Below is an imaginary set of sample exam questions for a top U.S. preparatory school. I will not spell out its name, but if you know where I taught for many years (clues are scattered throughout this site) you will probably be able to figure it out. Many of the original faculty of the school were the products of excellent European educations, and considered themselves vastly more knowledgeable than any American they might meet.
The scope of the sample questions suggests that the final exam they are meant to help prepare for is not just any final exam, but a comprehensive exam taking place in the final year of school (= Form VIII).
The originator of these superb questions undoubtedly had considerable experience with this school, probably teaching there at some point. I have a suspicion of who this might be, but I am not sure. If the true author wishes to come forward and and claim hizzer due glory, I will happily append hizzer name.
C********n Preparatory School
Suggested Final Examination Questions
As you prepare your final examination questions, please use the following questions as guidelines. You will recall that these questions have appeared on previous years’ exams.
Describe the history of the papacy from its origins to the present, concentrating especially but not exclusively on its social, political, economic, religious, and philosophical impact on Europe, Asia, America, and Africa. Be brief, concise, and specific.
You have been provided with a razor blade, a piece of gauze, and a bottle of scotch. Remove your appendix. Do not suture until your work has been inspected. You have fifteen minutes.
3. PUBLIC SPEAKING
2500 riot-crazed aborigines are storming the classroom. Calm them. You may use any ancient language except Latin or Greek.
Create Life. Estimate the differences in subsequent human culture if this form of life had developed 500 million years earlier, with special attention to its probable effects on the English parliamentary system. Prove your thesis.
Write a piano concerto. Orchestrate and perform it with flute and drum. You will find a piano under your seat.
Based on your knowledge of their works, evaluate the emotional stability, degree of adjustment, and repressed frustrations of each of the following: Alexander of Aphrodisias, Rameses II, Gregory of Nicæa,1 and Hammurabi. Support your thesis with quotations from each man’s work, making appropriate references. It is not necessary to translate.
The disassembled parts of a high-powered rifle have been placed on your desk. You will also find an instruction manual, printed in Swahili. In three minutes, a hungry Bengal tiger will be admitted to the room. Take whatever action you feel is appropriate. Be prepared to justify your decision.
8. WORLD HISTORY
There is a red telephone on the desk beside you. Start World War III. Report at length on its sociopolitical effects, if any.
Explain the nature of matter.
Sketch the development of human thought. Estimate its significance. Compare with the development of any other kind of thought.
11. GENERAL KNOWLEDGE
Describe in detail. Be objective and specific.
- Scholars have been unable to identify this person. “Gregory of Nicæa” is perhaps a lapsus calami, understandable and forgivable in view of the grinding and unrelenting hardships faced by the working intellectual, for Gregory of Nyssa.