Hi, I am in the process of doing my UCAS form, and I just wanted to ask whether I have a chance of getting into LSE or Oxford for Economics?
My GCSES: 7 A*, 4A
AS levels: Maths-A
On those grades you have a very decent chance. The GCSEs are particularly impressive, and you are already running at A grade standard in three A level subjects, which fortunately include Maths - always an advantage. I doubt if anyone will care much about the French!
Note there is no pure Economics course at Oxford. It is studied there as part of the PPE course (Philosophy, Politics, Economics). It is of course available in its pure form at Cambridge.
Obviously you must strive for A grades in your three key subjects. My advice would be to abandon French. The reason is that exam grades are only part of what is needed, and it is important that you should be engaging in additional reading. It's the quality of your mind, and the passion for exploration that selectors are looking for.
One college prospectus describes in detail what admissions tutors are looking for. They seek ‘evidence that the candidate is genuinely interested in, and enthused by ideas and issues involved in the subject’. There should also be ‘signs of an ability to focus precisely on topics, to grasp what the problems are in particular areas, and to rigorously analyse and understand the way that different arguments move to resolve these difficulties’. Candidates should be prepared ‘to think for themselves, to try out options, and to examine carefully their own intuitions’. The entry concludes that ‘in short, candidates must demonstrate strong motivation, analytical rigour and intellectual creativity’, and emphasises that the college is ‘able to discriminate between the genuinely talented and the merely well-trained’. To quote one Oxford Admissions Tutor: ‘We want two things from our students – ability and commitment. Tutors are not so much interested in what you know, but how you apply that knowledge, whether you think independently, and can develop arguments. The only thing the students have in common is intellectual energy and drive – there is no such thing as a typical Oxbridge student’. Or to quote the Cambridge prospectus: ‘Who are we looking for? Students who enjoy a challenge.’ ‘We’ll be looking for an indication of your ability to think critically and independently, your willingness to argue logically, but also to keep an open mind to new ideas. You’ll also need self-discipline, motivation and commitment’.
Details of the criteria of admission for the Oxford PPE course have also been published. Applicants will normally be summoned for interview, unless the first-choice college judges on the basis of a candidate’s record and submitted work that he or she would find the course too demanding, and would be extremely unlikely to gain a good degree result. Applicants called for interview will be expected to offer reasons for their expressed interest in PPE. They should be able to show that they can listen effectively and present reasoned arguments orally, that they can understand and analyse written work and present reasoned arguments on paper, and also demonstrate self-motivation, deep interest and creativity in the areas they have studied. In the case of submitted written work, assessors will take note of the circumstances under which the work was completed, and will look for evidence of basic knowledge of the topic, focus upon the question, powers of analysis, coherence and clear presentation of argument, and good command of English. A very different standard of content and presentation is expected for pieces of highly prepared coursework compared with assignments completed under test conditions. In assessing the written test, selectors will look for (a). comprehension of a complex piece of reasoning and the ability to sum it up in a suitable way; (b). the analysis and solution of problems, with clear and succinct reasons given for the answer proposed; (c). the construction of a well-argued case for taking a definite position on a fairly familiar question; (d). the appreciation of nuances of meaning; and (e). competence in mathematical, logical and numerical reasoning. At interview selectors are assessing potential for future development. They look for evidence of genuine interests and enthusiasms, and the motivation to work hard at them. Hence candidates should listen carefully, absorbing facts and ideas presented to them, and assessing their relevance. They should be ready to respond to problems and criticisms put to them, and should present arguments and reasoning in a clear and carefully articulated manner. The interviews are not primarily a test of an applicant’s existing knowledge of philosophy, politics or economics, though some questions will certainly focus upon any of these subjects wherever they are being studied at A Level.
Some reading in Economics over these next two months is vital. So try two or three of the following:
Sloman – Economics (5th ed.) (Pearson Education, 2003)
Begg, Fischer & Dornbusch – Economics (8th ed.) (McGraw-Hill, 2005)
Parkin, Powell & Matthews – Economics (6th ed.) (Prentice Hall, 2005)
Lipsey & Chrystal – Economics (10th ed.) (OUP, 2003)
Keynes – The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (Macmillan, 1974)
Buchholz – New Ideas From Dead Economists (Penguin, 1999)
Levitt & Dubner – Freakonomics; A Rogue Economist explores the Hidden Side of Everything (Allen Lane, 2005)
Ormerod – Why Most Things Fail: Evolution, Extinction and Economics (Faber & Faber, 2005)
Harford – The Undercover Economist (Little & Brown, 2006)
Landsburg – The Armchair Economist: Economics and Everyday Life Simon & Schuster, 1995)
Krugman – The Accidental Theorist and Other Dispatches from the Dismal Science (Penguin, 1999)
Kay – The Truth about Markets (Penguin, 2004)
Stiglitz – Globalisation and its Discontents (Penguin, 2003)
I hope this is helpful. Good luck!