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It is your birthright to be happy, to be at peace, and to be yourself… and to help others to be the same.

Naked Leader Week – 156 (w/c Monday 15 May 2006)

It is your birthright to be happy, to be at peace, and to be yourself…

and to help others to be the same.

 If you agree please send this to everyone whose lives you touch

May and June are examination months for millions of people all over the world, in deference to everyone sitting an exam this year, a personal story that I highly recommend you do not follow!

In my first year philosophy exam at Strathclyde University in Glasgow, I had to answer four questions – one from each of three sections, and a fourth from any section I chose.

Four questions, I thought in advance, how many do I need to study? I know – four! (To this day I do not know how I ever graduated!).

The day of the exam arrived and I turned over the exam paper and rejoiced (silently) – in front of me, in sections A and B, were three of my questions. All I needed now was my fourth in section C, on the other side of the paper, and I was home and dry. I turned over the paper to Section C and stared in horror. My fourth question, which was my banker question, was not there.

Mild panic, massive personal telling-off. What an idiot I had been, I was about to fail, have to resit in September, and my summer holiday would be ruined, as this time I would have to study properly – i.e. study at least five questions.

And then I saw it – a question in Section C that I knew the answer to. The question was:

“Would a will which could not err, be a will at all?”

I knew little about this overall topic, certainly not enough to write a “proper” two page answer, however I knew the overall answer was “No.”

I breathed deeply, glancing around at the other students who all seemed to be writing with great confidence (isn’t that always the case?), and took pen to paper.

After answering two questions in great details (well, greater detail than the one I was about to address) I turned to Section C. I wrote the question out again at the top of my answer paper, and then wrote my answer below – it did not take long:

“Would a will which could not err, be a will at all?”


And then answered my fourth question.

Immediately after the exam I rushed to the University library to check out the rules – was there any University “law” the said you were not allowed one word answers. No – thank goodness, I was out of jail!

That was my final exam, and for the six weeks before the results I forgot all about what I had done, relaxed and enjoyed my summer working at Butlins holiday camp in Ayr (the big wheel).

No chance! I didn’t sleep, and not a minute went by without me thinking of what I had done. I told no-one, and quite how some of those people got round that wheel I do not know.

Eventually, the day arrived, and I was the first in line when the results were posted at the University. Next to three out of my four subjects were a “P” for pass, next to Philosophy was an “R” for refer. I had to contact the philosophy department. I did not need to wonder why!

That afternoon I was in the Professor’s office, and he looked at me with a strange mix of contempt, and admiration. I remember the conversation, word-for-word:

Prof:    “So, what are we going to do with you?”

Me: (Innocent)          “I don’t know what you mean?”

Prof:    “Yes you do – the only one word answer I have ever had to mark”

Me: (Defensive) “There is no university rule against it”

Prof:    “There will be – anyway, this is what I am going to do – your other three answers together give you 47%, so I am going to give you 3% out of the 25% that goes towards the overall mark, to give you a C grade pass.


Me: (Confident) “Was it the correct answer?”

Prof:    “That is not the point”

Me: (Very Confident) “I thought that was entirely the point, and as it was the correct answer, to a closed question, I should receive 25% for that answer, giving me 72%, an A grade.”

And that is what I received. To my cost in other ways, I would add. Firstly I had to make sure I was fully prepared for every exam at University, as word travels fast and while I was a hero with students, some lecturers were out to get me. And secondly because I have probably dreamed about that moment of turning the exam paper over about 500 times since.

And the moral of the story is simple – be prepared, or at least better prepare than I was, and that won’t be difficult!

By the way, I was not alone – some recent examples from University entrance examinations:

Question:       “Why?”

One student answered:  “Why Not?”  (100%)

As did another who answered, “Because” (75%)

A more recent one:

Question:       “What is bravery?”

One student answered:  “This is” and walked out (and got in)

With my very best wishes and love to everyone sitting exams, wherever you are in the world.




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