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    Hello all -
    I am a student from Vancouver BC who just discovered this wonderful forum on UK universities.

    I am currently 23 years of age and will be applying (or, hoping to) for Oxford's PPE program this coming year (2013 for 2014 entry). I will briefly outline my situation and hopefully some of the experts here can give me a realistic evaluation.

    As you already know, I did not follow the traditional route of education. In fact, I delayed my high school graduation for some time - graduated July 2011 from a Chinese high school. The school does not have IBs or APs (let alone A-level) - but I did some APs on my own. I have an OKAY SAT score of around 2100, and three SATs (USH, math, physics) at 780 770 760 each. I graduated from the high school top 1% ranking - and during the period of 2009 - 2011 I was mainly doing political research and touring different universities (a couple of American ones, Canadian ones, Chinese and Japanese). I also ran a clothing business near Seattle and a tutoring company.

    Do you think I stand a chance for PPE? I know that the most important evaluative tool Oxford uses is the interview - but will my credential allow me to get shortlisted for the interview at least? I've tried the TSA - and it seems to be pretty easy.

    Thanks for your help!
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    Hello,

    I can't give you the detailed evaluation you're probably hoping for as I'm far from being an expert on how exactly how Oxford judges foreign qualifications, but I can tell you that the TSA score is the main tool the tutors use to help decide whom to invite to interview for PPE. If you do well on the TSA, you're very likely to be shortlisted as long as your qualifications are up to scratch (almost half the people who apply are interviewed).

    From a quick glance at the website, your SAT subject test scores all seem to be in order but you do need higher than 2100 for the SAT reasoning score...is 'around 2100' above or below? And while impressive, bear in mind that your extracurriculars won't have much bearing on your application.

    I hope this was useful to you - good luck with it all!
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    Thanks for your reply Koalagate. I will try to do my best on the TSA. My current SAT reasoning score is above 2100 but not pushing 2200. I just retained a tutor (in case I have any problems with my strategy) to improve my scores to 2300 +

    If my scores are up, I'll be simultaneously applying for the ivies since my extracurriculars will help me there somewhat.

    There aren't many sample tests for TSA out there - I guess the best I can do is to get familiar with the testing format and hope for the best !
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    Hello, Heintzst - we're in the same boat, application-wise! I'm slightly younger than you, but I'm delaying uni for a year and I hope to apply for entry in 2014, either for PPE or Psychology.

    Your SAT IIs look great, but I've heard that Oxford does place quite a bit more emphasis on the APs than the SATs - how many APs did you take, and how did you do for those?

    Also, I was wondering if I could ask you about the political research you did. I'm interested in doing some science research during my gap year, and I've been involved in science research programmes prior to graduation. However, those were intended for high schoolers and now that I've graduated, I can't apply for them. Are there any other ways for me to get some research experience during the year, perhaps as a research assistant in a university? Or would my lack of qualifications (I've only got A Levels) be a huge stumbling block :/
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    If Oxford places more emphasis on the APs, I'd say I'll have a bit of trouble. I've really only got three APs that are 5s (calculus AB, microeconomics and macroeconomics) the rest are 4s. I never took any AP class because I went to a school that doesn't offer any - I self-studied seven APs and took all in one year (The local AP co-coordinator joked that I "do AP for life"). Yes, this partially explains why I can't get 5 on all of them. I am hoping that my weak APs / other qualifications can be mitigated by a relatively strong TSA score. I've attempted all sample papers released online and have so far had trouble only in some spatial reasoning questions. (those annoying folding paper ones). The avg. score I got was about 43-44 out of 50.

    I heard that, for mature students, Oxford does allow applicants to submit work at another college for matriculation purposes. I will likely spend this coming year (fall 2013) at University of Pennsylvania to do some - also- PPE work. Some intro ethics, logic, (i've got AP economics already), and perhaps history. Hopefully a high score at Penn will help me obtain an offer from Oxford.

    For political research, I worked with several profs at U of British Columbia, U of Toronto, and some professors for Chinese politics in Beijing. My high school offered some opportunity to interview some politburo members.

    In my opinion (and that doesn't count for much I suppose), a lack of research experience won't really jeopardize your chance at Oxford at all. "Research" seems to count as a type of EC...rather than an academic qualification. As long as you can answer the academic questions at interview, I think you'll be fine.

    For preparation of PPE, I'm reading the PPE reading list (can be found on Amazon.co.uk) - the usual "Think" "intro to political philosophy" "armchair economist" (very boring, actually) - and for the past couple of years, I've done quite some reading on my own. For instance: "Stocks in the long run" "Manias Panics Crashes" "Minds and the Market" "Atlas Shrugged"(I count this as philosophy) "The closing of the American mind" - etc.. I hope to include my readings on my personal statement (which I heard doesn't count for much for international students) - and probably talk about them in my interview with the tutor(s).
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    3 APs seems to be fine: http://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/under...ons/index.html does state the minimum requirements for US students as 1400 CR+M, together with either >700 SAT IIs OR 5 x >2 AP tests. Hopefully you'll get a chance to put your APs into context - maybe find some space in your personal statement (or elsewhere) to squeeze in an explanation that your school wasn't very academically rigorous, and that the grades you received were due solely to your own effort. (Considering that, I do find the fact that you received 5s in 3 APs very impressive! )

    If you're studying at UPenn this year - would that then count as a transfer?

    Research is looked upon very highly as a gap year activity though - I did a bit of it in high school, but there's precious few research opportunities available for post-high schoolers without undergrad qualifications. I also enjoy hands-on work quite a bit more than I do immersing myself into theory. *twitchy fingers*

    I don't know very much about Philosophy (i.e. I know nada) but I think it's a good idea to go into your interview prepared to talk about your readings. During the academic interview you can cite your sources, and doing that will always serve you well!

    This is slightly less relevant, but there's a great book I really enjoyed reading (it's super mega tres un-boring, I can promise) written by a Nobel Laureate in Economics - Daniel Kahneman. It's called Thinking, Fast and Slow and it's more of a psychology text but it does give very convincing explanations about cognitive psychology, along with its effects on the actions of people working in the financial sector.
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    I don't think Oxford accepts transfers - aside from the fact that it strengthens the application somewhat, the work I do at Penn will be abandoned.

    I don't know much about philosophy either, but I'm interested in epistemology and the meaning of life. I also find different kinds of political philosophy interesting. I think a good introduction for this is "A theory of justice" or maybe even some legal theory book. I came across this sample essay question on TSA asking whether "patents promote innovation". This touches upon the intellectual property regime and is clearly a somewhat philosophical, somewhat legal question. I'm also a little interested in the theoretical foundation of the American experiment ("we held these truths to be self-evident...that humans have certain inalienable rights that are life liberty and pursuit of happiness") since I studied a lot of early U.S. history. The foundation is mostly Lockean, of course.

    I read Kahneman's book. That particular book is a little abstruse from time to time. So there were parts of it I had trouble making sense of. Some similar good books include those by Michael Lewis and Malcolm Gladwell. Maybe also "Alchemy of Finance" by George Soros. It was equally attacked as dense. I certainly did not digest it from one reading.
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    On the APs: I think the usual practice for when you have extenuating circumstances to explain slightly weaker qualifications is to have your referee write about it rather than including it in your personal statement. It gives you more space in your PS and it sounds better coming from someone else.

    You're right about how there are hardly any sample TSA papers around (this really annoyed me last year). It's probably a bit too late to warn you not to use up all the past papers early on, but when the 2012 paper comes out, I'd advise you to save it to do closer to the exam itself. You're going to want the practice. For Section 1, doing non-TSA verbal and non-verbal reasoning tests and taking a look at OCR Critical Thinking papers might also help you.

    Getting research experience is a good thing to do if you can get it - you might as well email some universities, though I imagine stuff like that requires contacts - but don't worry if you can't. I don't think Oxford mind what you do in your gap year that much (just don't waste it doing nothing).

    Nice to see all this extra reading.
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    I've checked out other threads in this forum concerning Americans applying to Oxford - it seems to me that APs and SATIIs are equivalent. That means if I have the relevant SAT IIs, it is perhaps pointless for me to have APs. But I'll ask my school politics teacher / counselor to write about that in the recommendation letter.

    For TSA, I'm really unsure how one can practice and improve performance. I have a feeling that for most of the questions it's either you get it or you don't. For test in 2009 and 2011, there are quite a few tricky word questions. I'll wait and see when they release the 2012 test, and probably save it till the last minute. But I guess, same for the SAT I, doing this type of practice hardly improves one's aptitude in reasoning. (in short term) I've tried some LSAT questions - and guess that helps. There are a couple of spatial reasoning questions that I have problem with.

    I recommend another book. It's just a little long. I also recommend that you all buy a Kindle which allows you to buy e-books from international (i.e., American) stores (you can switch your account address back and forth). Sometimes the American store offers lower prices and better selection.

    http://www.amazon.com/On-Politics-Hi.../dp/0871404656
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    The Oxford website does state SAT IIs and APs to be equivalent, but the APs could be considered "better than" the SAT IIs because the content covered is a lot more in-depth. It probably wouldn't do you any harm to present both your SAT IIs together with your excellent APs

    I borrowed a book from my college counsellor's office which has quite a few "mock" TSA questions, as well as detailed explanations. It's this one. You're right about the "tricky word questions" the Maths questions are really quite trivial compared to those! One (possibly) good thing about the word questions though is that there seem to be only a few "types". The book identifies them for you, and much like the CR section in SAT I, you can train yourself to pick out the correct answer over time.

    I use an iPad instead of a Kindle, but I'm thinking of switching as the glare gets rather annoying. iPads are good for whiling time away on aeroplanes - on buses, not so much.

    Thanks for the recommendation! Have you got any "starter" books for Politics and Philosophy?
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    I bought the book "Passing Oxbridge Admissions Tests (Student Guides to University Entrance Series)" and will have a look. It's nice that they have the Kindle version for even the American store (sometimes British titles such as this only have Kindle versions on the .co.uk website)

    My take on the word questions is that they're easier than spatial reasoning questions and certain "game" questions (by game I refer to sports game; for example one question gives out arrangements of competing teams and ask for the outcome of the game, etc. ) To do well on the TSA, I suppose you can't really get anything wrong on the verbal - otherwise you can't afford to get any of those folding paper cutting string questions wrong. Maybe it's just my brain is not up to standard.

    I use iPad too but not for reading books. I read papers on it (e.g., Economist, Financial Times, Businessweek, NYTimes, WSJ). It's too big to carry around all day and its battery life is poor compared to, say, Kindle keyboard (I don't use the "touch" one). I've been using Kindles to read since 2009 when I bought my first "2nd gen" Kindle in Chicago. With Kindle, You can carry a lot of books with you and generally are pushed to read more than otherwise.

    I think a starter book for philosophy is "Philosophy: a very short introduction" (Edward Craig) or "a short history of modern philosophy" (Roger Scruton) - there's the book "What is politics" recommended by a former PPEist. But I say for political science in general, and maybe IR in particular, you should read the magazines first. That's how I got started - reading "Foreign Affairs" "National Interest" or the Economist. I tried the "New Statesmen" for a while - and did not like it. But you can also try "The New Republic" supposedly a must-read for White House.
 
 
 
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