Today I am taking my written comprehensive exams for the PhD at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. For this program it consists of six hours at a computer typing four essays on different topics.
However, this experience and the preparation for it (the most intense parts of which always get pushed later than they should) remind me of my comprehensive for Nuclear Power School.
The experience of taking an exam that covered Chemistry, Material Science, Systems, Reactor Theory, and several other topics was nerve wracking for all of us at 21 or 22 years of age. It seemed to us, much like Harold Abrahams in Chariots of Fire, we had a short time to justify our existences.
The pressures of comprehensive exams were apparent to many, which resulted in one of the few officially sanctioned jokes in Naval Nuclear Power. In one of the official publications of Naval Reactors, someone inserted a sample “final exam” from Nuclear Power School.
This has bounced around the web, so I can’t promise this is word for word what is in the NRTB, but this is certainly representative.
If you have four hours, go ahead and give the exam a try. Or, at least think of me today trying to summarize my knowledge of Christian Ethics in 6 short hours.
Final Exam - Naval Nuclear Power School
INSTRUCTIONS: Read each question carefully. Answer all questions. Time limit: 4 hours. Begin immediately.
HISTORY: Describe the history of the papacy from its origins to the present day, concentrating especially, but not exclusively, on its social, political, economic, religious, and philosophical impact on Europe, Asia, America, and Africa. Be brief, concise, and specific.
MEDICINE: You have been provided with a razor blade, a piece of gauze and a bottle of scotch. Remove your appendix. Do not suture until your work has been inspected. You have fifteen minutes.
PUBLIC SPEAKING: 2500 riot-crazed aborigines are storming the classroom. Calm them. You may use any ancient language except Latin or Greek.
BIOLOGY: Create life. Estimate the differences in subsequent human culture if this form of life had developed 500 million years earlier, with special attention to it probable effect on the English parliamentary system. Prove your thesis.
MUSIC: Write a piano concerto. Orchestrate and perform it with a flute and drum. You will find a piano under your seat.
PSYCHOLOGY: Based on your knowledge of their works, evaluate the emotional stability, degree of adjustment, and repressed frustrations of each of the following: Alexander of Aphrodisias, Rameses II, Gregory of Nicaea, and Hammurabi. Support your evaluation with quotations from each man's work, making appropriate references. It is not necessary to translate.
SOCIOLOGY: Estimate the sociological problems which might accompany the end of the world. Construct an experiment to test your theory.
ENGINEERING: The disassembled parts of a high- powered rifle have been placed on your desk. You will also find an instruction manual, printed in Swahili. In 10 minutes a hungry Bengal tiger will be admitted to the room. Take whatever action you feel appropriate. Be prepared to justify your decision.
ECONOMICS: Develop a realistic plan for refinancing the national debt. Trace the possible effects of your plan in the following areas: Cubism, the Donatist controversy, the wave theory of light. Outline a method from all possible points of view, as demonstrated in your answer to the last question.
POLITICAL SCIENCE: There is a red telephone on the desk beside you. Start World War III. Report at length on its socio- political effects, if any.
EPISTEMOLOGY: Take a position for or against truth. Prove the validity of your stand.
PHYSICS: Explain the nature of matter. Include in your answer an evaluation of the impact of the development of mathematics on science.
PHILOSOPHY: Sketch the development of human thought, estimate its significance. Compare with the development of any other kind of thought.
GENERAL KNOWLEDGE: Describe in detail. Be objective and specific.
If you finish early turn your paper in at the table at the front of the room.