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psychology at cambridge or oxf

hi guys for my a level i intend to take
english lit, religious studies and psychology however im considering either swapping one out for biology OR doing 4 a levels with biology. i really enjoy all of these subjects so idk what to do.. any advice?


for oxford i would take the course of philosophy, psychology and linguistics which is good for the current a levels

for cambridge id do psychology and behavioural sciences which biology would be more useful than rs or english.

for my future job id like to go into clinical or forensic psychology.

advice?
Reply 1
Original post by s1enn5
hi guys for my a level i intend to take
english lit, religious studies and psychology however im considering either swapping one out for biology OR doing 4 a levels with biology. i really enjoy all of these subjects so idk what to do.. any advice?
for oxford i would take the course of philosophy, psychology and linguistics which is good for the current a levels
for cambridge id do psychology and behavioural sciences which biology would be more useful than rs or english.
for my future job id like to go into clinical or forensic psychology.
advice?

Take the subjects you actually enjoy rather than just picking based on each university's preference. You should note that for PPL, most people don't actually take it as a tripartite degree, but instead opt for a combination of psychology and philosophy, philosophy and linguistics or psychology and linguistics. If you prefer the linguistics side of things more then to leave your options open, I would go for biology, psychology and English literature. If you like the idea of philosophy more than linguistics then taking RS instead of English will probably benefit you more than anything. If you aren't taking maths then Cambridge requires you to take biology. I would look at both courses again in depth to see which is the best fit for you because both are very different. Cambridge focuses more on the behavioural aspect of psychology, meaning there will be a lot more content based in behaviourist theories, whereas for PPL, you'll learn experimental psychology in combination with either philosophy or linguistics modules that relate to psychology. I'd also look at other courses at different universities to see the difference. UCL offers two similar courses (Psychology BSc/MSci and Psychology and Language Sciences BSc/MSci). As well as looking at courses, look at the A level specifications for each subject and see whether you would enjoy something like this or not.

I too wanted to become a clinical psychologist before starting A levels and I intended on picking very similar subjects (biology, psychology and philosophy) but I narrowly missed the grades for biology and went for English language and literature instead, as I was interested in linguistics (PPL at Oxford). I didn't bother reading the specification before making my decision as I made the switch on results day, and ended up hating English, despite it being the subject I performed best in at GCSE. English literature has barely any linguistics content at all and the same goes for language and literature, so I attempted to switch to biology, but there were no more spaces available. I'm now studying politics, philosophy and psychology and studying psychology at A level made me realise that I did not want to spend another 3-4 years studying psychology, despite knowing that after my undergraduate degree is when I would finally be able to get into the field I wanted to be in. It felt like a lot of hard work with no certain chance of high reward, so I switched my path to law and I don't regret my decision. Becoming a clinical or forensic psychologist will take a long time, but it is a rewarding career for those who achieve this goal, so as long as you are resilient and focused, you will get there in no time. Like I said, reading the subject specifications is extremely important and often overlooked by many students, including myself.
Reply 2
Thank you for your take on this, it was very useful!

Please note i am not taking maths at a level. I believe I am more likely to apply for PPL in oxford than experimental psychology in cambridge. So from my understanding, for PPL, usually students only take two of the core subjects (Philosophy, Psychology, Linguistics)? I would go for psychology and philosophy in PPL as im very interested in both of them however my teacher said that this combination is not very good because they are essentially opposites in her words.. your thoughts?

For a competitive oxford application for PPL, would you suggest i take biology instead of english? Likewise, english is my best subject however i didnt enjoy literature as much in gcse, although i hear at a level its quite different. I quite like biology however i am unsure whether i would achieve an A* in it.. at gcse level i am predicted a grade 8. i hear its quite content heavy and difficult. I am hard working and determined so if i took biology i believe i could get a decent grade (e.g A), however i wonder if if i took english i would've achieved a better grade.

for english and rs ive already achieved a grade of 8 in both. My intent now is to definitely have psychology and religious studies in my a levels, and to study PPL at oxford. My parents admire my abilities in english as ive always been inclined to writing poetry, analysing texts in essays and creative writing but im not sure i want to pursue this as a main career as i could always become an author whilst being a psychologist, however its more unlikely i could major in english with an appropriate career then become a psychologist you know?
Reply 3
Original post by s1enn5
Thank you for your take on this, it was very useful!
Please note i am not taking maths at a level. I believe I am more likely to apply for PPL in oxford than experimental psychology in cambridge. So from my understanding, for PPL, usually students only take two of the core subjects (Philosophy, Psychology, Linguistics)? I would go for psychology and philosophy in PPL as im very interested in both of them however my teacher said that this combination is not very good because they are essentially opposites in her words.. your thoughts?
For a competitive oxford application for PPL, would you suggest i take biology instead of english? Likewise, english is my best subject however i didnt enjoy literature as much in gcse, although i hear at a level its quite different. I quite like biology however i am unsure whether i would achieve an A* in it.. at gcse level i am predicted a grade 8. i hear its quite content heavy and difficult. I am hard working and determined so if i took biology i believe i could get a decent grade (e.g A), however i wonder if if i took english i would've achieved a better grade.
for english and rs ive already achieved a grade of 8 in both. My intent now is to definitely have psychology and religious studies in my a levels, and to study PPL at oxford. My parents admire my abilities in english as ive always been inclined to writing poetry, analysing texts in essays and creative writing but im not sure i want to pursue this as a main career as i could always become an author whilst being a psychologist, however its more unlikely i could major in english with an appropriate career then become a psychologist you know?

I would completely disagree with your teacher. Psychology is derived from philosophy and biology, and even at A level you can see some of the overlap between the two. Concepts like free will and determinism that are used in different approaches to explaining human behaviour also will come up when trying to explain when looking at metaphysics of God, which is a topic in A level philosophy that basically looks at ways of proving the existence of God, what God actually is and whether our idea of God is compatible with the world we live in (I think something similar also comes up in RS). Psychology and philosophy are both very interesting subjects, but personally I prefer philosophy slightly more than psychology when it comes to the A level specification. When it comes to English or biology, I would pick the subject you're more confident with and enjoy more. For your PPL combination, the only recommendation Oxford have is psychology or maths at A level and a 7 in GCSE maths, and since you already plan on taking psychology, I think you're in a relatively safe position to pick whichever subject you prefer. Biology would have only been a requirement for Cambridge, but since you prefer PPL at Oxford, if you feel you would perform better in English and enjoy it more, I would go for English. Both of them are content heavy subjects, the only difference between the two other than the content in the subject is the assessment style and grade boundaries. In English you'll be writing lots of essays and studying texts, but depending on your exam board, you may have an NEA component (coursework). In biology, I believe there is only one paper with an essay in it (again depends on the exam board), but the majority of the exam will be short answer questions. You'll also have to pass the practical components in biology. I think both are quite hard but in different ways. You don't need an English degree to become an author and you are right in thinking that writing is something you can do alongside clinical psychology in your free time, but if you did want to study English for your undergrad, you can still become a clinical or forensic psychologist. You'll have to do a conversion degree after your undergrad and it must be accredited by the BPS, but you can still become a psychologist even if you change your mind. I believe you need to have English literature at A level to study English for your undergraduate degree, so if this is something that you are interested in, it only makes sense to choose English literature over biology to give yourself more options. English is a very useful subject in lots of areas and although doing three essay based subjects seems daunting at first, you'll learn to get used to it and enjoy the different styles of writing. I've found that I prefer politics exams over psychology ones as I get to write more essays and I don't have to do any short answer questions for the first two papers. I also quite like the essay style in philosophy as you give your opinion on arguments and theories, whereas in psychology, you have to do a lot more evaluating and memorisation. I've heard that English is similar to philosophy in the sense that it's quite opinion based.
Reply 4
Original post by bibachu
I would completely disagree with your teacher. Psychology is derived from philosophy and biology, and even at A level you can see some of the overlap between the two. Concepts like free will and determinism that are used in different approaches to explaining human behaviour also will come up when trying to explain when looking at metaphysics of God, which is a topic in A level philosophy that basically looks at ways of proving the existence of God, what God actually is and whether our idea of God is compatible with the world we live in (I think something similar also comes up in RS). Psychology and philosophy are both very interesting subjects, but personally I prefer philosophy slightly more than psychology when it comes to the A level specification. When it comes to English or biology, I would pick the subject you're more confident with and enjoy more. For your PPL combination, the only recommendation Oxford have is psychology or maths at A level and a 7 in GCSE maths, and since you already plan on taking psychology, I think you're in a relatively safe position to pick whichever subject you prefer. Biology would have only been a requirement for Cambridge, but since you prefer PPL at Oxford, if you feel you would perform better in English and enjoy it more, I would go for English. Both of them are content heavy subjects, the only difference between the two other than the content in the subject is the assessment style and grade boundaries. In English you'll be writing lots of essays and studying texts, but depending on your exam board, you may have an NEA component (coursework). In biology, I believe there is only one paper with an essay in it (again depends on the exam board), but the majority of the exam will be short answer questions. You'll also have to pass the practical components in biology. I think both are quite hard but in different ways. You don't need an English degree to become an author and you are right in thinking that writing is something you can do alongside clinical psychology in your free time, but if you did want to study English for your undergrad, you can still become a clinical or forensic psychologist. You'll have to do a conversion degree after your undergrad and it must be accredited by the BPS, but you can still become a psychologist even if you change your mind. I believe you need to have English literature at A level to study English for your undergraduate degree, so if this is something that you are interested in, it only makes sense to choose English literature over biology to give yourself more options. English is a very useful subject in lots of areas and although doing three essay based subjects seems daunting at first, you'll learn to get used to it and enjoy the different styles of writing. I've found that I prefer politics exams over psychology ones as I get to write more essays and I don't have to do any short answer questions for the first two papers. I also quite like the essay style in philosophy as you give your opinion on arguments and theories, whereas in psychology, you have to do a lot more evaluating and memorisation. I've heard that English is similar to philosophy in the sense that it's quite opinion based.

thank you, i would say im more confident with english but i enjoy biology more and since oxford ppl is quite science based ive heard, it may be difficult for me to understand the psychology course if not studied a level biology no?
Reply 5
Original post by s1enn5
thank you, i would say im more confident with english but i enjoy biology more and since oxford ppl is quite science based ive heard, it may be difficult for me to understand the psychology course if not studied a level biology no?

I wouldn't say it will be very difficult since you will have studied psychology at A level and there is a decent amount of biopsychology content in the specification. I have friends who do both biology and psychology at A level and there isn't as much overlap as you'd think. While we are studying biopsychology currently in psychology, they haven't even started any topics related to neurons and the nervous system in biology yet. I personally have only found one part of biopsychology hard so far and that's because it is the most complex part, but I did enjoy GCSE biology, so I don't struggle as much with the content. I know people who have studied psychology at university and while biological psychology is usually a compulsory module, it isn't as bad as you think it is and you definitely don't need to have studied A level biology to understand it well. It might help you, but not taking it won't make life significantly harder, unless you generally struggle to grasps concepts in biology. Since you seem like a high achiever, I don't think you would struggle immensely, but then again, it is Oxford. If there's anything in psychology degrees at top institutions it's research methods and statistics, but these are all things you will begin to become familiar with at A level. A level psychology research methods is nothing compared to what it will be like at university, however this isn't something that you should be put off by. The main reason I decided not to pursue psychology was because I realised that psychology was my least favourite A level and there were only very few parts I did enjoy (social psychology and cognitive psychology), so if I were to study psychology, I would have had to take lots of modules that I simply did not enjoy. Both biology and English at A level are nothing like they were at GCSE, so I would again look into the specifications before making your final decision, but it sounds like you enjoy biology more, so it might be worth choosing it as your third subject.

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