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Oxford Psychology, Philosophy & Linguistics Interview Questions

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Interview Essentials

The Oxford PPL course is highly competitive. Students will be expected to be on course for at least A*AA at A Level. Candidates ought to have at least one science subject (including Psychology) to A Level – this can also include Maths. Studying Philosophy or RS to A Level is typically not seen as being advantageous. Instead, analytical disciplines in general are seen as being helpful. If you’re looking to be invited to interview, you’ll need to be able to demonstrate a track record of academic success – including excellent A Level predictions – have a great reference from your school, and score a high mark in the pre-interview admissions test, the TSA. The school will make an effort to take into account any individual circumstances which could have resulted in your pre-interview assessments failing to provide a fair overview of your true academic potential. College Tutors and Subject Tutors will work together to shortlist candidates using all relevant information, before inviting them to interview.

Admissions Statistics

In the most recent data, the university had 745 applications, of whom they shortlisted 243 and invited them for interview. Of that 243, a little more than 100 offers were made.

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Interview Key Dates for Psychology, Philosophy & Linguistics at Oxford

You will have two interviews, which will take around the middle of December – typically at the beginning of the third week. Interviews will ideally be on consecutive days.

Interview Format and Purpose

The interview for Psychology, Philosophy and Linguistics is designed to assess how much potential an applicant has to develop as a student, and whether they will be able to cope with the demands of the course. All applicants are first interviewed at their college of preference, and then allocated to a second college to be interviewed. This allows two independent assessments, making the process as fair as it can be. For PPL, tutors are looking for the student to be able to demonstrate and evidence their track record of academic achievement, for them to show that they can evaluate evidence and consider issues from multiple perspectives, show a capacity for logical thinking, an ability to be creative, an appreciation of the importance of empirical evidence, and clear motivation which shows they will be able to cope with the course.

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Additional Assessments

All applicants must sit the TSA, which requires separate registration – which is your responsibility as a candidate. The Thinking Skills Assessment is a computer-based test which is divided into two parts. The first is a 90-minute, multiple-choice section, the Thinking Skills Assessment, and the second is a 30-minute writing task. Section 1 consists of 50 multiple-choice questions, through which the University of Oxford aims to assess the following attributes: Problem-solving skills, including numerical reasoning, critical thinking skills, including understanding arguments, and reasoning using normal, everyday language. Section 2, which is the writing task, tests your ability to organise ideas coherently and succinctly, and to show that you can write effectively. Remember that questions are not subject specific – instead they are general, as students from any discipline have to be able to answer them. In Section 2, candidates answer one question from a choice of four – questions are again general.

Previous Questions

  • How does the literature you have read affect your opinion of that society?
  • How would you design a better brain?
  • Can you only understand or analyse a text properly in its original language?
  • “Actions speak louder than words” and yet “The pen is mightier than the sword”. Which lies nearest to the truth?
  • At what point is a person “dead’?
  • How would you describe a cucumber to an alien?
  • What is the difference between history and literature?
  • How would you describe a human to a person from Mars?
  • How many people do you think believe in evolution in the US?
  • What do you like most about the brain?
  • Can you describe a graph that shows learning on the Y axis with age on the X axis?
  • Why the University of Oxford?
  • Will we find you interesting to teach?
  • Did you do an EPQ? If so, what did you do it on?
  • What is your favourite word?
  • What do you want to get out of this course?
  • Is our language inherently patriarchal?

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