Happy first day of spring


in Daily updates, Oxford

Lake near Arundel

As I carry on with the early stages of revision, I am getting more nervous about the upcoming qualifying test. While it’s only three hours long, the total amount of material covered is highly extensive. While nobody will have read all the hundreds of books on the various reading lists, there is still the general requirement that we be knowledgeable about a wide variety of topics and able to write upon them under formal exam conditions.

One piece of solace is that there will apparently be quite a lot of choice on the exam. We are to write three essays: with either two on history from 1900 to 1950 or two on international relations theory. Within each of the two subject areas, there are apparently going to be five or so options. That implies that it may be better to know about a moderate number of areas in detail, then about all possible topics in a more superficial way. Having never written an Oxford exam, it’s difficult to strategize. I suppose the practice exam that I will be writing for Dr. Hurrell and then discussing with him on the 12th of April will give me some useful guidance for my last seven days of revision.

By the end of my time at UBC, I was feeling pretty confident about final exams. I knew the different sorts that were out there, the kinds of expectations professors had, and the general amount of effort I would need to put in in order to do well. Here, all of those things are much less certain. Also complicating things is the marking system. The passing grade is 60% and a distinction is 70%. On past form, it is probable that nobody in the program will fail and that two among the twenty-eight will get distinctions. It seems reasonable to think that those will be people already familiar with OxBridge examinations, though it may not be. For the 93% of people writing who will simply pass, there is ultimately very little difference between doing decently well and doing very well, just shy of a distinction. As such, it’s hard to determine how much effort to put into the entire matter. My supervisor certainly seems to think that – while important – studying for the QT should not be the focus of this break, which it does seem wiser to spend thinking about and working on the thesis.

Even so, I’ve resolved to bring my history notes and perhaps a text or two along to Malta.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

B March 21, 2006 at 11:25 pm

Happy Vernal Equinox

Robert Jubb March 22, 2006 at 11:50 am

I wouldn’t worry too much about the QT. Have a look at some past papers, work out a couple of topics that seem to come up every year for each subsection, and ignore the rest of it. Do a couple of practice papers as well though, as it’s probably worth familiarising yourself with the Oxford style of exams. Also, if you do well, you will get supervisor kudos.

Anonymous March 22, 2006 at 2:03 pm

Speaking of the vernal equinox, here is the best horoscope ever, for all signs:

“Certain shortcomings in your education and upbringing cause you to read meaning into the relationships among various celestial bodies.”

Ben March 22, 2006 at 3:33 pm

I’m with Rob. Look at some past papers. And I’d probably revise a few topics in real detail, and some others a bit more sketchily. Mind you, I don’t know how much you need to know for your exams, or how integrated your topics are…

And it’s true, the difference between 61 and 69 isn’t that important, but it looks good, gives you confidence and is your only practice before the final exams next year I guess.

Anonymous March 23, 2006 at 1:43 am


Please note that the written examination part of the Qualifying Test will be
held from 9.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. on Thursday, 20 April 2006 in the
Examination Schools.

Candidates are expected to arrive promptly for the examinations and to
conduct themselves so as not to disturb the other candidates. They are
requested to sit only at the desks with their names on them. If you are
wrongly seated you may be asked to move to your own seat.

The examination papers will be put on the appropriate desks before
candidates come into the room. Candidates must write only their examination
number on their scripts. They should not write their names. Candidates are
requested to know their candidate number!

The Proctors have asked the Examiners to remind candidates to dress in
sub-fusc; jackets and gowns may be removed during the examination.

The results for the written examination will be available from Tuesday, 25
April, when they will be posted in the Examination Schools.

Candidates are reminded of the requirements for the other two parts of the
Qualifying Test, namely the research design essay and the coursework in
research methods, as set out in the Notes of Guidance for Graduate Students
in International Relations 2005-06 on pp. 15 – 16.

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