A-levels for Oxford humanities degree

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meritobrsrk
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Hello all, I would like to study a humanities degree at Oxbridge or another Russell Group uni, preferably PPE, History and Politics or History and Economics or HSPS. I am currently taking Maths, Economics, History and Politics and Government. Is this a good combination for these degrees or are economcs and politics not considered "rigorous" enough? Might taking a modern language instead of either of those distinguish me more to a university like Oxford? It would have to be French or Russian as those are the ones I did for GCSEs. I got all 9s at GCSEs so it's difficult to eliminate subjects based on GCSE grade.
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ml.1612
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(Original post by meritobrsrk)
Hello all, I would like to study a humanities degree at Oxbridge or another Russell Group uni, preferably PPE, History and Politics or History and Economics or HSPS. I am currently taking Maths, Economics, History and Politics and Government. Is this a good combination for these degrees or are economcs and politics not considered "rigorous" enough? Might taking a modern language instead of either of those distinguish me more to a university like Oxford? It would have to be French or Russian as those are the ones I did for GCSEs. I got all 9s at GCSEs so it's difficult to eliminate subjects based on GCSE grade.
Hey, I'm a second year undergrad reading PPE at Oxford.
Your A-levels sound perfect. Literally, could not be better for Oxford PPE. The uni has no required A-levels for PPE, but Maths is recommended, and History is suggested. I don't know this for sure, but I would expect that your combination of A-levels are the most common among Oxford PPEists.

Economics A-level provides a good basis for undergrad econ, especially when combined with A-level maths. Lots of first year econ is taking the results you learn at A-level and deriving them mathematically, which is where basic calculus comes in really handy.
For politics, you have to be able to argue a point. Undergrad politics is very different from A-level; you take a big step up from describing the political world to actually testing those descriptions in practice. It's a lot of reading, and a bit of data work, but crutially your essays week-in week-out are arguing for a particuar position. Essay-based subjects are the best practice for this.
Then for philosophy, there's no one A-level that really sets you up best for this (no, not even Philosophy A-level!). It's a lot more technical than a lot of people expect; you really have to engage with the intricacies of arguments, and read critically. But as with politics, the end result is usually an essay that argues for a particular position, so any essay-based subject is a great start.

I'm not certain Oxford would particularly care about a modern language on top of those - you might be better focussing on the four. It may be fun to signal an interest via your personal statement, but always relate it to the degree (e.g. talk about an interest in French philosophy, political history of Russia etc). I think people overestimate how much Oxford cares about extracurriculars - they like well-rounded and curious students, but they don't need you to have 5 A-levels! Similarly, I wouldn't worry about your A-levels not being "rigorous" enough. No A-level work really stands up against undergrad work, and it's not really supposed to - all you're after is a solid groundwork and a keen interest in the subjects.

For background, I did Maths, F. Maths, Economics and Gov&Politics at A-level. Let me know if you have any questions I can help with, or if you need any advice on the admissions process!
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McGinger
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More info about PPE here - https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/uni.../ppe-at-oxford
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artful_lounger
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Your subjects are fine. For PPE and history & economics the most important thing is to have A-level Maths. As above you don't need more than 3 A-levels and in fact there is no benefit in taking extra A-levels (and a very serious risk you'll get more average results in all of them than the 3 excellent results you need) so I would suggest considering dropping one when you can (except maths if you want to do PPE/H&E).

For history and joint schools, A-level History is probably advisable, albeit not strictly required at either Oxford or Cambridge (But I think, very unusual to not have it) so I'd recommend sticking with it. HSPS has no required subjects though and will accept any combination of traditionally academic A-level subjects.

Note that I wouldn't recommend applying to economics at Cambridge (if you were considering it) without A-level Further Maths, as a majority of successful applicants have it. This isn't the case so much at Oxford's economics joint courses though so just A-level Maths alone will be fine there.
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meritobrsrk
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(Original post by ml.1612)
Hey, I'm a second year undergrad reading PPE at Oxford.
Your A-levels sound perfect. Literally, could not be better for Oxford PPE. The uni has no required A-levels for PPE, but Maths is recommended, and History is suggested. I don't know this for sure, but I would expect that your combination of A-levels are the most common among Oxford PPEists.

Economics A-level provides a good basis for undergrad econ, especially when combined with A-level maths. Lots of first year econ is taking the results you learn at A-level and deriving them mathematically, which is where basic calculus comes in really handy.
For politics, you have to be able to argue a point. Undergrad politics is very different from A-level; you take a big step up from describing the political world to actually testing those descriptions in practice. It's a lot of reading, and a bit of data work, but crutially your essays week-in week-out are arguing for a particuar position. Essay-based subjects are the best practice for this.
Then for philosophy, there's no one A-level that really sets you up best for this (no, not even Philosophy A-level!). It's a lot more technical than a lot of people expect; you really have to engage with the intricacies of arguments, and read critically. But as with politics, the end result is usually an essay that argues for a particular position, so any essay-based subject is a great start.

I'm not certain Oxford would particularly care about a modern language on top of those - you might be better focussing on the four. It may be fun to signal an interest via your personal statement, but always relate it to the degree (e.g. talk about an interest in French philosophy, political history of Russia etc). I think people overestimate how much Oxford cares about extracurriculars - they like well-rounded and curious students, but they don't need you to have 5 A-levels! Similarly, I wouldn't worry about your A-levels not being "rigorous" enough. No A-level work really stands up against undergrad work, and it's not really supposed to - all you're after is a solid groundwork and a keen interest in the subjects.

For background, I did Maths, F. Maths, Economics and Gov&Politics at A-level. Let me know if you have any questions I can help with, or if you need any advice on the admissions process!
Thank you, this was incredibly useful. I just wanted to ask: What sort of depth do you get into for each of the strands? I'm still in two minds whether to apply for PPE or a History double-major degree as they may be more in-depth. What career are you looking to pursue after uni?
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ml.1612
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(Original post by meritobrsrk)
Thank you, this was incredibly useful. I just wanted to ask: What sort of depth do you get into for each of the strands? I'm still in two minds whether to apply for PPE or a History double-major degree as they may be more in-depth. What career are you looking to pursue after uni?
No worries, glad to be useful!

(1) We go into quite a lot of depth for each strand. Honestly, you go as deep as you can handle in a week!
In first year, I did nine modules:
Theory of Politics
Practice of Politics
Political Analysis
Microeconomics
Macroeconomics
Probability and Statistics
Philosophical Logic
General Philosophy (epistemology and metaphysics)
Moral Philosophy.

Taking theory of politics as an example, each week you'll get a broad outline of a topic - for example, 'rights' or 'justice'. You'll get a reading list on this topic, which is far far longer than you'll ever manage to get through in a week. So you'll focus more on some areas, and catch up on others later. Then you'll write an essay relating to a particular debate or point of interest in the literature - for example, "Can rights conflict? If so, how to we resolve these conflicts?" You do this for eight weeks, with eight different topics.

There are pros and cons of this approach. The obvious benefit is that you're able to get through eight huge sections of literature in eight weeks, rather than spending a whole term on each topic. Of course, you can't get through all the reading for every topic, so you're always left feeling like you've scratched the surface of a much deeper literature. That's where tutorials come in - tutors often point you towards other debates and things you haven't considered yet. So in terms of depth, you're limited by how much you can do in a week. But what you do get is high-level debate, and for me, it's by far made up for by the breadth of the topics that you do in that level of detail.

(2) I think if you're wanting to study history, study history, rather than PPE.
I think it's only worth doing PPE if you're sufficiently interested in at least two of the three subjects. So if what you're interested is history and politics, don't do PPE - do HisPol!

(3) Not entirely sure yet - open to a lot of possibilities!
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