Tuesday, May 8, 2012

One-Word Exam

Last year, Oxford University scrapped its famous one-word entry exam. Affectionately known as the “Essay” or “the hardest exam in the world”, applicants to All Souls College were asked to write an essay from one random word. You never knew until you flipped over your piece of paper if the next few hours would involve you brainstorming about “water”, “miracles” or “corruption”.

There was a method behind the madness though - the exam allowed the University to gain valuable insight into a person’s ability to generate creative connections. The limits were only measured by your imagination. What is quite funny is how much terror a single word can conjure up in some of the best academic minds. If you can’t connect the dots and perform some intellectual acrobatics, you’ll be paralyzed at that site of a word on a white sheet of paper.

Creative problem-solving is something that isn’t really taught yet it’s something we use all the time. We are always looking at how we can turn obstacles into opportunities and problems into solutions. I love asking ‘what if’ questions and getting back to basics, as everything presents a creative opportunity if we apply a different lens to it.