Take-home exam woes


in Daily updates, Oxford

Spiral stairs

As I sat in Wadham’s hellishly hot subterranean computer lab, thinking about the Inuit Circumpolar Conference and Principal-Agent Theory, it became increasingly obvious that the latter is really not at all useful for understanding the former. Had I known what the exam question was going to be, I certainly would have chosen a different case study. Now, it is rather too late, so I shall carry on trying to dig myself out of this hole. I did specifically ask the professor whether the ICC would be a good institution to look at, and received a response in the affirmative. As such, I am not wholly responsible for this debacle.

Submitting my exam, which I am actually less unhappy about than the above paragraph indicates, I was surprised to find that envelopes cannot be slid under the office doors inside the Department of Politics and International Relations. This seems like a fairly severe design flaw in an academic building, where slipping a completed paper under a profs door is a time honoured method of submitting work securely.

From the department, I walked Emily to St. Antony’s. En route, I learned that she attended a session about the entrance examinations for All Souls. To become a prize fellow, you take fifteen hours of examinations on various subjects, followed by a viva examination with all the present members who care to show up. At most, two people a year are admitted. Those who are get seven years of funding and accommodation for any kind of study in Oxford. Technically, I could even become a medical doctor in that space of time, based on the generally shorter degrees here. Not that I could stand all the blood and syringes.

It might be worth spending the fifteen hours even to make the attempt and fail. At least you could say that you gave it a shot, and you would still be in distinguished company. Some very eminent people have been disappointed by this particular examination.

Along with my qualitative methods examination, I submitted my ‘manifesto’ for the Strategic Studies election. It’s an odd system, where people vote by email and you can only run for one position. Inspired by Matt’s example, in running for President, I put myself into the Vice-Presidential running. After all, there will only be one chance to be a member of this executive. I don’t know whether I am running against five people or none. Nominations close on Tuesday and the final list of candidates will be announced on the 21st. I shall keep you posted on what develops.

The seems to be a tiny bit of an academic pause in the next little while. There are always readings to be done, of course, but I don’t think I have any papers due next week. Our second core seminar paper is due on the 28th and I should be starting a paper for Dr. Hurrell soon, but I do have a bit of a space here to work with. Maybe I can finally finish Neorealism and its Critics: a book that I have struggled to wade through in three different countries over the course of the last three months or so.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

B February 12, 2006 at 8:08 pm

Continuing the new lyrical tradition here:

“I’m one third passion; I’m two thirds pride
Said: “I used to have a life once.”
He said: “I used to like your smile once.”
Singing – silence to the world
but the stars kept marching.
He said: “Silence to everyone. I said: “I’m still talking.””

Ben February 12, 2006 at 9:55 pm

The time honoured tradition of submitting work here is probably to put it in the relevant staff pigeonholes, located by the photocopier in the main department area (near my desk)

I didn’t attend the All Souls info evening, but as someone who had a go before (2003) I can say 15 hours of exams in two and a half days isn’t fun. Mind you, I was close to giving it another go this year, before my funding came through. I wouldn’t rule out another attempt either.

Milan February 12, 2006 at 10:12 pm


What kinds of questions did they ask last time?

Meghan February 13, 2006 at 5:03 pm

“slipping a completed paper under a prof’s door is a time honoured method of submitting work securely”

In which university, I’d like to know? Most profs I’ve talked to hate that method of submission, and will not guarantee they will receive papers submitted in that fashion. They tend to step on them, or not notice they are there…

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