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HOMER, (1) Iliad 1-4, or 2-5; or (2) Odyssey 1-5 or 2-6.
Ajax. XENOPHON, Anabasis 1-3 or 2–4. CAESAR,
De Bello Gallico, 1-4.
four Catiline Orations, and In Verrem, Act I; or
or (4) the treatises De Senectute and de Amicitia.
Aeneid; or (2) the Georgics ; or (3) the Aeneid,
books 1-4, or 3-6. The times allowed for the several papers are determined on each occasion by the examiners (called Masters of the Schools). In recent examinations they have been as follows:
Arithmetic, Algebra, and Geometry, 3 hours each.
Greek and Latin translation (whether prepared or unprepared), 24 hours each.
The selection of examination papers comprised in this volume has been compiled for the use of intending candidates. The object of these introductory remarks is twofold: to supply needed information on certain important points, and to give some hints, suggested by practical experience in teaching, to those who have difficulties in one or more of the subjects. Of course many of those who enter for the examination find it a simple matter enough, and to these such advice on elementary points will be superfluous.
A few remarks about the general standard of the examination are at present desirable. The University, in appointing examiners, always leaves their discretion absolutely unfettered. Thus, although a wholesome respect for continuous tradition has always ruled in the Oxford Schools, yet examiners are in no way bound by the standards and methods of their predecessors. It is obvious that examinations conducted by a body of examiners so appointed, and whose members are constantly changing, are liable at times to a certain amount of variation, both in the standard and in the general character of the papers. From the operation of this law Responsions are probably not exempt, but the amount of variation may easily be over-estimated. Thus a cursory glance at a paper may create the prima facie impression that it is a harder one than usual; whereas, if examined more closely, it may be found to be of the usual difficulty. And even if a paper is really somewhat hard, the inference that the standard has been raised cannot be drawn, without knowing how much weight the examiners have attached to the harder questions. Experienced examiners will always make allowances for any paper which turns out to be of more than average difficulty, and indeed for any case in which they havo thought it right to alter the type of any paper. It follows that public opinion has often been very wrong in considering that a particular subject has been specially fatal in any given examination.
In two subjects recent changes have, unavoidably, somewhat modified the standard. These are (1) Geometry, in which the complete alteration of the requirements has given the examination quite a different character; and (2) Grammar, in which the setting of separate papers in Latin and Greek, instead of one paper in which the two were combined, prevents deficiency in one language from being compensated by greater knowledge of the other.
It may be convenient to note at this point that in the Arithmetic, Algebra, and Grammar papers the answers are marked numerically; whereas in Latin Prose, and Latin and Greek translation, certain well-known symbols are assigned to each paper as a whole, i.e. S (satis), VS (vix satis), and NS (non satis), with various intermediate gradations at the fancy of the examiner. The Geometry paper is marked, sometimes by one of these methods, sometimes by the other.
No minimum, which must be reached for a pass, is fixed for any subject, either by University Statute or by the Board of Studies, the examiners being as free to fix their own minima as they are free in all other respects. It may, however, be stated that, according to usual standards, half-marks in Arithmetic and Algebra would certainly never suffice for more than a bare pass, and the candidate who desires safety, would be wise to aim at sixty per cent. as a minimum. In Latin and Greek grammar it is understood that a somewhat higher standard is exacted, which may perhaps be interpreted as one which is never allowed to fall below two-thirds. No practically useful indication can be given of the number of · bowlers' allowed in Latin Prose, even if it could be accurately defined what constitutes a “howler'. Current opinion on this point is often very misleading.
It should be added that decided failure in one paper, or great weakness in two or more, will always prove fatal to a candidate, and that the custom of the Schools is that the fatal NS is adjudged to no candidate, until his weak paper or papers have been considered and condemned by at least two, and in most cases all three of the examiners.
The hints which follow are arranged under the special subjects.
Arithmetic. The prescribed subject is. Arithmetic—the whole' and the examination papers have naturally not escaped the influence of the recent discussion in educational journals and elsewhere, as to what are the essentials of Arithmetic, and the best methods of teaching them. Of the proposals made for the reform of Arithmetic, some are in the direction of omission, but others recommend the inclusion of fresh material, and the most important of these may be briefly noted.
(1) That questions involving practical considerations should be set, not only those which require the direct application of a rule.
(2) That more attention should be paid to decimals, and especially that methods of approximation should be cultivated (e. g. that answers should be correct to a stated number of decimal places).
(3) (As a consequence of the proposals just stated) that questions should be set of which the answers do not come out'.
(4) That explanations of the principles underlying arithmetical rules should be asked for.
It is obvious that a candidate must be prepared for the possible occurrence of the above types of questions, or he may find himself seriously handicapped.
In working for the examination the main point to be aimed at is accuracy, which is best attained by the careful working of papers. Of course, when a fresh part of the subject has to be learnt, it will be necessary to work several examples out of some textbook; but the knowledge of it cannot be considered to be satisfactorily acquired until examples can be solved as they
occur in the ordinary course of a paper. To ensure passing, it is well to remember that there are many causes which make men do worse than usual when they are actually in the Schools, and consequently to aim at a somewhat higher standard than that actually required, e.g. to be content with not less than two-thirds of the marks. Those who are slow workers should work papers against time, i.e. allowing themselves no more, or even decidedly less than, the three hours given in the Schools.
In working the sums it is best to proceed as much as possible by common sense, not by rule. Each step taken in a sum ought to be shortly but clearly described in English. Labour-saving methods should be cultivated. Never do any work until you are obliged' is a capital rule to follow. By not being in a hurry to multiply or divide, we often escape the necessity of doing so at all. Similarly it is not necessary to reduce all sums of money to farthings, nor all mixed fractions to improper fractions; and the practice of turning decimals habitually into vulgar fractions is most unwise.
Algebra. Much of the advice given about Arithmetic obviously applies equally to Algebra, such as the expediency of working out papers against time, occasionally supplementing them by examples from a textbook.
In working the papers there are several points which may be noted as of importance. One is that some of the questions set will at times differ slightly from the ordinary ones in the textbook, a variation which should be carefully observed. In working simplifications, such as fractions, &c., it is important to proceed step by step, writing down the whole expression at every stage, and placing the sign of equality (=) before each of them. Neglect of this precaution often leads to mistakes.