By now, you will have read a wide range of sources and newspaper articles and this should have helped you to consider the particular areas of your subject that interest you. This should help you to consider the type of books you might want to read and the areas that you might want to focus on. In order to help you a little more, look at your first year syllabus for your course to see what you will be studying and this could offer you ideas for topics beyond you’re A-level syllabus.
In order to impress at your Oxbridge interview, you should try and pick several books based on different topics to show your breadth of interest, as well as your passion for the subject. For example, you could choose a book on Game Theory, another on Globalisation and a third on Development Economics. (These are just examples- choose what you’re interested, but try and choose books on a range of topics.) When choosing your books, don’t go for the obvious ones such as Freakonomics – if a book can be understood by the general public, it won’t really demonstrate your ability to grapple with complex ideas, so try and pick something a little tougher, or from the suggested Oxbridge reading list from your degree.
In preparing for an Oxbridge interview, the problem that most students make is to make notes on the books they’ve read as a summary of the contents. You need to be aware of the fact that the Oxbridge interviewers aren’t interested in a synopsis of the book. What they will want from you is to see that you are able to engage with new ideas and develop them and question the content of the books you read.
Rather than making detailed notes of the book’s contents, make a few bullet points on each chapter just to boost your memory closer to the interview. This will save you time in the crucial few weeks before the interview. Your focus should be on pulling on particularly interesting points from the book that you can use for points of discussion and/or development. It could be something that relates to an article you’ve read and equally, it could be a point that you disagree with. For example, if you’re reading a book on the credit crunch that argues that the credit crunch would have occurred regardless of banking regulation preventing self-certifying mortgages, you can use that as a point for discussion based on other articles/books you have read or you can use it to demonstrate your ability to think independently and argue the merits or shortcomings of a point by arguing that perhaps a change in regulation early enough could have made the difference.
Make note of these points and keep them with your book so that closer to the time of the interview you can jog your memory – of both the overall gist of the book as well as the interesting points worthy of discussion and development. This will save you valuable time and ensure that you can show your ability to engage with new ideas as well as to be able to think independently.
Resham graduated in Economics from Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 2010. She is now working for an MP, but luckily for us still finds time to pen her PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economics) blog each month, giving you top tips for applying to these subjects.
All views and ideas represented in this blog post are exclusive to Resham, and do not represent those of any other third party.