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Preliminary Examination in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics


  • 1. The subjects of the Preliminary Examination for Philosophy, Politics, and Economics shall be:

    • (1) Introductory Economics

    • (2) Introduction to Philosophy

    • (3) Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Politics.

  • 2. Every candidate must take the relevant examination in all three subjects at the end of Trinity Term of their first year and must pass all three subjects to pass the PPE Preliminary Examination. Candidates who fail one subject at first attempt may re-sit that subject at the next available attempt (normally September). Candidates who fail two or three subjects at first attempt will be required to re-sit the whole PPE Preliminary Examination at the next available attempt (normally September). 

  • 3. A candidate shall be deemed to have passed the examination if they have satisfied the Moderators in three subjects.

  • 4. The Moderators may award a distinction under criteria defined in the Examination Conventions, to candidates of special merit who have passed all three subjects at a single examination.


Three papers will be set as follows.

Introductory Economics

Elementary economics including: consumer theory; producer theory; market equilibrium with perfect competition, monopoly; factors of production; partial equilibrium analysis of welfare, market failure and externalities; national income accounting; the determination of national income and employment; monetary institutions and the money supply; inflation; balance of payments and exchange rates; the determinants of long-run economic growth. Elementary mathematical economics; application of functions and graphs, differentiation, partial differentiation, maxima and minima, optimization subject to constraints. Elementary probability, statistical and causal inference.

Calculators may be used in the examination room subject to the conditions set out under the heading ‘Use of calculators in examinations’ in the Special Regulations concerning Examinations. Candidates may use one hand-held pocket calculator from a list of permitted calculators published annually by the Department of Economics on its undergraduate website, which will be updated annually in the week prior to the first full week of Michaelmas term.

Introduction to Philosophy

The paper shall consist of three sections: (I) General Philosophy, (II) Moral Philosophy, (III) Logic. Each candidate will be required to show adequate knowledge in each of the three sections.

  • I. General Philosophy

    Subjects to be studied are: knowledge; skepticism; perception; induction; the relation between mind and body; personal identity; free will; the problem of evil.

  • II. Moral Philosophy

    This section shall be studied in connection with Mill's Utilitarianism. While not being confined to the detailed views of the author of the set text, the section will be satisfactorily answerable by a candidate who has made a critical study of the text. Questions will normally be set on the following topics: pleasure, happiness and well-being; forms of consequentialism; alternatives to consequentialism; ethical truth, ethical realism and the ‘Proof’ of Utilitarianism; justice and rights; virtue, character, and integrity.

  • III. Logic

    Subjects to be studied include: syntax and semantics of propositional and predicate logic, identity and definite descriptions, proofs in Natural Deduction, and the critical application of formal logic to the analysis of English sentences and arguments.

    These topics shall be studied in conjunction with Volker Halbach’s Introduction to Logic manual, published by Oxford University Press. The logical symbols to be used are those found in this publication. Questions 1 and 2 in this section of the paper will be of an elementary and straightforward nature.

Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Politics

The paper will be divided into two sections. Candidates are required to answer four questions, of which at least one must be from section (a) and two from section (b).

  • (a) The Theory of Politics

  • Questions will be set on the following topics: (i) the nature and the grounds of rights; (ii) the nature and grounds of democracy; (iii) the role of civil society; (iv) power in the democratic state; (v) the nature and grounds of liberty; (vi) state paternalism; and (vii) free speech. Questions will also be set on the following texts: (i) John Locke, Second Treatise on Government; (ii) Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Social Contract; (iii) Alexis de Toqueville, Democracy in America; (iv) Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto; (v) John Stuart Mill, On Liberty.

  • (b) The Practice of Politics

  • Questions will be set on the following topics: (i) regime types; definition and measurement of variations between types of democracy; (ii) political institutions and practice outside the advanced industrial democracies; stability, state capacity and state formation; (iii) the state and its institutions (executives, legislatures, parties and party systems, electoral systems, courts, constitutions and centre-periphery relations); (iv) parties and party systems; political values and identity politics.