The Working Life of a Second Year PPP Student


I’m Emma, a second year PPPist at St. Hilda’s from the beautiful city of Salisbury. I’m going to try and tell you a bit about what second year involves and the best ways of getting through it. The work load can seem a little daunting at times and there is definitely more work involved with part 1’s than there was for prelims, but the work is also far more in depth and interesting. Also, second year teaches you invaluable time management skills; by the end of it, most of us had developed an almost magical ability to be in around five places at once!

Psychology Courses, Essays and Tutorials

As a PPPist, my course is a little more flexible than the EP course. While EPists do all nine of the core psychology modules, PPPists choose five of these. If you want graduate basis for registration when you leave university then the choice of modules is a little more limited than if you don’t. Instead of just choosing any five of the nine modules, you instead have to choose at least one of the three Biological Bases of Behaviour papers, one of the three Human Experimental Psychology papers and one from Social Psychology, Developmental Psychology and Individual Differences. The five papers you choose must not include Psychological Disorders. All the papers I took were interesting and varied and were far more in depth than the modules covered in prelims. For example, although Developmental Psychology is studied both for prelims and for part 1’s, the part 1 course covers a far broader range of topics and touches on developmental disorders and well as typical development.

Tutorials for PPPists are arranged in the same way as they are for EPists. You have four tutorials for each module which works out as a tutorial every two weeks for the term in which that module is taught. Tutorials are department-based rather than college-based, so you will be paired with people from other colleges and will not necessarily have tutorials with tutors from Hilda’s, although you would usually be taught by Hilda’s tutors for developmental psychology, psychological disorders and individual differences. You complete an essay for every other tutorial, but other work, such as a presentation based on a particular research paper, is generally set for the other tutorials. The idea of giving a presentation can be a little daunting at first, but it’ll only be you, your tutor and your tute partner in the room, so the whole thing is more like a discussion than a presentation.

Like EPists, PPPists also have to do psychology core practicals, although we do less of these than the EPists. Core practicals are three hours long and take up one afternoon per week. You have to write up a lab report after every second core practical. The first time you sit down to write one of these, there will be a moment of complete panic where you have no idea how to structure a lab report or set out anything. At this point, it is important to breathe. And possibly drink some strong coffee. Or take up yoga. The moment soon passes though –the structure of a lab report is quite simple and it is set out in detail in the yellow core practical handbook which you’ll be given in your first core practical class. Once you’ve written the first report, the others will seem a lot easier as they are all very, very similar. The best thing you can do is start the report early because it will probably take longer than you think! As well as this, make sure you include all references in the correct APA format, link you discussion to your introduction and analyze you results before you do anything else so you know exactly what you’re writing about. Also, don’t be like me and spend about an hour thinking of the title!

Philosophy Courses, Essays and Tutorials

There is a lot more choice built into the philosophy course which, depending on how indecisive you are, may or may not be a good thing! Basically, after prelims, you choose either three, four or five philosophy papers depending on which proportion of psychology to philosophy you’re doing. These papers are taken in a term of your choosing before your finals. It’s a good idea to read the philosophy lecture list in the first week of each term and go to any relevant lectures as the lectures and tutorials for a particular paper ma not always be in he same term. Going to lectures for a paper which you’re not having tutorials on yet may seem a little pointless, but you will honestly be glad of the notes when you do come to have tutorials.

Philosophy tutorials are chosen from a list of about thirty possible options. In general, you can take any combination of papers, but it is best to check the combination you’ve chosen with a tutor before you start going to lectures or organizing tutorials as, sometimes, there may be two papers which can’t be taken together – a friend of mine wanted to do a paper on Plato and a paper on Aristotle, but was told she wasn’t allowed to do two papers based around Ancient Greece.

Teaching in philosophy is generally college-based, although you may be sent to another college for some of the more obscure papers. I took Philosophy of Mind and History of Philosophy which were both taught at Hilda’s and Plato’s Republic which was taught at a different college. You have one tutorial a week during the term in which you are taking a particular paper and you write an essay for every tutorial. Sometimes, you have to read these aloud to your tutor and tute partner, so make sure you proof read! I generally forget and have to make sense of my own bad spelling on the spot…


Reading lists for both psychology part 1’s and philosophy can seem to be very long. With philosophy, it is important that you try and read everything on the reading list, even if some of it isn’t read very thoroughly! Philosophy essays will usually take a lot longer than psychology essays so you need to start the philosophy reading quite early. The philosophy section of Hilda’s library is generally very good. For some papers, such as History of Philosophy, it will have everything you need, but for others, such as Philosophy of Mind, many of the books are only in the philosophy faculty library on Merton Street. Most books from this library can be taken out for a week and they have multiple copies of everything, so it doesn’t matter if your tute partner gets there first!

The library at Hilda’s has most of the books you need for the psychology papers. A lot of the reading for psychology is in the form of online journals which can be accessed from anywhere. Psychology reading lists do tend to repeat themselves quite a bit as sometimes not all the articles listed will be available. This means that it is not essential to red everything on the reading, although it is useful to read as much as possible. The data for core practicals is analyzed using SPSS, so it is really good idea to buy a basic SPSS textbook, such as ‘SPSS Made Simple’ as this will make writing core practical reports a lot easier.

Collections and Vacation Work

In general, collections are set at the beginning of the term following the term in which they were taught. This means that you will have an average of three psychology collections (including one short notes collection) and one philosophy collection every term. Collections are a really, really useful way of judging how much revision you need to do for part 1’s, so definitely spend some time over the vacation revising for them. I usually spread the revision out over most of the vacation by doing a couple of hours a day rather than panicking in the last week as this allows you to fit other activities in around revision. I find it easiest to revise from lecture notes rather than textbooks as these are more course specific. Lecture notes are also probably the best way of revising for the short notes paper where there is no choice of questions ad questions are specific rather than general.