Ellie – Psychology, Philosophy and Linguistics
What do you like best about your course?
I really enjoy the diverse nature of a PPL degree. You can be assessing large parts of human social behaviour, whilst also focusing your attention on the action of one particular type of cell and its role in perception. I feel like it is a degree which is constantly stimulating and challenging, providing me with the opportunity to reach deep into a topic and then contextualise this information on a larger scale. I have also been encouraged to develop a very wide range of skills – statistical analysis, essay writing, scientific reasoning and understanding – so I feel equipped to go in almost any direction in the future.
How is your subject taught at Oxford?
PPL consists of psychology, philosophy and linguistics, but you choose two subjects to specialise in when you apply. Linguistics is not taught at St Edmund Hall, so all PPL students here study psychology and philosophy. I was certain I wanted to do psychology when I applied and decided to combine this with philosophy as I had enjoyed learning about ethics and the history of philosophy at school – obviously there is a lot more to philosophy than that, but I got the feeling it was something I would be interested in.
In first year there is an even split between psychology and philosophy. You are then given the option to choose which combination of topics from each you would like to take in second and third year. PPL students can expect around 5 or 6 hours of lectures a week and around 3 hours of tutorials. The work set is a mixture of essays and tutorial sheets, with the introduction of weekly practical classes and accompanying assessments starting in second year. This means that the style of work is diverse and you get the opportunity to practise different skills.
The topics available are broad, and you are given guidance on how to choose psychology units which cover all the requirements for BPS accreditation (British Psychological Society, if that is something you are interested in). Psychology covers subjects such as neuroscience, social psychology and development, while philosophy is concerned with questions including ethics, knowledge and the nature of mind.
It may feel like a lot of decisions to make, as you have freedom to shape your own study, but there is lots of advice available from tutors and the faculty websites.
What advice would you give to potential applicants interested in studying your subject?
I think the key piece of advice I would give to potential applicants is to be as enthusiastic as possible! If you have a real passion for learning, especially outside of the classroom, and are motivated to discover all you can about the subjects, you are already on your way. For interviews, being able to talk about your approach to problem solving is important, as tutors are looking to see how you think and engage with their questions.
Why did you choose St Edmund Hall?
Tucked away from the busy High Street, Teddy Hall is the perfect mixture of a beautiful quad, central location and some of the friendliest students around. I think it has a very homely feel and sociable atmosphere which really makes you want to get stuck in to college life – perfect for making the most of your time at Oxford.
What is life like as a student here?
Teddy Hall is a small college site, so it means you bump into people you know all the time – it means you always have an opportunity to catch up. Academically, it can be very busy at times, but you manage to fit everything in. You are given lots of opportunity to study independently, which is definitely a lesson in self-motivation. My favourite spot to study is the Teddy Hall Library, because it is big and bright. It also has very well stocked sections for psychology and philosophy, which is very handy.
What sort of extra-curricular activities are you involved in at Oxford?
I have been involved in theatre since my first term here. I think it is not only a great way to make friends from across the University, but also a fantastic creative outlet. I am also a member of the St Edmund Hall Chapel Choir, which meets on the weekends for rehearsal and Sunday services. There are plenty of activities on offer in Teddy Hall and across the University, so there is always something to get involved in.