Getting into Oxbridge for Philosophy

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sweetstudent
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I would love to study philosophy at Oxbridge.
I am just starting sixth form and taking Philosophy, psychology and biology and am ready to study everyday and get As/A*s.
I have a big passion for philosophy and wanted to find out if I could possibly have a chance of getting into oxbridge if I got amazing results and a big passion for my subject, BUT at GCSE I got A,B,B,5,5,C,C,4,D,E??? I just hated school in year 11 but after taking a year out of school and now returning to sixth form I'm so ready to do well. Do I have a chance with these GCSES? (the A was in RE which is good for philosophy) (D and E were in geography and business which I have my reasons for)
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akpo
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Oxford place a huge emphasis on gcses, and there isn’t a lot of spaces for their p&t course (philosophy and theology) so oxford is probably not suitable to apply for, however they have contextual factors.

Cambridge on the other hand, don’t place an emphasis on GCSEs and focus on students progress in AS and A level, and have a straight philosophy course, so it’ll probably be advisable to apply to Cambridge.

Amazing A level results isn’t enough for oxbridge (you still need them), you have to write a really convincing personal statement, do well in the philosophy test, and perform well at interview(s). However, really high predictions will make your application competitive as well as wider reading for your subject.
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Doones
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(Original post by sweetstudent)
I would love to study philosophy at Oxbridge.
I am just starting sixth form and taking Philosophy, psychology and biology and am ready to study everyday and get As/A*s.
I have a big passion for philosophy and wanted to find out if I could possibly have a chance of getting into oxbridge if I got amazing results and a big passion for my subject, BUT at GCSE I got A,B,B,5,5,C,C,4,D,E??? I just hated school in year 11 but after taking a year out of school and now returning to sixth form I'm so ready to do well. Do I have a chance with these GCSES? (the A was in RE which is good for philosophy) (D and E were in geography and business which I have my reasons for)
If you can show Oxbridge you are *realistically* on target to meet the typical requirements for the course (A*AA at Cambridge, there's no single honours Philosophy at Oxford) then yes you can be in with a chance.

Cambridge likes an upward academic trajectory, and also interviews a high proportion (>70%) of applicants so a strong Philosophy Admissions Assessment and interview can more than make up for less good GCSEs.

https://www.undergraduate.study.cam....ses/philosophy

PS. I'm moving this to the Oxbridge forum
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sweetstudent
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Thank You!! In that case I will definitely be looking at cambridge. Would anyone recommend any suitable work experience or societies/clubs that link with philosophy to enhance my application??
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Doones
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(Original post by sweetstudent)
Thank You!! In that case I will definitely be looking at cambridge. Would anyone recommend any suitable work experience or societies/clubs that link with philosophy to enhance my application??
Work experience is not required, no.

Exploring around the subject (reading, MOOCs, etc) and generally being curious is the key (on top of strong academics...).

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akpo
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(Original post by sweetstudent)
Thank You!! In that case I will definitely be looking at cambridge. Would anyone recommend any suitable work experience or societies/clubs that link with philosophy to enhance my application??
Oxbridge personal statements are normally governed around academia and minimum extracurricular.

Things to do:
Read a book or two, but critically and analytically, and not just for pleasure and enjoyment.
Read articles?
Attend philosophy lectures?
Try to get into a philosophy summer school, or summer school that has relevance or link.
Undertake an EPQ?
Debates?
Essay Competition? Trinity college Cambridge normally run this annually?
You are not expected to have work experience for pretty much all courses (excluding medicine and veterinary medicine)
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sweetstudent
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(Original post by akpo)
Oxbridge personal statements are normally governed around academia and minimum extracurricular.

Things to do:
Read a book or two, but critically and analytically, and not just for pleasure and enjoyment.
Read articles?
Attend philosophy lectures?
Try to get into a philosophy summer school, or summer school that has relevance or link.
Undertake an EPQ?
Debates?
Essay Competition? Trinity college Cambridge normally run this annually?
You are not expected to have work experience for pretty much all courses (excluding medicine and veterinary medicine)
Thank You that was super helpful. Been researching everything to do with cambridge university for around 3 hours now! am super ready to start all the preparation. Found some masterclasses too and the summer school looks brilliant
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sweetstudent
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Any other things that would enhance my application???
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Martins1
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(Original post by sweetstudent)
I would love to study philosophy at Oxbridge.
I am just starting sixth form and taking Philosophy, psychology and biology and am ready to study everyday and get As/A*s.
I have a big passion for philosophy and wanted to find out if I could possibly have a chance of getting into oxbridge if I got amazing results and a big passion for my subject, BUT at GCSE I got A,B,B,5,5,C,C,4,D,E??? I just hated school in year 11 but after taking a year out of school and now returning to sixth form I'm so ready to do well. Do I have a chance with these GCSES? (the A was in RE which is good for philosophy) (D and E were in geography and business which I have my reasons for)
Long story short - yes you can get into both as long as you get good A levels. At Cambridge they do a single honours Philosophy course which has a very mathematical/logic-based focus.

Thinking about Oxford is more complex as there are no single honours degrees but many joint honours degrees. These range in focus and often place heavy emphasis on admissions tests which could help make up for GCSEs.

What to do in preparation? Go to the Cambridge masterclass and enter some of the philosophy essay competitions. Read books with an intense focus. When reading, answer each of these questions:
1) what is the author saying? Put it in your own words, precisely and concisely.
2) does this tie into anything else you’ve read/studied/considered/heard etc
3) what do you think about this suggestion? Provide logical support or criticism of this position.
4) how would this effect other positions or ideas if true or false? Think how you would neatly explain this

I genuinely believe that reading the Stanford’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP) or Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP) is generally more valuable than reading original texts since so many of them are complex and hard to understand. Once you understand the topic having used the online SEP/IEP, I would suggest reading original authors on that topic. This will allow you to have a genuine and well researched understanding of the topic. SEP and IEP are much much simpler to understand and perhaps more ordered in their approach.

Depth of reading massively outweighs breadth of reading and this should show on your personal statement. I would suggest writing 1600 characters on one topic, 1600 on a second topic and the remaining 800 on extra curricular activities.

PRACTICE LOGIC. Not formulaic but WRITTEN logic. I cannot express how important this is. In both my philosophy interviews I was asked some really tricky logic. By complete chance I had studied logic to that level before and using that prior knowledge, I was able to get these questions all right. This is a good beginners guide: http://www.ilovephilosophy.com/viewtopic.php?t=152732

Work experience, study places etc are of no use unless you can tie them in to some form of philosophical thought. Note that oxford and Cambridge (but Cambridge in particular) are not really fans of continental philosophy. That means they’re not into Sartre, Derrida, Spinoza, Nietzsche, Hegel, phenomenology etc. The sort of stuff they like are: epistemology, logic, ethics, political philosophy, metaphysics, philosophy of language/maths/science, philosophy of mind.

A personal suggestion is to think about paradoxes or moral dilemmas and consider what you would say if asked to support or condemn EITHER position. Do loads of practice interviews with friends, family, teachers or other experts.

It’s important to note that almost everything you do (reading books, magazines, articles; watching talks, films, documentaries; going to lectures; listening to podcasts; writing essays, essay competitions, EPQs; debating, going to clubs or societies; doing work experience/placements etc) are ONLY useful insofar as to show your interest in the subject IF YOU CAN ACTUALLY USE THIS TO ENHANCE YOUR UNDERSTANDING AND DISCUSSION OF A SUBJECT. I cannot stress this enough. My friends read like 100 books but without understanding them properly and got rejected even though they mention all of this in their statements and interviews. I read in super detail throughout - in fact, the day before my interview I read 30 pages in depth about one subject and guess what? It came up in my interview, and I was able to tackle the subject well and actually engage with the interviewer. Anyone can read philosophy - only good students can understand it fully and only the best students can discuss it with ease and sophistication.

A quick note about your grades: more important than anything, however, is to knuckle down and get good AS and A level results as without them you can’t go. Also, make sure you stress all your contextual factors in your application so that you’re treated fairly. Good luck, and I hope this helps! PM me for more help if you’d like
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sweetstudent
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(Original post by Martins1)
Long story short - yes you can get into both as long as you get good A levels. At Cambridge they do a single honours Philosophy course which has a very mathematical/logic-based focus.

Thinking about Oxford is more complex as there are no single honours degrees but many joint honours degrees. These range in focus and often place heavy emphasis on admissions tests which could help make up for GCSEs.

What to do in preparation? Go to the Cambridge masterclass and enter some of the philosophy essay competitions. Read books with an intense focus. When reading, answer each of these questions:
1) what is the author saying? Put it in your own words, precisely and concisely.
2) does this tie into anything else you’ve read/studied/considered/heard etc
3) what do you think about this suggestion? Provide logical support or criticism of this position.
4) how would this effect other positions or ideas if true or false? Think how you would neatly explain this

I genuinely believe that reading the Stanford’s Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP) or Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP) is generally more valuable than reading original texts since so many of them are complex and hard to understand. Once you understand the topic having used the online SEP/IEP, I would suggest reading original authors on that topic. This will allow you to have a genuine and well researched understanding of the topic. SEP and IEP are much much simpler to understand and perhaps more ordered in their approach.

Depth of reading massively outweighs breadth of reading and this should show on your personal statement. I would suggest writing 1600 characters on one topic, 1600 on a second topic and the remaining 800 on extra curricular activities.

PRACTICE LOGIC. Not formulaic but WRITTEN logic. I cannot express how important this is. In both my philosophy interviews I was asked some really tricky logic. By complete chance I had studied logic to that level before and using that prior knowledge, I was able to get these questions all right. This is a good beginners guide: http://www.ilovephilosophy.com/viewtopic.php?t=152732

Work experience, study places etc are of no use unless you can tie them in to some form of philosophical thought. Note that oxford and Cambridge (but Cambridge in particular) are not really fans of continental philosophy. That means they’re not into Sartre, Derrida, Spinoza, Nietzsche, Hegel, phenomenology etc. The sort of stuff they like are: epistemology, logic, ethics, political philosophy, metaphysics, philosophy of language/maths/science, philosophy of mind.

A personal suggestion is to think about paradoxes or moral dilemmas and consider what you would say if asked to support or condemn EITHER position. Do loads of practice interviews with friends, family, teachers or other experts.

It’s important to note that almost everything you do (reading books, magazines, articles; watching talks, films, documentaries; going to lectures; listening to podcasts; writing essays, essay competitions, EPQs; debating, going to clubs or societies; doing work experience/placements etc) are ONLY useful insofar as to show your interest in the subject IF YOU CAN ACTUALLY USE THIS TO ENHANCE YOUR UNDERSTANDING AND DISCUSSION OF A SUBJECT. I cannot stress this enough. My friends read like 100 books but without understanding them properly and got rejected even though they mention all of this in their statements and interviews. I read in super detail throughout - in fact, the day before my interview I read 30 pages in depth about one subject and guess what? It came up in my interview, and I was able to tackle the subject well and actually engage with the interviewer. Anyone can read philosophy - only good students can understand it fully and only the best students can discuss it with ease and sophistication.

A quick note about your grades: more important than anything, however, is to knuckle down and get good AS and A level results as without them you can’t go. Also, make sure you stress all your contextual factors in your application so that you’re treated fairly. Good luck, and I hope this helps! PM me for more help if you’d like
Thank you that was very helpful! I’ll probably be needing your help later on in the year so if I have any more questions I’ll be sure to ask
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philosopher888
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Hi! I’m also preparing to apply to cambridge-philosophy.
About the readings : I personally read a lot and am probably going to include quite a lot of books in my personal statement. However, I can’t recall every specific argument and all the details of my readings... Should I, as you seem to suggest, narrow it down to only 2/3 books? (Amd therefore, not mention all the other books?) also, does that mean that part of the interview is focused on ‘testing’ you on your knowledge?
Thanks !!
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Martins1
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(Original post by sweetstudent)
Thank you that was very helpful! I’ll probably be needing your help later on in the year so if I have any more questions I’ll be sure to ask
Please do! I love talking about philosophy and after my own application experience I know plenty about it
(Original post by Fppvibt)
Hi! I’m also preparing to apply to cambridge-philosophy.
About the readings : I personally read a lot and am probably going to include quite a lot of books in my personal statement. However, I can’t recall every specific argument and all the details of my readings... Should I, as you seem to suggest, narrow it down to only 2/3 books? (Amd therefore, not mention all the other books?) also, does that mean that part of the interview is focused on ‘testing’ you on your knowledge?
Thanks !!
I would suggest only putting 2 or 3 books on your personal statement. That way you can talk about them in depth - don't just tell Cambridge what the book says: for a start, Cambridge can tell you what the book says far more accurately, but more importantly, any old applicant can do that. Instead, tell Cambridge what you found interesting about the book - did you agree or disagree with the philosophical argument, and why?

Neither Oxford or Cambridge are trying to catch you out, and they certainly are not testing you on your knowledge. The interview is NOT knowledge based. The interview is the exact opposite - it's about trying to discuss something you do NOT know with you and seeing how you respond to that. If you think about it, there's no point you studying the course if you already know everything on it - therefore, Oxbridge want people who are going to learn new things from the degree because they are good at responding to learning NEW things. When they ask about books you've read/written about on your personal statement, they are trying to do a few things: firstly, they are checking you have actually read this book and understand it; secondly, they are using this as a starting point for discussion about things you do NOT know - most people are very uncomfortable being thrown into the deep end, so Oxbridge like to help candidates by starting with something they do know and then moving to unknown territories from there; thirdly, they are trying to push your thinking about this book beyond what you have already done and to challenge you on this, just as they would do in supervisions/tutorials and finally, they are seeing how passionate you are about the subject--how passionately do you talk about books you've read and how passionate will you get about learning something new while being tested by the tutors?

So no, you definitely do NOT need to know everything about every philosophy book you've ever read. However, you will want to know a bit about it. Cambridge might ask why you like that book/put it on your personal statement, and you'll need to be able to respond to that. You may only want to point out one chapter on ethics, for example - it doesn't matter, as long as you know something which you found interesting about that book. If you bring up a specific topic (say utilitarianism, for example) on your personal statement, then Oxbridge will expect you to know something about that too.

But i cannot stress enough that the most important thing about reading is NOT gaining knowledge about philosophy - that is the job of Oxbridge and their tutors - but it is about learning how to respond well philosophically to texts and subjects you are passionate about. Reading philosophy is a way of being presented with knowledge with which you are not familiar, just as Oxbridge will present you with something unfamiliar at interview - what they want to know is how good you are at engaging with this new material.
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philosopher888
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Thanks a lot Martins1! And thank you for taking the time to answer my questions!
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sweetstudent
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Kind of irrelavent to the thread but wanted to ask as philosophy and law are well linked in a way. What is the smarter thing to do? Study philosophy or law? I find philosophy more intresting but law gets you more money? Advice?
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akpo
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(Original post by sweetstudent)
Kind of irrelavent to the thread but wanted to ask as philosophy and law are well linked in a way. What is the smarter thing to do? Study philosophy or law? I find philosophy more intresting but law gets you more money? Advice?
If you want to be a lawyer (specifically), then you can still do a philosophy degree and go through a law conversion course.
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Snelljh
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(Original post by Martins1)
Please do! I love talking about philosophy and after my own application experience I know plenty about it

I would suggest only putting 2 or 3 books on your personal statement. That way you can talk about them in depth - don't just tell Cambridge what the book says: for a start, Cambridge can tell you what the book says far more accurately, but more importantly, any old applicant can do that. Instead, tell Cambridge what you found interesting about the book - did you agree or disagree with the philosophical argument, and why?

Neither Oxford or Cambridge are trying to catch you out, and they certainly are not testing you on your knowledge. The interview is NOT knowledge based. The interview is the exact opposite - it's about trying to discuss something you do NOT know with you and seeing how you respond to that. If you think about it, there's no point you studying the course if you already know everything on it - therefore, Oxbridge want people who are going to learn new things from the degree because they are good at responding to learning NEW things. When they ask about books you've read/written about on your personal statement, they are trying to do a few things: firstly, they are checking you have actually read this book and understand it; secondly, they are using this as a starting point for discussion about things you do NOT know - most people are very uncomfortable being thrown into the deep end, so Oxbridge like to help candidates by starting with something they do know and then moving to unknown territories from there; thirdly, they are trying to push your thinking about this book beyond what you have already done and to challenge you on this, just as they would do in supervisions/tutorials and finally, they are seeing how passionate you are about the subject--how passionately do you talk about books you've read and how passionate will you get about learning something new while being tested by the tutors?

So no, you definitely do NOT need to know everything about every philosophy book you've ever read. However, you will want to know a bit about it. Cambridge might ask why you like that book/put it on your personal statement, and you'll need to be able to respond to that. You may only want to point out one chapter on ethics, for example - it doesn't matter, as long as you know something which you found interesting about that book. If you bring up a specific topic (say utilitarianism, for example) on your personal statement, then Oxbridge will expect you to know something about that too.

But i cannot stress enough that the most important thing about reading is NOT gaining knowledge about philosophy - that is the job of Oxbridge and their tutors - but it is about learning how to respond well philosophically to texts and subjects you are passionate about. Reading philosophy is a way of being presented with knowledge with which you are not familiar, just as Oxbridge will present you with something unfamiliar at interview - what they want to know is how good you are at engaging with this new material.
Did cambridge particularly favour areas within analytic? I have been looking at the course listings and there doesn't seem to be much on philosophy of language- which I am most interested in?
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A level RPP
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(Original post by sweetstudent)
I would love to study philosophy at Oxbridge.
I am just starting sixth form and taking Philosophy, psychology and biology and am ready to study everyday and get As/A*s.
I have a big passion for philosophy and wanted to find out if I could possibly have a chance of getting into oxbridge if I got amazing results and a big passion for my subject, BUT at GCSE I got A,B,B,5,5,C,C,4,D,E??? I just hated school in year 11 but after taking a year out of school and now returning to sixth form I'm so ready to do well. Do I have a chance with these GCSES? (the A was in RE which is good for philosophy) (D and E were in geography and business which I have my reasons for)
I want to do Theology
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Martins1
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(Original post by Snelljh)
Did cambridge particularly favour areas within analytic? I have been looking at the course listings and there doesn't seem to be much on philosophy of language- which I am most interested in?
Yes. Historically, relevant thinkers like Wittgenstein and Russell in particular were at Cambridge, amongst many many others.

In second year, the "Knowledge, Language and the World" module (I would imagine) has lots on Philosophy of Language. The "History of Analytic Philosophy" would also be a good one to study in 2nd year. 3rd year has a whole host of options ranging from year to year but based on Cambridge's strengths in Philosophy of Language, I'd be surprised if they didn't continue to offer options (such as they currently offer) e.g. Mathematical Logic and Philosophical Logic which are both closely interwoven with Philosophy of Language.

Alternatively, you could study Philosophy & Linguistics at Oxford, as I'm studying. You'd study 1 module of logic and a 1/2 module on Semantics & Pragmatics in the first two terms, and you could spend the next 7 terms studying up to 5 out of your 8 modules on Philosophy of Language and related areas (i.e. Philosophy of Logic and Language; Wittgenstein; Logic; Semantics...) which is fantastic!

What aspects in particular are you interested in? Only Philosophy of Language?
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That'sGreat
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(Original post by sweetstudent)
I would love to study philosophy at Oxbridge.
I am just starting sixth form and taking Philosophy, psychology and biology and am ready to study everyday and get As/A*s.
I have a big passion for philosophy and wanted to find out if I could possibly have a chance of getting into oxbridge if I got amazing results and a big passion for my subject, BUT at GCSE I got A,B,B,5,5,C,C,4,D,E??? I just hated school in year 11 but after taking a year out of school and now returning to sixth form I'm so ready to do well. Do I have a chance with these GCSES? (the A was in RE which is good for philosophy) (D and E were in geography and business which I have my reasons for)
Pick Cambridge, your GCSEs will be scoffed at by Oxford and theres a higher chance your application gets immediately filed away into the bin.
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(Original post by Martins1)
Yes. Historically, relevant thinkers like Wittgenstein and Russell in particular were at Cambridge, amongst many many others.

In second year, the "Knowledge, Language and the World" module (I would imagine) has lots on Philosophy of Language. The "History of Analytic Philosophy" would also be a good one to study in 2nd year. 3rd year has a whole host of options ranging from year to year but based on Cambridge's strengths in Philosophy of Language, I'd be surprised if they didn't continue to offer options (such as they currently offer) e.g. Mathematical Logic and Philosophical Logic which are both closely interwoven with Philosophy of Language.

Alternatively, you could study Philosophy & Linguistics at Oxford, as I'm studying. You'd study 1 module of logic and a 1/2 module on Semantics & Pragmatics in the first two terms, and you could spend the next 7 terms studying up to 5 out of your 8 modules on Philosophy of Language and related areas (i.e. Philosophy of Logic and Language; Wittgenstein; Logic; Semantics...) which is fantastic!

What aspects in particular are you interested in? Only Philosophy of Language?
What careers can you do with a theology/Philosophy degree
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