The All Souls Game

Last weekend, my husband and I went to Oxford for the day, and on our (excellent) two-hour free walking tour, the guide stopped us at the gate to All Souls College and explained a bit about it.  All Souls College is a graduate school, kind of.  The description of it actually sounds a bit more like an elitist club, where “fellows” are just distinguished people from their fields (in other words, how much studying is happening, I can’t really tell).  The entrance exam for All Souls famously used to be a single word that you had to free associate on in an essay.  You had three hours to write this essay, which goes to show you how deep the graders wanted you to go on the topic of “water” or “style” (both real prompts.)  Apparently, they scrapped the one word exam back in 2010––a very funny article about it is here––but they still do these very broad questions that are sometimes interesting, sometimes amusing, and sometimes sound like the kinds of queries stoned college kids pose to each other while sitting bleary-eyed beneath that poster where those naked girls have Pink Floyd album cover painted on their butts.

So of course my husband and I were like, “Shit, it would be kind of fun to just take the exam and see what happens!”  But obviously we will never get that chance.  However, I thought, perhaps we can all have the experience of taking what has often been called the hardest test in the world.  What if there were a cleverly designed pack of question cards, like the one The School of Life (which I hate, but their branding is good, I admit) makes about untranslatable words and confidence and shit like that, but instead of those things, it was some questions from All Souls exams, and you could break these out at your next dinner party before intoning, “THE GAME’S AFOOT”?  (That would be required.)  I mean, I’d do it.  Would you?

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Design example

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Second

Here is a link to some sample exams, and here are a few of the better questions I’ve picked out:

Is eugenics ever a good thing?

Is there anything to be said for astrology?

Should we preserve living creatures harmful to human interests, such as the tick, the locust and the tapeworm?

In the context of political speech, ‘[e]ven material which causes a significant degree of revulsion may be justified by the serious purpose of the context in which the material is broadcast’: Lord Walker in R. (ProLife Alliance) v. B.B.C. [2003] 2 WLR 1403. Do you agree?

Should parents be punished for the truancy of their children?

Should prisoners have the vote?

Where should the boundaries lie between a person’s private and public life?

Would you ban a book?

Is your belief in the theory of evolution based on faith or reason?

Should tigers be saved at the expense of Indian villagers?

Should there be a market in human organs?

Does the moral character of an orgy change when the participants wear Nazi uniforms?

(This last one isn’t in those sample tests, but was cited by Sarah Lyall––link above––as a past question.  And I think the answer is DUH.  Nazi uniforms change every single situation.  Also this would obviously be the first card I picked out when I had people over.)

 

 

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