A Levels for PPE?

(59 Posts)
MissingLinker Sun 01-Dec-19 16:39:19

DNiece has to complete A Level application by Tuesday. She's been set on doing either PPE or History and Economics at university and is very academically able, is most interested in the Oxford PPE course. Her prospective 6th form (heavily) encourages 4 A Levels for more able students.

So far, her options for History, Economics and Maths. As a fourth option she's considering Geography or Psychology. She is predicted a 9 at GCSE geography but has never had the chance to study psychology before.

Does anyone have any recommendations as to which of these options would be most useful (or if there's anything else you would consider beneficial)? Thanks smile

OP’s posts: |
Annebronte Sun 01-Dec-19 16:44:23

History, Economics and Maths are good subjects for PPE. A very high proportion of successful applicants have Maths; that’s an important one and I would definitely stick with History. Geography is considered more academically rigorous than Psychology.

Ellmau Sun 01-Dec-19 16:45:56

Either would be fine as a fourth subject. Or any essay based subject, or a language would be beneficial (esp if she ends up going in the history direction). Psychology is sometimes regarded as a softer A level, fwiw.

Annebronte Sun 01-Dec-19 16:46:29

Should add: if she’s an able mathematician, then Further Maths would be perfect and would give her a strong application for Economics courses, should she decide on that instead.

MissingLinker Sun 01-Dec-19 16:54:52

Thanks for the replies. Didn't know anything about what is viewed as a soft subject so I'll mention that to her.

OP’s posts: |
helpmum2003 Sun 01-Dec-19 16:58:33

Most courses make offers based on 3 A levels, even Oxbridge. There is always the risk that a 4th can affect your grades.

If she has to do 4 then Further Maths is a good option as it'll hopefully be less work than others if she's able at Maths.

Could she do an EPQ?

Shannith Sun 01-Dec-19 17:08:17

I did English, economics, geography and general studies (don't know if that even exists any more).

I also did S-levels in English and economics. Again, not sure if these exist either. They were sort of stretch A-levels for people predicted straight A's - which most if not all Oxbridge candidates are.

This was PPE at Oxford.


HostessTrolley Sun 01-Dec-19 18:05:26

My d’s friend (oxford PPE) did maths, further maths, economics and history. Plus an epq - but that’s a lot of work and stress

AppleKatie Sun 01-Dec-19 18:10:45

A young man of my acquaintance was admitted recently for PPE at Oxford with Maths, History and Drama.

The best advice is that she should do what she loves (provided she can make it yield the required A*s and As).

Fifthtimelucky Sun 01-Dec-19 19:02:04

What bit(s) of PPE is she most interested in? I can imagine drama would be a good 4th option for a budding politician, but it wouldn't necessarily be a particularly good fit for someone who was hoping to become an economist, for whom further maths might be best.

Psychology would work well for politics, or for someone interested in behavioural economics, I'd imagine.

BubblesBuddy Mon 02-Dec-19 08:50:23

The first three she has chosen are just fine. Add in FM if she wants to. You don’t need Politics to study politics so the History covers this. Ditto Philosophy. Many applicants have Maths for this course and the Oxford web site makes it clear History and Maths are a good idea. Ideally the third subject should be considered academic. Economics is. So 3 A levels are just fine.

The competition for this course is fierce and they say, for 2018, 12% of applicants were successful. 38% of those interviewed were successful so it’s hard and you have to be the most competitive you can be.

She also must look at all the data Oxford give to applicants for this course. It’s on the web site. Highest importance is given to GCSE performance and A level predictions plus the TSA results. Personal statement and UCAS reference are of less importance - I guess they never see a poor one of those! So she has to nail those GCSEs. Then the other hurdles. It’s important to tick all the boxes you can and she’s on the right lines with A levels. It’s difficult to know what you are good at if you’ve not done the subject before. I don’t think Psychology is particularly “soft” but it might not be the best to take for this course and Oxford require 3 A levels for this course: not 4. The main thing at the moment is GCSE performance!

The PP who mentioned S levels and didn’t know if they existed is somewhat out of touch! When did they last get near a school? Or look at university entry requirements?

SirTobyBelch Mon 02-Dec-19 10:29:23

Geography is considered more academically rigorous than Psychology.

By whom?

Both have relevance to politics and economics. Psychology is the only A-level that includes anything about experimental study design and also includes useful basic statistics, which makes it useful preparation for many academic pathways.

Needmoresleep Mon 02-Dec-19 11:33:52

To amuse, but to also support Sir Toby


Abetes Mon 02-Dec-19 13:54:33

Obviously she doesn’t need to, but has she considered either politics or philosophy for her fourth A level?

BubblesBuddy Mon 02-Dec-19 15:32:55

79% of successful candidates at Oxford offered either Philosophy, Politics or Economics for their 3rd A level. So that’s s decent steer as to the third A level. However only 48% of applicants offered A levels. I found that surprising but possibly reflects the international status of this course and Oxford. They also state that candidates offering maths A level scored, on average, more highly than candidates not offering Maths A level on the three TSA tests. So, the Oxford web site is the only information you need when making decisions. Whether Psychology is better than Geography isn’t known but nearly 80% of successful candidates possibly didn’t take either of them. The statistically better subjects are Maths, History and one of the three subjects in the title of the degree.

pigeononthegate Mon 02-Dec-19 15:34:33

My ds1 has his heart set on PPE. He's doing English Lit, Maths, History and Physics.

BubblesBuddy Mon 02-Dec-19 16:23:33

A much higher percentage of those doing 4 A levels, all predicted to be A*s, are offered a place compared to those taking 3 A levels which are all predicted to be A*s. That’s a slightly worrying stat because far more 3 A level candidates are rejected, even with 3 x A* predictions. So tough, isn’t it?

Trewser Wed 04-Dec-19 08:46:28

Dds friend got into Oxford PPE with History,.Maths and RS! My nephew did History Economics Maths and Further Maths but no offer!

Trewser Wed 04-Dec-19 08:48:23

4 A levels are a waste of time unless its maths and further maths.

Do an EPQ or volunteering or get a job instead. Shows breadth.

ifonly4 Wed 04-Dec-19 12:02:50

Do have a look online at individual university's requirements. Also, it's worth her giving them a call. DD phoned three universities, two were incrediably helpful.

Needmoresleep Wed 04-Dec-19 13:32:12

4 A levels are a waste of time unless its maths and further maths.

I find these sorts of statements very odd, even if, as is often the case, they are written by teachers.

Academic private schools and Grammars regularly offer 4 A levels. They know what they are doing. Education is rarely a waste of time. Subjects like French, German, Eng Lit, Drama, Art, History or Economics taken as a fourth A level add to a person's intellectual hinterland and will rarely be a poor investment in time. I took geography as a fourth A level, and still really enjoy knowing how landscape is formed and the origins of industrial towns, or seeing places that I once studied in map reading.

Yes, better three good A levels rather than four poor ones, but this is someone aiming for one of Oxfords most competitive courses. If they struggle to manage four, and yes I realise that many schools don't offer four, they may struggle with the pace of work at Oxford.

On top, rather than an EPC, see if she can get involved in debating.

The paucity of ambition in the advice quoted is one of the really depressing things about MN. Often the same posters will rail on about the advantages of private/grammar education, without reflecting on why kids who learn to manage their workload and work/life balance at an early stage go on to do well at University and afterwards. Not doing things because you don't have to is not a great reason.

Katfood Wed 04-Dec-19 14:20:32

Academic private schools and Grammars regularly offer 4 A levels. They know what they are doing. Education is rarely a waste of time. Subjects like French, German, Eng Lit, Drama, Art, History or Economics taken as a fourth A level add to a person's intellectual hinterland and will rarely be a poor investment in time.

I agree 100%. At our school everyone starts with 4 A levels (or 5 including Further Maths), with the option of dropping out one, but the majority actually complete all 4 (5 incl Further Maths).

My ds is currently applying to Uni and most offers take into account his 4 Alevels - the Unis seem to recognise the breadth of subjects.

I think the UK system of dropping so many important subjects at 16 is way too specialised. In most European countries students take at least one foreign language, a Science, Maths etc until they're 18.

Trewser Wed 04-Dec-19 16:41:12

My ds is currently applying to Uni and most offers take into account his 4 Alevels how?

And advising students to stick at 3 with an EPQ does not show paucity of ambition, rather making sure they have time to do a high level sport or hobby, or volunteering or part time work means that they have breadth.

I know a few to Oxbridge this year and none had four A levels, so go figure. Must be different in grammar areas maybe?

Needmoresleep Wed 04-Dec-19 17:03:45

Yes it is different elsewhere.When the people you know get to Oxford they will find that many if not most of their peers have four A levels (or more) as Bubbles review of the entry stats confirms.

Oxford will realise that different applicants come from different backgrounds and will contextualise the results they offer. But this does not mean that those who are relatively educationally advantaged should not take advantages of the opportunities they have. Indeed I assume one of the first things Oxford will want of someone who they offer a place to, is that they take advantages of the opportunities then offered to them at Universities.

And though it may not be true of the people you know, many manage music, sport, drama, debating etc as well as four A levels. And go on to top universities and continue to do the same.

The idea that someone wanting to study at one of the world's top universities would then consider additional breadth of education whilst at school a "waste of time" which is depressing. The DC we have know who go on to do well at University have tended to be like sponges. Learning is cool, and the more opportunities to learn, the more fun it is.

TheoneandObi Wed 04-Dec-19 17:11:44

Must do Maths. When DS was suddenly uninterested in PPE at Oxford he was gutted when he realised 90% of successful applicants had maths A level. He ended up doing English at the Other place - much more up his street!
So I’d say maths, and history, economics, geography, English or RE but I wouldn’t bother doing 4 A levels. Do a good EPQ instead which will allow the DN to delve into an area covered u see PPE and give her something to talk about on her ucas form.

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