One of our students talks about applying, subsequent disappointment and then successful readmission to study law at Oxford: Although currently a third year studying BA Law (Jurisprudence) at Oxford, my journey to this point was far from straightforward. Having achieved a great deal of success academically at GCSE, in my second year of Sixth Form I decided to apply for Law at University College, achieving an offer in part due to my LNAT score of 30 and positive feedback from my interview. Unfortunately, however, when it came to Results Day I had narrowly missed my offer in one of my papers by 1 mark. I thus made the difficult decision to re-apply, going through the process once more and again receiving an offer, but from my current college. Come result’s day once more and I had exceeded expectations to attain A*s in my resit and A Level Politics, taking the whole course in one year. Having experienced and learned from the admissions process twice, as well as the experience of resitting examinations and learning from the mistakes of a previous paper, I now channel this to help others with application advice and general endeavours to improve grades. As well as helping with GCSE subjects and all the subjects I took at A-Level, due to the nature of the modules I take at university (Roman Law, Constitutional Law and Criminal Law) I would also aid with A Level Law.
Why one of our tutors picked history at Oxford and how they describe the interview experience: I have always believed myself to be a bit of an all-rounder. Naturally, this made it somewhat challenging to find a subject that I would be willing to exclusively devote three years of study (or more) to. However, history has always been a subject I had taken great pleasure in learning about, both at school and in my spare time. I believe this great interest in the subject in fact stems from my all-round interest in a diverse range of areas. This is because I had the realization that history is something that encompasses everything. There are histories of almost all topics under the sun and everything has been influenced, shaped and molded by its own history and that of others. Therefore, within history, I have always been enthusiastic about the great crossovers between diverse subject areas, such as the use of psychology, geography or statistics to try to better understand events, processes and actions in history. It was with this in mind that I decided to speak about the Norman Kingdom of Sicily in my college interview for the topic of my own choice. Through the lens of medieval Sicily, I was able to explore the attitudes and perceived issues of multiculturalism (that are sadly still dangerously relevant today) since the 11th and 12th-century Kingdom saw extraordinary harmony between the Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Jewish and Muslin communities. The fact that I emphasized my interest in the intersection of different disciplines by pointing out the evidence of multiculturalism in the combination of Islamic ceilings and Byzantine mosaics in the Palatine Chapel was, naturally, greatly appreciated by the architectural historian who I realized was to be interviewing me! It is this enthusiasm of seeing the variety, relevance and diverse aspects of history (which is such a strong part of my experience of the subject) that I really hope to pass on to others!
One of our PPE tutors explains their own particular interests in Economics: My particular interest within Economics lies within modelling, due to the real world implications as well as the mathematical rigour upon which the model is based. I particularly enjoy building up macroeconomic models from the basics as the base assumptions made can have incredibly varied outcomes, and choosing the appropriate model for distinct situations is crucial; for example, the assumptions made in the IS-LM model (a model relating interest rates to GDP) can either show a Keynesian view of the world (i.e. Fiscal Policy is a better tool to stimulate the economy) or a monetarist view of the world (such as Friedman’s views about the importance of money supply). In addition, I enjoy the mathematics behind this modelling as it allows you to approach what initially seem like fairly qualitative issues (e.g. how should a consumer spend their income based on two goods they like) with precise mathematical techniques to achieve a specific result. For example, given a budget constraint and utility function, one can derive the exact quantities they should consume of the goods available to them based on their prices, and the marginal rate of substitution (which depends on their utility functions). And what does a typical day look like for you? My typical day would involve going to two/three lectures in the morning, followed by lunch. After this, I would either have a supervision (which is the small group teaching that Oxbridge specialises in, where I am taught in a group of three or fewer by an expert on the topic) or have time to work on the assignment for my next supervision. Following this, if I am not busy with work I would go to an evening activity; there’s always something going on which interests me, whether it’s a play or a speaker at the Union. Most recently I saw Bryan Cranston, who played Walter White in Breaking Bad, and spoke about his roles in TV and at the theatre, his character of Walter White and how his fame affected his life. As supervisions and lectures are normally held during the weekdays, this means that my usual day is normally quite similar to this. Weekends would also mostly involve getting work done, but I am also on the committee for a cultural Arts show, and currently, we have committee meetings during the weekends as well as rehearsals for our dance. On the whole, although I am generally very busy during term time, I feel that I am able to achieve a good work-life balance.
We speak to an Oxford Classicist and Linguist about their decision to study there, their interview experience and a typical day: Why did you choose to study Classics and a Language at Oxford? I chose my combined course because I wanted my degree to be as full of language and literature as I could make it. Languages were always my favourite subject at school, and I was very keen to keep an ancient and modern perspective (and develop some ideas about the connections between the two). A combined honours course is a little more work than a straightforward degree, but highly worthwhile if you are really interested in both sides of the degree, and especially if you are looking to explore the relationship between the two! What can you tell us about your Oxford Classics interview? I was fortunate enough to have excellent help and advice in the lead-up to my Oxford application, and so the reason that I tutor is because I am keen to give others some of the insight and preparation that I was lucky enough to have myself. My application experience was a positive one in general. I ended up being asked to stay for 5 days, which meant lots of time to explore Oxford. Not all of the interviews went well – the first was something of a disaster: as it turns out, it’s pretty important to make sure you have all the plot details firmly in your mind of any texts that you would like to talk about in the interview! What is a typical day studying at Oxford like? My typical day at Oxford involves getting up for morning lectures, which may or may not be related to my specific studies at that time, but all of which give interesting and varied perspectives to consolidate my reading (or sometimes introduce me to something new). After a couple of hours’ work in one of Oxford’s many beautiful libraries, I have lunch in college with friends. The afternoon often involves a one-on-one tutorial or a seminar with a small group, typically with an academic who is an expert on the subject: we normally discuss a recent essay I have written. The evening could involve a formal dinner (suits and gowns), a trip to a pub, a night out, or (depending on workload at the time) some more work on an essay.
Tell us about life after uni and how was it relevant yo your current profession? My academic studies included music theory, philosophy, and history from the Middle Ages to the present day. I am now a professional orchestral conductor, and so am constantly engaged in reading and listening in ways that are relevant to the music I perform, with a particular (but by no means exclusive) focus on nineteenth- and early twentieth-century music, such as that of Mahler and Wagner. I also regularly perform newly composed works. I continue to write academically, with a recent publication by the Wagner Journal. My work as a performer means that my approach to teaching music is always engaged with the reality of the music itself, and each individual student’s relationship with it.
Can you describe your interview experience? In terms of my application experience, a noteworthy aspect was that unlike most applicants I hadn’t studied Economics or Management at A level so they were entirely new subjects to me when it came to interview. Since the interviews were strongly based on game theory problems and intuition, my application experience allows me to help in preparing students to adapt to new material and the abstract questions which are asked. My particular college’s interview process also involved testing mathematical ability and challenging graph drawing questions. Despite not studying an essay subject at A level, Oxford has taught me how to structure a good essay from scratch and the best ways in which to structure arguments and communicate thoughts, which I apply to my tutees. Why did you choose to study E&M? I chose Economics and Management as I really enjoyed further maths at A level and wanted to be able to apply it to real world situations, making microeconomics my favourite topic. I’ve enjoyed management this year as I’m interested in going into a corporate function in the long term and find learning about corporations very interesting. My special areas of interest so far are finance, microeconomics and looking at recent corporate cases in General Management, and I hope to expand these interests as we start to cover more topics
How did you pick your college? I never visited the college to which I applied and I knew hardly anything about the identity of Colleges (e.g the specialities/personnel of their respective faculties, and the probabilities of getting in depending on schooling etc.) Overall, this was immaterial as I received an offer, and have felt quite at home at College. However, this was partly down to chance. I could just have easily hedged my bets on a college with low state-school acceptance, faculty in fields dissociated from my then-interests, and with an ethos/environment in which I would not have thrived if/when accepted. I’m thankful that things have worked out but think it is important that applicants carefully consider where they apply to in order to maximise their chance of getting in, and to increase the likelihood they are happy there if accepted. I say this with the caveat that there are of course limitations on how strategic one can be!
We discuss with one of our students why they chose to study Languages at Oxford?: I love languages, cultures and literature, and this is why I decided to study French at Oxford. In the course, there are some core modules which I have to study: Grammar, Translation and Oral. Apart from these, I am free to choose whatever modules I like! In general at Oxford, the options available are quite literature-heavy so I am mostly studying literature at the moment. I have chosen a broad range of options, specialising in modern literature from 1715 to the present, as well as looking in detail at the playwright and writer Samuel Beckett. Also, I need to select one non-modern option, so I am studying three medieval French texts – it is fascinating to see how much the French language has changed. This has sparked my interest in the development of French as a language, so after my Year Abroad, I will probably also pick a French linguistics module too. What does a typical day look like? On Mondays, I get up at 8am, have breakfast and use the time before my 10am tutorial at the Taylor Institute to work on some work which is smaller and easier to complete – for example, a translation or grammar exercise. I will then go to my tutorial at College, where we discuss the essay I have handed in the prior morning and talk about key philosophical ideas in Beckett’s plays. Usually, we talk more generally about his works as a whole at first and then look at specific passages and the language he uses. After this, I go to the Taylor Institute library for an hour and read a chapter about Beckett’s work from my reading list. My next lecture is also in the Taylor Institute and starts at 12. It is entitled Rupture and Reformulation: Twentieth Century Experiments in Poetry and Prose, which I think will be useful for knowledge of modern French literature. After this, I head back to college to meet a friend for lunch at the coffee shop, and then work from 2pm until 5 on my essay on French Romanticism. I go to a translation tutorial at 5 in college, where my tutor gives us a literary passage in French and we each translate a line into English, discussing possible ways to translate it as we read. After this, I have dinner in the dining hall at 6pm, go to singing practice at 7:30-9:30, get back to college for 10pm and watch an hour of TV before going to bed at 11.
We speak to one of our Cambridge Tutors – a postgrad reading Philosophy… Why did you choose to study Philosophy at Cambridge? It would be best to discuss this in two parts: why philosophy and why the Cambridge MPhil. The reason I chose to study philosophy at all is because I find it both interesting and rewarding. Not only is the subject matter fascinatingly fundamental to the constitution of our lives and the nature of the world (Are there any objective moral values? What exists? What is the relationship between the mind and the brain? What exactly are you and what would it take for you to persist/die?) but the style of it is challenging and satisfying. The analytic tradition is characterised by clarity and analytic rigour. One feels as though one is really succeeding at intellectual investigation when one is asked to be utterly precise with one’s argumentation. Furthermore, the analytic style improves one both as a writer and a reader (of all academic material). Through learning logic and applying it in one’s interaction with texts one develops the ability to discern and critique poor argumentation – both in the work of others and in one’s own work. I chose to stay at Cambridge after my undergraduate studies because the MPhil at Cambridge is research based. This contrasts starkly to the undergraduate degree. The latter works on a weekly work cycle whereby one is introduced to a new topic, is given several pieces to read and asked to immersive oneself quickly and efficiently. This process culminates in a one-to- one supervision in which one’s newly acquired thoughts on the subject matter are questioned, discussed, stretched and informed. The cycle then begins again. The MPhil, on the other hand, gives space for continued investigation of a certain area. This will often result in a winding path of reading, moving from one field to the other, as one picks at all the interrelated philosophical strings. This experience is designed to be, and is, much more like the research of philosophy academics and I chose to do it as a taster for PhD life. What are your special areas of interest? My general philosophical interest covers meta-normativity, metaphysics and the philosophy of language. I am very interested in the intersection between metaphysics and the philosophy of language. This has been hugely prominent in analytic philosophy over the last 100 or so years since ‘the linguistic turn’ in philosophy (the idea that not only should we consider philosophical issues but that we should consider how we discuss them to inform our philosophical opinions). My interest in this intersection concerns the realism/anti- realism debate which, for any domain, concerns whether we project/construct or observe/describe entities in that domain. Even the formulation of the realism/anti-realism debate is not a matter of consensus – some think it should be formulated semantically, others ontologically. I am currently exploring my interest meta-normativity by looking into the potential effects of Moral Error theory. This is the theory that all moral statements (eg ‘murder is wrong’) are systematically false because for them to true would require the existence of objective moral properties, and there are no such things. The concerning consequence is that the reasons to think there are no such moral properties appear to apply equally well in the epistemic domain. I am looking into whether it is possible to demonstrate that though moral properties may be ‘metaphysically queer’, epistemic properties are not.
What do you particularly like about your degree subject? My particular areas of interest in my joint degree lie in the grammar of languages, the study of literature and general linguistics, from the philosophy of language, to the overlap between semantics and pragmatics to an analysis of Chomskian nativism. Why did you choose to study Language & Linguistics at Oxford? Having done humanities subjects at school I’ve always really loved analysing literary pieces, because I find that, actually regardless of the language one is looking at, the archetypes considered alongside the themes addressed are both universal and relevant. I applied to do Italian because I felt I had become decently proficient in Latin and wanted a new challenge. I always loved ancient texts but I also really enjoyed all the Italian books that I read in the application progress, from authors such as Levi, Calvino, Pavese and so on. My interest in philosophy also led me to linguistics, as at school I was always interested in, alongside general analytic and continental philosophy, the philosophy of language. Thus, I think that, alongside philosophy generally which I still engage with all the time by reading books etc., is where my strengths lie. I also find myself attracted to grammar, be it in English, Italian, Latin etc., and so would consider that a special area of interest. Can you describe a typical day at Oxford? Most days I am busy from around 11-5 just at lectures, tutorials and lessons. After that I will either work on an internet show I am involved in, be that making the playlist, researching or recording, or helping out at the college paper, going to meetings or DJ workshops. Every week I go to meetings for the ball committee, which I am part of the team for. I will also try to exercise pretty much every day, which takes an hour out. Of course, I would then go out with friends.