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Oxford Maths and Philosophy Students and Applicants

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    Hey,

    I am having second thoughts over my A-Level choices. I was previously going to take Maths, Further Maths, History & Philosophy for A-Level but am now considering whether to take English Lit. instead of Philosophy. I want to study Maths & Philosophy at university (hopefully at Oxford) and thought Philosophy might help, but according to Oxford's website:

    There is no obvious advantage to having taken Philosophy A-Level beforehand, at least from the perspective of how likely you’d be to obtain an offer of a place. Those who have studied these subjects tend to know a little more about philosophy, but this is not something we test for or are all that interested in at the admissions stage. (Two reasons: it doesn’t much matter to us at this stage, and knowing about philosophy before you come doesn’t seem related very clearly to ability as a philosopher.) It seems to have conferred no obvious advantage on candidates, whether they have studied philosophy as part of AS/A2 ‘Philosophy’ or ‘Religious Studies’.

    There is no direct disadvantage of studying Philosophy A-Level. If it’s a disadvantage at all, it’s often because studying philosophy will usually be at the expense of studying something else, and the ‘something else’ might be a better preparation – might better develop the skills and aptitudes we are looking for. To give one example: studying English literature ought to involve a development of skills of careful reading of, and critical engagement with, texts, which we value, and it seems to do this to a higher degree than A level philosophy. So there can be an indirect disadvantage; by studying philosophy, there is less time for mathematics, history, languages, and so on, studies which may support an application for one of our degrees involving philosophy better, and may in fact be better indicators of success in studying philosophy at university.


    How seriously should I take this advice?
    I received my GCSE results last week and got 99.5% in English Lit. and I do enjoy the subject; nearly as much as Philosophy and so I don’t know whether it’s best to take English Lit. instead, especially as the course looks probably more challenging and I could probably learn more from it, and it is probably more respected and leaves more options open; and then I could just read up on Philosophy in my own time. So is it better for me to stick to taking Philosophy A-Level or instead do English Lit? Any help is greatly appreciated, thanks.
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    I'm doing Maths, Further Maths, English Literature and Philosophy & Ethics. Applying for Maths & Philosophy this year. :coma:
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    (Original post by backintime)
    How seriously should I take this advice?
    I received my GCSE results last week and got 99.5% in English Lit. and I do enjoy the subject; nearly as much as Philosophy and so I don’t know whether it’s best to take English Lit. instead, especially as the course looks probably more challenging and I could probably learn more from it, and it is probably more respected and leaves more options open; and then I could just read up on Philosophy in my own time. So is it better for me to stick to taking Philosophy A-Level or instead do English Lit? Any help is greatly appreciated, thanks.

    I think you've just answered your own question :rolleyes:
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    I'd say, as those above have said, that you've probably answered your own question, and are coming down on the side that Literature may be a better option. You can, and should anyway, keep Philosophy as a 'hobby' for the next year or so, and spend your time doing some background reading. That way you get to explore the subject you're interested in without missing out on doing another subject. Alternatively, if you couldn't make your mind up you could take five... it works for some...
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    (Original post by backintime)
    Hey,

    I am having second thoughts over my A-Level choices. I was previously going to take Maths, Further Maths, History & Philosophy for A-Level but am now considering whether to take English Lit. instead of Philosophy. I want to study Maths & Philosophy at university (hopefully at Oxford) and thought Philosophy might help, but according to Oxford's website:

    There is no obvious advantage to having taken Philosophy A-Level beforehand, at least from the perspective of how likely you’d be to obtain an offer of a place. Those who have studied these subjects tend to know a little more about philosophy, but this is not something we test for or are all that interested in at the admissions stage. (Two reasons: it doesn’t much matter to us at this stage, and knowing about philosophy before you come doesn’t seem related very clearly to ability as a philosopher.) It seems to have conferred no obvious advantage on candidates, whether they have studied philosophy as part of AS/A2 ‘Philosophy’ or ‘Religious Studies’.

    There is no direct disadvantage of studying Philosophy A-Level. If it’s a disadvantage at all, it’s often because studying philosophy will usually be at the expense of studying something else, and the ‘something else’ might be a better preparation – might better develop the skills and aptitudes we are looking for. To give one example: studying English literature ought to involve a development of skills of careful reading of, and critical engagement with, texts, which we value, and it seems to do this to a higher degree than A level philosophy. So there can be an indirect disadvantage; by studying philosophy, there is less time for mathematics, history, languages, and so on, studies which may support an application for one of our degrees involving philosophy better, and may in fact be better indicators of success in studying philosophy at university.


    How seriously should I take this advice?
    I received my GCSE results last week and got 99.5% in English Lit. and I do enjoy the subject; nearly as much as Philosophy and so I don’t know whether it’s best to take English Lit. instead, especially as the course looks probably more challenging and I could probably learn more from it, and it is probably more respected and leaves more options open; and then I could just read up on Philosophy in my own time. So is it better for me to stick to taking Philosophy A-Level or instead do English Lit? Any help is greatly appreciated, thanks.
    Having just finished my A Levels in Philosophy and English Lit, I would advise you to pick English Lit. Philosophy was good, but it is definitely the sort of subject which you could teach yourself at a basic level. Buy a decent A Level Philosophy text book, study it in your spare time, and do English at school. I found that English helped with Philosophy anyway and was a more interesting course, and you seem to be good at it. Good Luck
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    Hi guys,

    wondering if any of you are actually doing this course and could shed some light on the application process.

    This is actually my second time applying to oxford (i'm at imperial now, hoping to get out cuz the fees are through the roof), last time round I was applying math and computer science and made a mess of the admission test as well as the skype interview. Hopefully i'll do better trying something different (and feel more suited to).

    everything up to the interview seems pretty straight forward but what does the interview actually entail? is it gonna be pretty much the same as any of the other "standard" joint math degrees where they give you black and white math questions and you answer them? or are there more open ended discussions that i can look forward to?

    Thanks,

    Mike ~
    Math and Computer Science Imperial College
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    The interviews are not really black and white maths questions, its puzzles that they expect to challenge you, you will probably not have seen any of the questions they ask you before, and the interview is meant to recreate a kind of one on one lesson, so the interviewers can see how you think.

    Also, I beleive you'll have a separate interview with philosophy which will be much more open ended questions.

    FYI, Im not doing the course, but I did do the interview process.
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    My cousin applied for this course, there was an incredibly hard Maths paper involved.
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    I'd strongly recommend you finish Imperial, and apply to Oxford as an affiliated student. Math and Computer Science is a good course to do at Imperial, and the university has a high reputation, and you're sure to get the degree. Now, I'll assume you're finishing the first year, in which case you're going to do a second year at Imperial, and presumably intend to do a transfer through UCAS to the third year at Oxford, and as far as I know (as an Oxford student myself) this is pretty hard. If you get in, you're really not secure once you get in (i.e. you only get one or two attempts at the end-of-year exams, depending on the college, and between Imperial and Oxford, the Oxford end-of-year exams are really the hardest I've seen), and considering that by that time you'll only have one year left on your BA at Imperial, you might as well finish at Imperial. Applying as an affiliated student to Oxford means if you get in you'll be able to skip the first year and do the course in two years, which is a very good deal. Courtesy of the last government, you'll have to pay higher fees for the affiliated degree, since it is a second undergraduate degree.
    Either way, if you end up doing an interview, be aware that the material varies wildly from college to college.
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    (Original post by §01)
    I'd strongly recommend you finish Imperial, and apply to Oxford as an affiliated student.
    sorry for not making this clearer at the beginning, I haven't started yet
    got the offer and im still mulling over whether i really want to commit to the 21500 pound fee (i'm an international student you see)

    thought i'd go to imperial while taking a pot shot at oxford for a first year undergrad. amazingly its actually cheaper by 800 pounds if i ditched imperial after my first year and go to oxford than if i see imperial all the way through

    anyway your sure you can't tell me a little more about the interview process? what course did you take?
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    (Original post by King of Fools)
    sorry for not making this clearer at the beginning, I haven't started yet
    got the offer and im still mulling over whether i really want to commit to the 21500 pound fee (i'm an international student you see)

    thought i'd go to imperial while taking a pot shot at oxford for a first year undergrad. amazingly its actually cheaper by 800 pounds if i ditched imperial after my first year and go to oxford than if i see imperial all the way through

    anyway your sure you can't tell me a little more about the interview process? what course did you take?
    Let me first say I don't know anything really specific about Maths & Philosophy. I'd guess you'd get two different interviews, one for each branch. On the Maths one they ask some basic Maths questions, but in general they have the admissions test to see how good you are at Maths so it's not really what they have to focus on. In general interviews are about how quickly you pick up new things and to see how you think, so chances are they'll give you something obscure and let you work with that. As for Philosophy, for that part in my PPE interviews it was a logic puzzle, but you can also get broad what-is-the-meaning-of-life kind of questions.
    As for wheter to take Imperial or switch: as far as I know (which isn't saying much but still) they are more likely to accept you in Oxford when taking a gap year than when doing a course somewhere else. But a gap year has the added hassle of also having to apply at other places and not being certain of getting a good offer. It's a difficult decision, good luck.
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    The questions you will be asked vary from college to college. On mathematics, I've heard you may be asked questions about differentiation, integration, series (summation of infinite series), geometry (trigonometry, circles, and so on), and linear algebra. but there may be more areas from which questions are asked. I've also heard they ask questions about epistemology, belief, and paradoxes. The interviews may be 20-30 minutes long, and you'll have about four of them, with two at the main college, and two at a backup college. I've also heard some colleges are less geared up to certain subjects, so the questions may get off course and enter the realm of personal interests. This isn't complete coverage of what you'll be asked, of course, but it should provide a good starting point.
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    I'm in the same position. I haven't studied philosophy before, just read around it a bit, and I'm quite worried about the philosophy questions. If anyone has had one of these interviews can you remember what they asked? And what may be good preparation material?
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    I want to study maths and phil at oxford. I'm going to do double maths and physics. then i have 2 choices left.
    my parents think i should do chemistry but i don't enjoy it.
    i want to do german because i enjoy it and am good at it (but its not hugely relevant)
    i think i should do at least one bonafide essay subject. religion and ethics seems more relevant but apparently history is better looked upon?
    and its been suggested i should do latin because its a strong and well-respected subject.
    i could get the grades in any of these subjects
    i think i should do german and religion and ethics. am i right?
    swift response appreciated!
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    Is philosophy A-level not available to you?
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    I'd say History.
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    My friend who does Maths/Phil at Oxford did Maths, F.Maths, Philosophy, Government and Politics and History for AS but then full A-levels he only did Maths, F.Maths and Philosophy, Oxford were fine with that.
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    If you're already taking Maths, FM + Physics, then you're pretty much already sorted A-Level-wise. If you enjoy German and don't enjoy Chem, then take German. It won't hurt your chances at all. Equally, whilst History might be slightly more preferable to RE + Ethics, the difference is fairly negligible.
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    You don't need to worry too much about taking well-respected A levels — any of your proposed choices would be fine.
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    A lot of MathPhils have no previous experience of writing essays, so it's not necessary to have an essay based subject (though it may well help!). Maths + FM are a given pair that you should take. After that, just take whatever you'd like!

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