Laurie Taylor column

June 27, 2003

All students ought to be aware that they are the true spark of the transformation of the world - Ben Okri, THES , June 20

Are we agreed that candidate 26,125 should be a lower? You'd like a vote?

Right. Those in favour? Against? That's a clear majority of two for a lower.

Now, perhaps we could move to our final problem case. Candidate 24,839. The difficulty here is that, on each paper, this candidate has answered every question with a first-class degree of accuracy, but has then moved on to write with what can only be described as a higher level of abstraction.

Might we have an example, Professor Lapping?

Indeed. Here's one from the Narrative paper. The question is about soap-opera narrative conventions, and the candidate provides an admirable account of these with relevant references to Coronation Street, Brookside and EastEnders.

But this is followed by a lengthy passage on an imagined society in which the narrative of one's own life is of sufficient weight and value to obviate the need for fictional alternatives.

Pie in the sky stuff?


Well, in my opinion, Professor Lapping, this is quite straightforward.

We should give the candidate an appropriate mark for the parts of each answer that accurately reproduce the coursework and then subtract marks for all that up-in-the-clouds gubbins about transforming the world.

Thank you, Doctor Quintock. Do you have a numerical proposal for the manner in which we might handle such subtraction?

I suggest that we officially institute a standard deduction of five marks for every discernible flight of fancy.

After all, unless students know in advance where they stand on this matter there's always a danger that they could start getting tooI tooI ermI how can I put this?


The exact term.

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