Forty days and forty nights


in Daily updates, Oxford

Fermat’s last theorem

Over the next six weeks, I have two more papers to write on international law, then twelve hours of exams on two years worth of reading and coursework. I have never been called upon to apply so much raw information to a set of examinations. It seems a bit bizarre to be presented with hundreds of pages of notes and thousands of assigned readings, in order to be quizzed upon twelve randomly selected topics and evaluated largely on the basis of how one’s argument is structured.

I will feel a lot better about everything once plans for the time after the M.Phil have been solidified.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

R.K. May 5, 2007 at 10:56 pm

Cuius rei demonstrationem mirabilem sane detexi. Hanc marginis exiguitas non caperet.

Milan May 6, 2007 at 3:53 pm

Fermat’s Last Theorem – the subject of this photo – was discussed here previously.

Milan May 6, 2007 at 5:22 pm

An amusing diversion: a truly absurd Rube Goldberg machine. Clearly from the UK.

Pippa May 8, 2007 at 1:21 pm

Hi Milan, The way I prepared for my exams (MSc. Economics for Development) was to go through the last six years of exam papers. Although you say that they can examine you on anything, there are nevertheless favourite topics that generally keep recurring (you will be able to spot them cropping up, by looking at the past exam papers). Lecturers are asked to contribute titles & they usually have one or two favourites. My supervisor had already asked me to write essays on some key topics. Then I am afraid my entire MSc. class engaged in an essay swapping session, so we got hold of essays on different topics we had not covered independently in our individual tutorials. Reading through these was actually very helpful in seeing what does/doesn’t make a good essay!!

If you & your class have not yet discovered the essay swap solution on different topics, I would recommend it! (helps give you way more coverage than we could independently achieve in a year’s course). Then I practised manually WRITING three essays one after the other for three hours on eight Sat mornings, so I got a feel for what I could get down on paper & how quickly (the exams were a shock for some people, who had not manually written an essay in years). That helped hugely with timing my answers.

& it worked! I won the Oxford University Prize (George Webb Medal) for best results in my Masters degree that year.

Those would be my top exam tips in facing a tough Oxford exam – strategy, and a bit of practice!! Timing is literally half of it – it is not enough to know the subject – you have to be able to put the subject across coherently & well-argued in one hour.

But reading your blog, I think you have a huge awareness/coverage of more than you may think!!

Milan May 9, 2007 at 12:28 am


Thanks a lot for all the advice. Actually doing eight practice examinations might be a bit much, though I am sure it would help me prepare. I plan to do one three hour exam for each of my four courses, under exam conditions.

For now, I need to concentrate on getting through two years worth of notes.

Congratulations on the George Webb Medal, by the way.

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