My Exams are Harder than Your Exams

Oh, did your tutor ask you to write your 20,000 word dissertation out by hand? Poor you. I’ve had to write mine in my own blood.

Exam Exam Stress

Exams are hard. It’d be weird if they weren’t. You’re at UCL- you might feel a bit ripped off if they weren’t accompanied by a sense of impending doom and risk of repetitive strain injury.

Nonetheless, when people start to talk about their exams, it inevitably seems to turn into a bit of a competition.

"Oh, did your tutor ask you to write your 20,000 word dissertation out by hand? Poor you. I’ve had to write mine in my own blood."

But if you’re feeling particularly sorry for yourself, you’d do well to remember that across history, some people have had it worse. These are the tests that we should thank our lucky stars we don’t have to face.

3. All Souls Fellowship

I’m slightly loath to include this, but it is infamous- or was, as it is no longer an entry requirement. An old fellow of the College branded it ‘too esoteric, even for Oxford’ which just about sums it up. The exam’s notoriety comes from the three-hour essay section, where candidates are given an envelope with a single word inside, ‘Innocence’ …‘Morality’ ‘Error’ ‘Water’‘Style’

This seems designed to really bring out the worst in people. If you had to write a three-hour essay on ‘Integrity’, I find it hard to imagine you would come out sounding anything less than an idiot.

2. The Google Interview

So hard that someone has written a book, interviewing the interviewees about their experiences. (‘Are you Smart Enough to Work at Google?’ Sure you are. ) About a million people apply to work there a year. These are some of the bombs that supposedly got dropped:

How would you weigh your head?

-You are shrunk to the height of a nickel and your mass is proportionally reduced so as to maintain your original density. You are then thrown into an empty glass blender. The blades will start moving in 60 seconds. What do you do?

– Describe a chicken using a programming language.

– Why are manhole covers round?

– How can you determine whether two persons are related or not?

– Is it possible to have an odd number of testicles in a room, and if so, how would you determine that using a balance scale?

Sounds like fun.

1. The infamous Scholar-Official Examinations

First prize has to go to the scholar-official exams once taken in China for civil servants.

Why so bad? Basically, the student would arrive at the examination compound and be searched for illicit materials- so far, so familiar. Then comes the fun part. Students would be put into a cell containing a desk, a bed and a chamber pot, for three days, with no outside communication, to write ‘eight-legged essays’ without any interruption. If you died in the process, they wrapped up your body and threw you over the wall. No time for slackers. And the exams were so competitive that people could end up re-sitting them several times due to limits on the amount of people who could be successful each examination period.

So next time you’re listening to a whinging library buddy about how tough they’ve got it, cast your mind back to this list and it should help shut them up. At least for a while.

That said, good luck to all. Don’t stress too hard.