Exam Questions for going to Oxford being “World’s Hardest Test”

Blogger fefe mentioned today that it is supposed to be really hard to get a scholarship to Oxford. He did link the questionnaires published by the UK Business Insider, and while going through them, my opinion quickly turned to “These questions just check your political orientation”. They are not really difficult questions if you have some idea about the subject, and thus it is not difficult to write an academic text of any length about the topic. I’ll stick to very short texts on the questions, though, just to prove that any good academic writing can be summarized shortly if you are a good academic. I also want to assure you that I would be able to provide an academic text of any length on all mentioned topics which contains sources, examples and a lot of arguments, but in the end it will lead to the exact conclusion i give, which I will just summarize in short here. The points I will state are top-of-mind and “easy to argue” positions; I could argue the opposite as well, but I would like it less. If you don’t believe me – well, don’t.

1. Did the left or the right win the twentieth century?

While you might argue that the communist left in the form of the UdSSR lost, there is no prevailing politically-right state since the downfall of Nazi Germany. The lefotvers are increasingly socialist. The left won.

2. Should intellectuals tweet?

From a personal POV: only if they like to have counter-arguments in the form of “idiot”. Generally, yes, otherwise Twitter will only consists of idiots calling all non-idiots “idiot”.
3. Should states control their borders?

Due to this being a requirement in international law to constitute a state this is a really stupid question.

4. Is vegetarianism the future?

Vegetarianism was the past. Currently, we (in 1st world nations) enjoy a lot of resources and can live of a lot of meat. But vegetarianism is a great idea if the elite wants to keep the meat for itself and make the poor think it was their decision. The French Revolition could have been avoided through vegetarianism.

5. Should all citizens receive a basic income from the state?

No. Why? Someone has to fund this “basic income”, and to give a share of the population a “basic income” just to take it away afterwards is plainly crazy bureaucracy. Otherwise, it’s not financially viable.

6. Should airlines be permitted to charge passengers according to their weight?

If those airlines are private corporations, it should be their problem. It’s the farmers’ choice to sell lemons per piece or per kilogram, so what airlines should or shouldn’t do is none of my (or your) concern. If those airlines are state-subsidized, you should ask the questions “is that right”, but you did not ask that quesion.

7. ‘Secure people dare.’ Do they?

Not secure people have better things to do than to “dare” (in today’s times mostly stupid things). Though “secure” has a double meaning, with the opposites possible being “insecure” and “not safe”. This is a really stupid question

8. Should prisoners be allowed to watch television?

There’s like the UN convention on human rights on cruel and unusual punishment, and forcing people to bore themselves to death may constitute “cruel”. There being no downside to watching TV, that’s pretty straightforward.

9. What, if anything, is wrong with using drones in warfare?

That depends how you stand on “everything is fair in love and war”. Using tools to kill people in wars has a history of several thousand years, so I don’t see why drones should be special.

10. What are universities for?

Educating people to thing for themselves. Or so I understand Alexander von Humboldt.

11. What shapes urban landscapes?

This question has no greifbaren content. I could argue “the moon”.

12. Should scientific progress make us optimistic?

Not if it fails, so, as this is a general question, no.

13. Is France the sick man of Europe?

In a room full of dying patiens, it is not reasonable to pick one.

14. Is gardening art?

Vomiting in a corner is considered art, so obviously everything can be considered “art”.

15. Is globalization undermining democracy?

Democracy is a method of coming to political decisions practiced very little around the globe. Globalization refers to international trade practiced a lot around the globe. I do not see how those two conceps are intertwined.

16. What role should disgust play in our moral decision-making?

Disgust being an emotion and morals being an abstract concept on pseudo-rational concepts of “good” vs. “bad” emotions, the same as every other emotion.

17. Is it wrong to change your accent?

I have no idea what this question means.

18. Is the middle class a force for good?

For themselves? Sure. Overall? Not more or less than any other social class.

19. Defend kitsch.

It’s childish. And fun. (This one was easy)

20. Should tackling corruption be the first priority for developing countries?

Considering China, probably building an economy pruducing something of value should be more important, thus no.

21. ‘Fiction’s about what it is to be a fucking human being’ [DAVID FOSTER WALLACE]. Is it?

Not since women started to write books.

22. How should we listen to music?

However you like. It’s art (see #14 above).

23. What will become of the English?

They will die as all other human beings do. If that question was meant otherwise, it’s racist.

24. Can travel writing be literature?

That depends on your definition of “literature”. If you define “anything written” as literature, then yes.

25. What’s wrong with doping?

It is harmful to your body, as scientifically proven, and makes you a cheater in sporting contests by all standards set by the sporting organizations.

26. Can there be a purely aesthetic appreciation of religious art?

I am pretty sure carpets in mosques have no deeper meaning and can be pretty artsy, so yes. Maybe I am just ignorant of muslim religious culture, but that would just prove my point.

27. Devise a new punctuation mark – and defend it.

痴 at the end of a sentence to state you consider yourself or your counterpart an idiot. 痴 being Chinese and meaning “idiot”. Usage example: Devise a new punctuation mark – and defend it痴.

Ok, this was fun. The Business Insider then turns to economic questions. That should be easier:

1. Is there an economic case for limiting pay bonuses to twice annual salary?

If you are a communist, sure. If you think free markets are a good idea, no. This is just a political question.

2. Is the concept of ‘equilibrium’ useful for understanding real-world economic behaviour?

If you are a communist, no. If you think free markets are a good idea, sure. This is just a political question.

3. ‘Gary Becker is the greatest social scientist who has lived and worked in the last half
century.’ [MILTON FRIEDMAN in 2001] Do you agree?

Why would you ask a sociology question in the economics section? But having read a lot from Becker and plenty of bullshit from other scientist, and adding that to the fact that he got a Nobel prize and no one proved him wrong in 60 years, my tendency would be “yes”. But I’d never say such a thing because Myandamraha Raschiputistan may have been a lot better, but with her killed all her works destroyed by the Red Khmer and thus never published, we will never know. Am I supposed to tell fortune next?

4. What, if anything, can microfinance institutions achieve that other financial institutions
cannot?

Recipocive trust. Normally, financially institutions require security. Microfinance institutions do not.

5. Assess the evidence that modern management techniques increase productivity.

I wouldn’t know how. Modern laws destroyed productivity so much that any increase may just be an artifact.

6. Is there an economic basis for conglomerate companies?

Obviously, otherwise they would not exist. Is there anything about free-market economies you need re-explained?

7. When, if ever, should firms bear responsibility for their customers’ poor purchasing
decisions?

If they force them – with a gun – to buy their products. Or any other direct, bodily threat.

8. Can a privately-supplied currency, such as Bitcoin, be viable in the long run?

I consider this the wrong question, as no “currency” not based on something of value in the real life is sustainable in “the long run”. This one can even be proven: Show me a still-valid, fiar currency of 3000 years ago still worth more than it was then. Yo can not.

9. What economic issues have the potential to be resolved through the use of ‘Big Data’?

None. In a democracy, economic issues are settled by majority decisions, not by statistics. And you do not need “Big Data” to statistically determine that half the population are stupid (compared to the average).

10. Should the state restrict what people do with their pension savings?

As were #1 and #2: This is just a political question. If you are a communist, yes. If you think free markets are a good idea, no.

We now turn to the “philosophy” section. That was a little harder as all I know about philosophy is Schopenhauer.

1. Is a person’s gender socially constructed? Is a person’s sex?

In my native language, there is just one word for those two concepts. Bearing that in mind, the first question is as stupid as asking “Is a pyramid’s shape socially constructed?” You can call a pyramid triangular or a tetrahedron and not be wrong, and you can state that Stonehenge (being round) is also an ancient relict, but equaling the shapes would be plainly silly. A person’s sex is biologically determinable in most cases, the few leftovers being statistically irrelevant.

2. Does anger have a legitimate role to play in politics?

I am getting that “philosophy” actually means “morally”. Ok. As emotions are what politics thive on, you could argue that on the good emotions-bad emotions dilemma with morals I mentioned above. With any argumentation based on an unsolvable dilemma, you cannot argue a conclusion (says logic). This question is stupid.

3. Does the status quo have any moral privilege?

De facto? In what society? Oh, morally, again. Who am I to decide? If I state my mind on this, you’ll have an equally unreasonable argument in just calling me “idiot communist”. Or “idiot nazi”. What is the point in pointless discussions – morally?

4. ‘What distinguishes actions which are intentional from those which are not? The answer
that I shall suggest is that they are actions to which a certain sense of the question
“Why?” is given application; the sense is of course that in which the answer, if positive,
gives a reason for acting’ [ELIZABETH ANSCOMBE]. Discuss.

This I can do rationally: Pretending to answer a hypothetical question about a vague term with another vague term and adding definition for the latter through only stating yet another vague term is useless. Morally and rationally, this is pretentions bullshit.

5. What can we learn about the mind by considering its disorders?

A lot, if we leave it to psychologists.

6. Can emotions be reasons for decisions?

De facto? Yes. Rationally? No. Morally? Depends on if you prefer emotions over reason and vice versa.

7. Is higher-order evidence just more evidence?

According to a quick google search, higher-order evidence is no evidence at all, but just good-sounding points meant to make the opposing party insecure. That is morally reprehensible and an intellectual statement of insolvency.

8. How do apologies work?

Through righting your wrongs and compensating.

9. Should epistemology be naturalised?

I cannot find any translations of those two words which gives a sense to that question.

10. Can there be substantive disagreement in the absence of fact?

Sure. Half the population is stupid, see above. Ok, the key word here may be substantive – well, not between people who know what substantive means.

11. What is it to beg a question?

A British figure of speech?

12. What is it to win a philosophical argument?

With philosophical arguments obviosly not requiring facts or any connections to reality, I guess “useless” would be a very close guess.

13. Should we seek to eradicate blame?

No. I cannot even think about any argument for that in a modern democracy. Of course, we could abolish modern democracy and blame the people too stupid to live up to the concept, but I’m not a big fan of civil war.

14. Are philosophers experts?

This question lacks the reference to “in what”, so, I’ll just add “in nuclear reactor safety” and guess “probably not”.

15. Is every consensual arrangement morally permissible?

That depends – political, again – on your view on the human being. If you thing everyone should be allowed to vote, then yes. If you hold the opposing opinion, then no.

16. Is Bill Gates a moral hero?

Bill Gates is a great businessman who took someone else’s work and made millions of it, grew a large company, making billions, and donates a huge lot to charity. To get a moral judgement for such rich people, maybe ask their peers. For me, a moral hero is one who states his moral standards and lives up to them. I do not know what Gates said and do not know of anyone else who stated and kept up to their moral standards, so the better question would be “are there moral heroes?”.

Okay, I’ll interrupt this – philosophy is not my strenght and my answers are getting repetitive. I developed  counter-question, though: What theoretical advances did the study of philosophy yield in the last 50 years and were they worth the money put into their discovery from a moal standpoint?

Let’s move on to politics:

1. Who should pay for the costs of educating and bringing up children?

This is an political economics question. You can (hardly) argue “those that make children” and easily argue “everyone” as uneducated children will most probably just become criminal nuisance.

2. Is the deliberate targeting of named civilian leaders ever justified in wartime?

As to international law, no, and the question is thus silly. It is especially silly because the context changes when the “cicilian leaders” have the authority to send an army to war. De facto, there are no “civilian leaders”, thus making the quesition completely irrelevant.

3. If oil wealth hinders democracy in some countries but not others, why is that so?

Socialism. Socialism needs a lot of money no one needs to work for, You do not need a lot of people to make a lot of money from oil, and people not working like money just as much as everyone else,

4. ‘To date, no stable political democracy has resulted from regime transitions in which
mass actors have gained control even momentarily over traditional ruling classes’
[TERRY KARL 1990]. Discuss, either solely with reference to Latin America or more
generally.

Defining the oldest “political democracy”, which is – respecting core changes – not even 70 years old, as “stable” is plainly silly in a historical context. See: Roman Empire.

5. ‘Transparency and accountability connote not only different but also opposing versions
of constitutionalism’ [KANISHKA JAYASURIYA]. Discuss.

You can write whatever you want on any piece of paper titled “constitution”. Silly.

6. ‘Laws were most numerous when the commonwealth was most corrupt’ [TACITUS]. If
there is a link between the number of laws and the level of corruption, does it also apply
to anti-corruption laws?

Wuh – a rational question. Do you need more anti-corruption laws if you have more manifestations of corruptions? Well – no. Necessity for laws are just an indicator for your old laws being useless. Proof: Logic.

7. ‘Negotiated settlements are the best way to end civil wars because the more quickly
violence can be halted the more lives can be saved, and allowing former combatants a
say in the postwar configuration of the government makes it more likely that durable
democracy will be established.’ Discuss.

This historically never worked. With foreign influence (as popular in the last 70 years) it factually does not solve fuck. About “durable democracy”, see “political democracy” in #4 above.

8. If the potential for voting cycles is such a fundamental discovery of social choice
theory, why are such cycles so rarely observable in practice?

I have no idea on what this is about, but the possible reasons are (a) the theory is wrong and (b) voting cycles are bad for the ruling people.

9. Is political participation in decline in Western societies and if so what explains the
decline?

As to the decline, statistically, yes. As to the “why” part – based on #8, my educated guess would be ignorance by the electorate.

10. ‘The conditions for a justified revolution are the same as those for a justified
humanitarian intervention.’ Discuss.

A revolution is about standing up against your own oppressors. A “humanitarian intervention” is about helping others to do so. There is a big difference between “you” and “others”. Silly.

11. Does the median voter theorem adequately explain the political support for
redistributive policies in democracies?

No. But the “vote-for-more-money-for-nothing” theorem would do (and be more solid).

12. ‘No global governance organization can make everybody happy, and the organization
that strives to do so is likely to disappear’ [JONATHAN KOPPELL]. Discuss.

These two statements contradict each other. As the first is a true (or untrue) statement, and the second just mentions “striving” as opposed to “doing” the second is worthless, As you cannot disagree with my statement “the first is true” without proving yourself wrong, logically there is nothing to discuss.

Okay, this was interesting. And long. But claiming it were “difficult” is somewhere between stupid and silly or at best indecisive. Personally, I would conclude that getting that scholarship is simply based on the political views of the applicants, otherwise I see no reasons to ask these questions. If you want to test for intelligence, one simple question would suffice:

Are you more intelligent than everyone else on our applicants list? If so, prove it.

(You can only write an individual answer to that, and even an idiot would be able to spot any idiocy in the response. If he can not, that qualifies you).

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2 Replies to “Exam Questions for going to Oxford being “World’s Hardest Test””

    1. Das ist eine Spitze gegen die Frage. Ich verstehe es so, als sollte man über Vorurteile bzgl. Dialekten schreiben. Wenn ich solche nicht habe (habe ich nicht), ist die Frage unverständlich – im Sinne von “was soll daran falsch (oder richtig) sein?”

      Ich bin ja gerade begeistert, dass das tatsächlich jemand liest *freu*

      Liked by 1 person

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