The Hardest Exam in the World

The All Souls exam, given at Oxford University in England, is widely considered to be one of the most difficult tests administered in academics.

It’s always a telling sign of intelligence when someone asks the right questions. Inquiries are a window into the intellectual curiosity of the world, and a well thought out, open ended question, can spark the kind of debate and discourse that can lead to profound moments of epiphany.

How do you go about finding the smartest people on the planet? You start in academia, perusing the hallways of the world’s most prestigious and well-respected universities and institutions of higher learning. But which departments and academics do you consider? Physicists who understand the underlying mechanisms of our universe’s nature? Biologists who understand the inner-most intricacies of living things? Or how about engineers, mathematicians, philosophers, heads of state, or titans of industry and enterprise?
It’s a tough endeavor, and there’s no doubt that the debate itself regarding whom to give the title to would be heated. The interesting part about it, though, would be what kind of questions would be asked to these hyper-intelligent people. Outside of their own areas of expertise, what humanistic inquiries could be brought up for them to ponder? What type of observations and tangential analyses would they make?

Oxford University in England administers an exam known as “The All Souls Test” for fellowships into its All Souls College. This exam is widely regarded as one of the most difficult in the world, and we thought it would be fun to inspect some of the questions, and see what we could come up with. Respond to any of the questions in the comments section, and show off your intellect!


– What is war good for?


– Why should I tolerate?


– Is exile always a misfortune?


– What do extremes in dress and personal adornment signify?


– Do historical novels harm historical study?


– Has there ever been a period that was not an information age?


– Are universal human rights a form of cultural imperialism?


– Is “Women’s Writing” a distinct category?


– What difference should it make to feminism whether gender differences are natural or socially -constructed?


– Is it worse to be cruel to a fox than to a leaf?


– Can happiness be measured?


– What are the deprivations of affluence?











13 comments on “The Hardest Exam in the World”

  1. Hunter says:

    What is war good for?

    I’d think they’d want an “out of the box” type of answer, and if I’m being as technical as I can, I’d say the works and the vultures. Why? They get to feast on all of the dead bodies! If that’s too morbid for you, how about we say that war is good for the military industrial complex? A cabal of closely tight corporations and government entities which profit off of war, and keep the planet in perpetual conflict to make sure their books stay in the black.

    Philosophically, I’d say war is good for “ridding the world of evil”, but then you come across issues regarding cultural relativism, which actually plays into one of the other questions “Are universal human rights a form of cultural imperialism?” I don’t know, there’s a very fine line there. For instance, is the Western world going to begin invading countries that don’t have suffrage for women, or perform ritualistic sacrifice in the name of their religious beliefs?

    Awesome questions though, I’d love to see a book put together with the fellowship winning answers. I’d buy that shit.

    1. NeverFearCCtalapiaIsHere says:

      Haha, the worms and vultures huh? That’s a very cold, yet succinct answer my friend. In a utopian world, war isn’t good for anything. But until we have equitable division of food, energy, and technology (as procured through education), war will remain a steadfast aspect of the human condition.

      1. herbie says:

        over population man?

  2. NuclearJaneDoe says:

    “Has there ever been a period which was not an information age?”

    I’d say yes, we categorize it in history as the “dark ages”, pretty much the aftermath of the plague in Europe, and a stifling in technological advancement. People were literally living out there lives hand to mouth in dark agricultural societies, praying to crosses and entrenched in the “spirituality” of the time, which was fear God, love Jesus, and obey the king.

    The funny thing about it though, the Renaissance seemed to spontaneously combust shortly thereafter, and we haven’t looked back since.

    Also, if you want my lazy answer, I’d say “yes, before humans”, because (and this is the logician in me speaking) information is mutually exclusive to the perception of the human mind (as far as we can tell).

  3. ToleranceIsDivine says:

    Why should I tolerate? Hmmmm

    Because if the random chaos of the universe had inexplicably put you in the minority, you’d want your fellow man to let you have peace and live your life.

    All of these questions revert back to the golden rule if you ask me, and for those who don’t remember, said rule is “Treat others how you would like to be treated”.


    1. Phillip Washington says:

      In order to live, out side of an absolute bliss environment, bad air bad people bad water , fools yourself, the size of your penis an on an on you would self destruct.,

  4. BuffaloSoldier says:

    What are the deprivations of affluence?

    Common sense (see Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian, et all)

  5. TolstoyGotItRight says:

    Do historical novels harm historical study?

    Absolutely not! Historical study isn’t meant to focus solely on one point of view, a real historian knows that to attain the nuances and real lessons of historical value, he has to study the aggregate whole of each and every perception during historical moments.

    It’s simple, you only hear one side of the story, your own story is bound to have fallacies.

  6. FeministsCan'tChangeAnything says:

    Is Women’s writing a distinct category?

    NO. Maybe to a feminist, but they’d be wrong, and hypocritical in their stance. Differentiating writing based on gender is both sexist and elitist at the same time.

    1. Phillip Washington says:

      yes you just categorized it.

  7. Obviousguyisobvious says:

    It’s worse to be cruel to a fox, because it has a nervous system and a soul, whereas a leaf, at least at a physiological level, can’t feel pain.

  8. Phillip Washington says:

    if one felt guilty about every blade of grass he has sent to his reward, that alone would usher a breakdown, if not state of shock, you make the call one is unavoidable unless you never went outside, there is reality to base this on.

    1. Phillip Washington says:

      there is no external reality for you to use for judgement.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *