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Advice for history MA interview for philosophy graduate Watch

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    Long story short I always had an interest in history, but due to issues with my teachers at school I never did more than GCSE, I ended up studying philosophy instead, which wasn't as enjoyable as I thought it would be, though I still managed to get a 2:1.

    I've applied for a MA in European History at University of Birkbeck, as they do evening classes, and the only way I'll ever be able to afford it is if I still work about 30 hours a week. I've been offered an interview and I need to start preparing.

    What sort of questions am I expected to answer in an MA interview? I feel like I'm already on the back foot by not having studied the subject any further than GCSE, it's also been three and a half years since I graduated.. For the last 2/3 years I've read dozens of history books a year, most of them on European history. In my personal statement I name-dropped Orlando Figes' Russian Revolution 1891-1924, and his History of the Crimean War as two of the books I read as he teaches there - now I'm going to be interviewed by him.

    Other books I mentioned were: Europe a History by Norman Davies, Napoleon the Great by Andrew Roberts, Debunking the myths of the Napoleonic Wars by Michel Franceschi & Ben Weider, The Crimean War: A History, &
    A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891-1924, both by Orlando Figes, The Romanovs: 1613-1918 by Simon Sebag Montefiore, The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation, books I-VIIby Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and Last of the Empires: A History of the Soviet Union, 1945-1991 by John Keep.

    Unsure how relevant it is or if I'll be asked on it, but I wrote about my current job (work in the call centre for the council where people call about benefits, housing/homelessness, council tax, school admissions etc) and about the music blog I write.

    No one I went to university with went on to an MA, much less in a different subject so don't have anyone to ask for help really.
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    If you've actually read the books and can talk about them in a reasonable and informed way (rather than just name dropping) you should be fine.They'll want to talk about why this subject, uni and course, why now and what you want to do in the future. The degree you studied may not be directly relevant subject wise but you have showed that you're capable of academic level work in a similar field so I wouldn't worry about not having studied the subject at uni level. In terms of your current work and outside interests, talk about skills.
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    (Original post by metalthrashin'mad)
    Long story short I always had an interest in history, but due to issues with my teachers at school I never did more than GCSE, I ended up studying philosophy instead, which wasn't as enjoyable as I thought it would be, though I still managed to get a 2:1.

    I've applied for a MA in European History at University of Birkbeck, as they do evening classes, and the only way I'll ever be able to afford it is if I still work about 30 hours a week. I've been offered an interview and I need to start preparing.

    What sort of questions am I expected to answer in an MA interview? I feel like I'm already on the back foot by not having studied the subject any further than GCSE, it's also been three and a half years since I graduated.. For the last 2/3 years I've read dozens of history books a year, most of them on European history. In my personal statement I name-dropped Orlando Figes' Russian Revolution 1891-1924, and his History of the Crimean War as two of the books I read as he teaches there - now I'm going to be interviewed by him.

    Other books I mentioned were: Europe a History by Norman Davies, Napoleon the Great by Andrew Roberts, Debunking the myths of the Napoleonic Wars by Michel Franceschi & Ben Weider, The Crimean War: A History, &
    A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891-1924, both by Orlando Figes, The Romanovs: 1613-1918 by Simon Sebag Montefiore, The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation, books I-VIIby Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and Last of the Empires: A History of the Soviet Union, 1945-1991 by John Keep.

    Unsure how relevant it is or if I'll be asked on it, but I wrote about my current job (work in the call centre for the council where people call about benefits, housing/homelessness, council tax, school admissions etc) and about the music blog I write.

    No one I went to university with went on to an MA, much less in a different subject so don't have anyone to ask for help really.
    So you are likely to get a few questions along the lines of Why History? and then Why the change of subject? and you need to be aware of where you might have to change/adapt or learn new academic skills and where there are significant skills transferable between the 2 subjects.

    What is important about your reading is not what you have read, but what you have interpreted about a) the pure history and b) the style, process, assumptions, methods etc of the author. So for example, you ought to have an opinion on whether the 'something' say quality, or neutrality, or insight etc of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's work is materially different to Figes because of his experience of living in the USSR.

    If you are really feeling brave enough and want to play the game, if (and only if) Figes mentions his writing, you can have pre-prepared a 'reverse question' which makes the interview more of an academic discussion - for example if he says I see you've read my X, what did you think of it? You can say something like - I enjoyed it, and I thought the idea about y was sound, but I wondered if you'd taken the influence of Z into account enough? Though perhaps communication wasn't strong enough and the Z factor wasn't well enough appreciated?. And that gives him the chance to start discussing something generally academics love to waffle on about ie their subject, and it takes the pressure off you for 5 minutes. At PG level, academics want enquiring minds.
 
 
 
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