Preliminary Examination in Computer Science and Philosophy


  • 1. The subject of the examination shall be (a) Computer Science and (b) Philosophy.

  • 2. All candidates must offer both (a) and (b).

  • 3. The Examinations shall be under the joint supervision of the Divisional Board of Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences and the Board of the Faculty of Philosophy, which shall appoint a joint supervisory committee to make regulations concerning it, subject always to the preceding clauses of this subsection.


  • 1. The Preliminary Examination in Computer Science and Philosophy shall comprise five compulsory written papers plus compulsory Computer Science practicals equivalent to one written paper:

    • CS1 Functional Programming, and Design and Analysis of Algorithms

    • CS2 Imperative Programming

    • CSP3 Discrete Mathematics and Probability

    • P1 Introduction to Philosophy

    • P2 Elements of Deductive Logic

    • Computer Science Practicals

  • 2. The syllabus for papers CS1, CS2, and CSP3 will be published by the Joint Supervisory Committee in a handbook for candidates by the beginning of the Michaelmas Full Term in the academic year of the examination, after consultation with the Faculty of Computer Science (for papers CS1, CS2, and CSP3) and the Faculty of Mathematics (for paper CSP3). The syllabus for paper P1 will be as stated below. The syllabus for paper P2 will be as stated for the Elements of Deductive Logic paper in the regulations for the Preliminary Examination in Mathematics and Philosophy.

  • 3. Papers CS1, CS2, and CSP3 will contain questions of a straightforward character.

  • 4. All candidates will be assessed as to their practical ability in Computer Science under the following provisions:

    • (a) The Head of the Department of Computer Science, or a deputy, shall make available to the examiners evidence showing the extent to which each candidate has pursued an adequate course of practical work. Only that work completed and marked by the submission date given in the Course Handbook shall be included in these records.

    • (b) Candidates shall submit to the Chairman of the Moderators for the Preliminary Examination in Computer Science and Philosophy, c/o the Academic Administrator, Oxford University Department of Computer Science, Oxford, by the date given in the Course Handbook, their reports of practical exercises completed during their course of study. For a report on a practical exercise to be considered by the Moderators, it must have been marked by a demonstrator and must be accompanied by a statement that it is the candidate's own work except where otherwise indicated.

    • (c) The Moderators shall take the evidence (a) and the reports (b) into account in assessing a candidate's performance.

    • (d) Candidates whose overall performance on practical work is not satisfactory may be deemed to have failed the examination.

  • 5. Candidates shall be deemed to have passed the examination if they have satisfied the Moderators in all six papers in clause 1 either at a single examination or at two examinations in accordance with clause 7 or clause 8.

  • 6. The Moderators may award a distinction to candidates of special merit who have satisfied them in all six papers in clause 1 in one examination.

  • 7. Candidates who fail one or two written papers listed in clause 1 may offer those papers at one, but no more than one, subsequent examination.

  • 8. Candidates who fail three or more papers may enter the written part of the examination on one, but no more than one, subsequent examination.

  • 9. The use of calculators is generally not permitted but certain kinds may be allowed for certain papers. Specifications of which papers and which types of calculators are permitted for those exceptional papers will be announced by the examiners in the Hilary Term preceding the examination.

Paper P1, Introduction to Philosophy

The paper shall consist of two parts:

  • A. General Philosophy as stated in the regulations for the Preliminary Examination in Mathematics and Philosophy.

  • B. Turing: Computability and Intelligence This section shall be studied in connection with Alan Turing's papers 'On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem' (reprinted and explained in Charles Petzold's The Annotated Turing, Wiley, 2008) and 'Computing Machinery and Intelligence' (Mind, 1950). While not being confined to Turing's views, these questions will be satisfactorily answerable by a candidate who has made a critical study of the texts. There will not be a compulsory question containing passages for comment.

Candidates will be required to attempt four questions, including at least one question from Part A and at least one question from Part B.