How to Prepare
See below for PPE reading suggestions, advice on preparing for the TSA and how to write a PPE personal statement, and guidance on which subjects to take at A-Level or equivalent.
Applicants are not expected to have studied any philosophy, politics, or economics at school, but should be interested in the three subjects and be prepared to put their minds to problems of philosophy, politics, and economics presented to them. We recommend that applicants read widely around the three subjects to help prepare for applying. PPE tutors will look for commitment and motivation to the course, as well as evidence of academic potential. They will want to know that a student has really engaged with the three subjects and has a passion for studying them. We also recommend that applicants obtain a reasonable grasp of the workings of the social and political world in which we live. Reading a good quality daily newspaper is crucial to a successful application, along with watching and listening to news and current affairs programmes. Below are some useful introductory texts for the three PPE disciplines.
Thomas Nagel, What does it all mean?
Jennifer Nagel, Knowledge: A Very Short Introduction
Further Philosophy reading suggestions.
Jonathan Wolff, An Introduction to Political Philosophy
Various authors, Developments in British (French, German, East European etc.) Politics
Adrian Leftwich, What is Politics?
Paul Krugman’s books
Tim Harford's books
Further Economics reading suggestions (reading suggestions tab).
The TSA Admissions Test
The TSA is a test of verbal, spatial and numerical reasoning, and also asks you to write an essay in order to demonstrate that you can construct a cogent and clear argument. Whilst no particular knowledge assumed, it is a good idea to familiarise yourself with the format of the test and try to do some practice.
Personal statements should show evidence of interest in PPE but not necessarily knowledge of the three subjects. PPE applicants are not required to have studied politics, economics or philosophy at school, and so we do not expect you to know about these subjects before applying. We would like to see interest in one or two of the three subjects and evidence of engagement with those, e.g. through extra-curricular reading. If it appears from your personal statement that you are applying for different but related courses elsewhere, this would not disadvantage your application. We are also pleased to see evidence of hard work, time management and persistence in learning (in any area). The personal statement is just one part of the overall picture, and for PPE applicants is of lower importance in shortlisting decisions compared to your TSA result, your qualifications, and the academic reference.
School Subject Choices
You may apply for PPE having done any combination of subjects at school; it is not necessary to have studied Politics, Philosophy or Economics. History and Mathematics are useful backgrounds, but are not essential. Although a background in Mathematics is not formally required for admission, PPE applicants should have sufficient aptitude for mathematics to cope with the mathematical elements of the course. Mathematics is a particular advantage for the Economics component of PPE, as well as for the first year logic course in Philosophy, and for understanding theories and data in Politics; it is useful to have learnt the basics of differentiation before starting PPE. You may like to consider taking Mathematics to AS-level, or an equivalent qualification such as IB Standard Level, even if you do not pursue it further. However, we do understand that these qualifications may not be available to all students, and they are not essential. Extra tuition will be available to students that have not studied Maths A-Level who require any assistance.