all stages of interview preparation including practice interviews, interview technique and analysis of your personal statement.
For those applicants who would like a thorough grounding in the central concepts of PPE, I offer an Introduction to PPE Course.
Oxford PPE interviews are not conducted to discover the depths of your knowledge:
you wouldn't be in the room unless you were clearly capable of absorbing and re-presenting subject knowledge.
Rather, the PPE interviewers are more interested in the structure of your thought; they are concerned to discover how you explore unfamiliar concepts, and how you deploy familiar concepts in new contexts.
My practice PPE interviews aim to encourage this fluency of thought by simulating the kind of PPE tutorial you can expect to receive at Oxford.
The interview simulations also include the kind of pre-interview logic puzzles that many Oxford colleges are fond of setting their PPE candidates.
Many Oxford colleges now begin PPE interviews with questions concerning
a logic puzzle, or thought-experiment, that you will have been given
shortly before the interview. So the very first questions are likely to
concern this logic puzzle.
Once the logic puzzle has been dealt with, the remainder of your Oxford PPE interview questions can typically be divided into three types. You may begin with a generic 'ice-breaker' question, designed to put you at your ease after the challenge of the logic puzzle. This kind of question is utterly predictable: 'Why Oxford?', 'Why PPE?', etc.; though there may be more testing variants on this theme, such as 'Why university?'.
The preliminary 'calming' questions may be followed by PPE-related questions prompted by your personal statement. These are not designed to catch you out, or trap in you in some terrible contradiction; rather, they attempt to explore the manner in which you have thought about the topics that you have mentioned.
Finally, there may be questions designed to reveal the way you go about exploring unfamiliar concepts. Here the interview may resemble the kinds of tutorial that you can expect to experience at Oxford: tutor and student following the thoughts where they lead.
Needless to say, your personal statement can be something of a hostage to fortune when it
comes to your PPE interview.
As well as helping PPE candidates to draft their personal statements, I analyse statements to build a list of the kinds of questions that may arise in your interview.
The aim is not so that you can anticipate precise questions and prepare for them; that would be counter-productive, for it would likely make you sound over-coached. Rather, it is to develop the skill of expanding rationally upon the claims you have made.
It is not necessary that applicants for PPE at Oxford need
to have studied philosophy formally. Nevertheless, it would be odd for
a candidate to have no conception whatsoever of what the
philosophy component of a PPE comprises.
Prior to their interview, some PPE candidates therefore benefit from a short, tailored course in the philosophical concepts central to PPE.
My course is integrated with interview practice, so that philosophical concepts and skills are developed that are relevant to a discussion of your PPE personal statement.
Concepts such as justice, autonomy, freedom, responsibility, morality, etc. are explored in ways that connect to the broader PPE syllabus.