How to Get Into Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) at Oxford

Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) is a particularly competitive course at Oxford University. Just 11% of applicants are successful in receiving an offer to study PPE and the application process is designed to be challenging.

If you’re thinking of applying for PPE or just curious about what it takes to get into one of the most prestigious courses at Oxford, this guide contains everything you need to know – from entry requirements to tips on how to prepare from our expert PPE tutors.

Don’t forget to check out our other articles on how to get into Oxford and what to do if you don’t meet Oxford’s entry requirements!

The Profs’ PPE tutors have first-hand experience of the admissions process and what is required to succeed at each stage. Thanks to our expert support, students who work with The Profs are more than three times more likely to receive an offer from Oxford University. Reach out to our team today to maximise your chances of success.

What is Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE)?

Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) is an interdisciplinary degree course offered by Oxford University. It covers all three closely related disciplines in a range of modules, resulting in a varied and dynamic course.

PPE is a highly flexible degree which allows students to shape their own path, choosing to specialise in two branches at the end of the first year or continue with all three. It is also a highly dynamic course which changes as the world evolves, bringing together the latest and most significant topics impacting the world around us.

Studying Philosophy allows students to develop analytical, critical and logical rigour – a highly transferable skill. In turn, Politics provides PPE students with the ability to evaluate the choices that political systems must regularly make and to examine the concepts and values used in political analysis. Economics, the third branch of PPE, equips students with the skills they need to make sense of governmental policy-making and significant economic transformations throughout the world. Overall, PPE students graduate with a solid understanding of how the world around them works – and the skills they need to initiate change in it.

What are the entry requirements for PPE?

Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) is an extremely competitive course at Oxford and requires applicants to achieve excellent grades and show great potential. The table below shows the entry requirements for PPE:

QualificationGrades
A LevelsAAA
Advanced HighersAA/AAB
International Baccalaureate (IB)39 (including core points) with 766 at Higher Level.

Worried that you won’t achieve the necessary grades to study PPE at Oxford? The Profs’ A level and IB tutors can help. We have extensive experience helping students excel in their coursework and final exams and achieve the entry grades for this competitive course. Reach out to our team for support.

Which subjects are recommended?

Although there are no compulsory subjects in order to qualify for PPE, Oxford does suggest that some subjects are particularly beneficial and may help your application:

  • It is highly recommended to have studied Mathematics to A-level or equivalent.
  • It is not necessary to have studied Politics, Philosophy or Economics at school-level. One subject that may prove helpful is History, but it is not essential.

If you do not have an A level (or equivalent) in Maths you could demonstrate your mathematical aptitude by taking the MAT, STEP or TMUA. Alternatively, you could study AS Maths independently or with a teacher and then mention this in your personal statement. Since Maths is a recommended subject you should put effort into proving your quantitative ability if you are lacking a Maths qualification as this will make your application more competitive. Reach out to our expert team for guidance on this matter.

Which admissions test do you need for PPE?

Applicants to Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) at Oxford are required to take the Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA). The TSA is designed to assess your problem-solving, numerical reasoning and critical thinking skills, all of which are important skills to have in order to be able to succeed on the PPE course.

What score do you need to get in the TSA for PPE?

There is no ‘cut-off’ score set by Oxford that you need to achieve in the TSA to secure an offer for PPE. Instead, the average score among successful applicants changes slightly each year. See the table below for the average TSA score of successful applicants to all courses and those applying for PPE.

Average score among successful applicants (2020)
All courses75.14
Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE)75.39

The TSA is a key factor in deciding whether or not you are offered an interview and subsequently a place to study PPE at Oxford. It’s therefore important that you prepare thoroughly and aim for the highest score possible to maximise your chances. Read our helpful guide for more information about the TSA and tips from our admissions test experts on how to prepare:

How to prepare for the TSA

How hard is it to get into PPE at Oxford?

Getting into Oxford to study Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) is no mean feat. Not only do you need to achieve the grade requirements and score highly in the TSA, but you also need to perform well in the interview. The table below shows the average percentage of applicants that were interviewed and successful getting into PPE at Oxford.

Average percentage (2019-2021)
Interviewed32%
Successful11%

The Profs’ Oxbridge admissions tutors can help you triple your chances of getting into Oxford to study PPE. Thanks to our network of experienced tutors, many of whom are Oxbridge graduates and ex-admissions officers themselves, we have the very latest and best knowledge on what Oxford is looking for in top PPE applicants. Get in touch with us today to chat with a member of our team about how we can help you.

What are the fees for PPE at Oxford?

The table below shows the fees for Oxford’s PPE course for both home (UK) and overseas students:

Student statusCourse fees (per year)Home£9,250Overseas£29,500

You can find out more information about what fees you will pay on Oxford’s fee status page. You can also use Oxford’s fees, funding and scholarship search to see the funding options available to you.

4 tips on how to get into PPE at Oxford

1. Prepare thoroughly for each stage of the admissions process

When applying to study PPE at Oxford, there are many stages of the admissions process to consider, and you should prepare for each one thoroughly.

  • Your grades – preparation for your PPE application really starts from the moment you begin your GCSEs and A-levels (or equivalent). Unlike many other top universities, Oxford will look at your GCSEs. So, an excellent academic history is essential in order to be considered for a place at Oxford. You should be aiming for AAA in your A-levels (or equivalent) as a minimum.
  • Your UCAS application – the first official stage of your PPE application is completing your UCAS application online. As well as your grades, this includes your personal statement. This is the first chance you’ll get to showcase your suitability for PPE and prove to Oxford that you are interested and committed to the subject areas. Your personal statement needs to stand out from the crowd and be as specific as possible to PPE and Oxford itself. Why are you the perfect fit for this course at Oxford? Check out our previous article on how to write a winning personal statement.
  • The TSA admissions test – you are also required to take the Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) when applying for PPE at Oxford. This admissions test is designed to be challenging, so it’s really important that you prepare for it just as you would for any other exam. See our previous article on the TSA for advice.
  • The interview – if your UCAS application and TSA score are impressive enough, you may be invited for an interview at Oxford. This is your last chance to impress the university and prove that you are an excellent candidate for the course. Oxbridge interviews are like oral admissions tests and there is often even a mark scheme your interviewers will be scoring you against, so it’s important to seek professional help to prepare effectively. We have a guide on completing Oxbridge interviews here.

Need some help with any of the steps above? We have experts for each niche: GCSE tutors, A level tutors, personal statement tutors, TSA tutors, and interview tutors. We can help you smash each and every step.

Note that all students applying to university for 2023, 2024 or 2025 will still be required to submit a UCAS personal statement as normal. However, from January 2025 onwards (October 2024, for Oxbridge applicants), there will be changes to the UCAS application process and students will no longer be required to write a personal statement. Instead, all applicants will answer a series of shorter, more tailored questions provided by UCAS.

2. Keep up to date with the news

PPE is all about understanding the world around us. It’s therefore really important that you keep up to date with the latest news and developments happening globally. You can do this primarily by reading quality newspapers such as the Financial Times, the Guardian, the New York Times, the Economist and more.

Take theory and apply it to current events and global affairs. Show that you have the independent faculties to use this knowledge to process the world around you and that you want to. Appearing curious, stimulated and enthusiastic will present you as the type of student Oxford’s PPE course wants. After all, they only want to invest in students who are hungry and will stay motivated throughout an undergraduate degree. Potential is the key thing, so your academic intelligence isn’t enough on its own. It’s how you use it.

You should also think carefully and critically about the news you read, reflecting on what it means for the economy, people, the environment, and the world as a whole. This will help you to develop the thinking skills necessary to succeed in the Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA), in your interview, and on the PPE course itself.

3. Do some introductory reading

Although having studied Philosophy, Politics or Economics is not necessary to apply for PPE, it is a good idea to have an interest and understanding of the three subjects.

Immerse yourself in these subjects as much as possible through podcasts, open lectures, online courses, documentaries, and reading. Mention your independent study in your personal statement. Linking the three subjects together theoretically in your analyses of a real-world event could also show good student potential.

Oxford recommends the following introductory readings to help prepare for applying:

Philosophy:

  • What does it all mean? by Thomas Nagel
  • Knowledge: A Very Short Introduction by Jennifer Nagel

Politics:

  • An Introduction to Political Philosophy by Jonathan Wolff
  • Developments in British (French, German, East European etc.) Politics
  • What is Politics? by Adrian Leftwich

Economics:

  • Paul Krugman’s books
  • Tim Harford’s books

You can appear like a keen and dedicated student by referencing a couple of these books to show that you’ve read Oxford’s suggested reading list. But it’s best if you can go beyond their reading list and demonstrate independent thought by linking one or two of these texts to some more niche texts that you found yourself.

4. Seek help from a PPE expert

Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) is one of the most competitive courses at Oxford, an already competitive university. It requires you to perform well in multiple stages to be in with a chance of securing an offer. Unfortunately, schools and colleges are oftentimes not equipped to provide specialist PPE and/or Oxford preparation due to a lack of experience, expertise or resources. As a result, we advise seeking a professional PPE tutor or Oxford admissions tutor to help you through the process.

The Profs’ PPE tutors have many years of experience helping students develop their academic profiles, prepare for the TSA exam, and excel in the admissions interview. Many of our Oxford admissions tutors have studied at Oxford University or worked in Oxford admissions. If you work with one of The Profs’ tutors, you are over three times more likely to get into Oxford.

Gain invaluable independent study skills that will prepare you for study at an elite UK university, as well as a deeper and broader understanding of a range of philosophical, political and economic concepts and critical thinking approaches. Reach out to our experienced team today to get started.