Thursday, May 5, 2011


We've been grilling at work.  Not the sort of grilling that requires a barbecue and charcoal.  No, we've been grilling students.
More specifically, we've been starting to grill PhD students: we have a series of exams which PhD students have to pass before being deemed ready to write a thesis: the first three are written, testing comprehensive knowledge of three important areas; the fourth is an oral exam.
Traditionally, here, it has been a chance for the student to present their understanding of their field, together with partial results they have already obtained.  Grueling, but not too scary.
But recently, we've been trying to beef the fourth exam up: asking more difficult questions, and asking questions unrelated to the topic of the presentation.
Today was my first such exam in the new, more inquisitive format: the student passed, essentially with flying colours, although he may have felt less confidence at the result prior to being informed --- he faced many really hard questions, and demonstrated first hand that saying "I don't know" won't get you failed in an exam.  Several times!

Yours, glad that I didn't have this sort of gauntlet to run,

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