My journey applying for Economics & Management at Oxford

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Hey everyone! I’m Esther Ng and I will be reading Economics and Management (E&M) in Oxford University this October.

I applied to read pure economics at Warwick, LSE, Bristol and UCL. However, as Oxford did not offer a pure economics course, I chose E&M instead. (UCAS only allows you to apply to a maximum of 5 universities). Moreover, E&M appealed to me as it combines my interest in the management of business with my passion for economics, and is also less mathematical than a pure economics course in say, LSE or Cambridge.

Personal statement (PS)

Next, the dreaded PS which you would spend centuries redrafting. A personal statement is your opportunity to write about your achievements, passion in the subject and differentiate your application from the others.

I only had 3 weeks to draft and submit my personal statement so, I would really recommend you to start your PS as early as possible to allow yourself ample time to redraft and perfect it.

As you are limited to 4,000 characters (about 1 A4 page), it is vital that you focus your PS on your achievements and experiences that reflect your passion and interest in the course you are applying for.  Below is how I structured my personal statement:

  • Introduction. Why economics? What sparked the interest? Instead of merely mentioning my involvement in community service and mission trips, I’ve linked this to how it initiated my desire to study economics – i.e. “to explore economic policies which would reduce chronic destitution and poverty”
  • Books I read which supplemented my interest and articles which I found thought provoking. i.e. The Bottom Billion by Paul Collier, Paul Krugman’s End this Depression Now!
  • My achievements which linked to economics (i.e. UKMT math challenge competition), and the transferrable skills I gained from the subjects I took in A levels (Further Maths and History) and how they further propelled my desire to study economics.
  • Interest in management. i.e. Link to the practicality of economics/ any experience you have in business management (Enterprise CCA)

UCAS only allows you to submit 1 personal statement so if you’re applying for E&M to all 5 universities, then you may want to give equal weighting to both subjects. However, since I applied for  slightly different courses (E&M and pure economics), I only had a small section on management to acknowledge and show interest in it, as I did not want it to affect my pure-economics application to the other 4 universities.

  •    Conclude

TSA Test

The Thinking Skills Assessment is a pre-interview test held in early-November, with the intention to test applicants on their critical thinking and problem solving skills. This is only applicable to certain courses and universities, so do check if you need to take it!

The admission test consists of 2 sections.

  1. Section 1: 50 MCQ in 90 minutes
  2. Section 2: Answer 1 essay from a choice of 4 in 30 minutes which would be reviewed by the admissions tutor of your chosen Oxford college

It’s useful to gain an insight to the structure and time constraints of the paper by looking at specimen/ past papers.

Interview

If you’re shortlisted for the interview, you can decide to fly to the UK or hold a Skype interview.

You are expected to be reasonably well-prepared for your interview.

  • practise answering typical questions like “Why Economics and Management
  • ensure that you are able to discuss anything you mentioned in your personal statement
  • read about your subject, like current affairs/ latest happenings
  • have mock interviews with your teachers/ subject specialists (if you think it will help you, I found this useful!) My economics teacher held a mock interview with me which I recorded to see which areas I could improve on.

For my interview, I decided to fly to UK so that I would be able to visit the campus and my college. I applied to Trinity College and had 1 interview there with 3 interviewees and a 2nd interview at Keble college. Both interviews were starkly different, with my 2nd interview being much more math-based.

Example of parts of my E&M interview:

  • Simple math equation which I had to sketch and questions relating to it. I was not really expecting math questions (I don’t know what I was thinking :/)
  • Interviewer asked me about the Keynesian stance which I mentioned in my personal statement
  • ‘What would I say about a government that keeps using fiscal stimulus however, there is no improvement?’
  • Summarise some articles (mine was on employment) which they allowed me to read before the interview

I was nervous for both interviews and felt like I performed terribly especially for the math questions. However, the interviewers were very friendly and would guide me along the math problems whenever I was stuck.

What are the tutors looking for?

  • Confidence and clarity in expressing and discussing ideas
  • Interest and passion in subject
  • Flexibility and ability to construct and assess arguments
  • Teachability

I almost considered not applying to Oxford due to the limited time I had to prepare my personal statement, and the “certainty” that I would be rejected. What stirred me on was the belief that ‘I know I’ve tried’, so regardless of the outcome, apply to your dream course and university. #noregrets

All the best for your application!


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Esther Ng Kah Wei is delighted to be reading Economics and Management in the University of Oxford. ‘All Glory to God!’, she says. She’s a huge fan of chocolate crepes and loves travelling around the world!

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