At the very top of the Blackstone Chair, featured yesterday, is an hour-glass. Today when we write our exams we usually have several hours of sitting in Bute Hall or elsewhere writing and staring at the clock. Before 1858, when the examinations were oral, students would sit on this chair and be asked questions on their subject for as long as the sand in the hourglass at the top of the chair flowed.
So how long did the oral examination take and how did it go about? According to the plaque on the chair:
As the examination began, the Bedellus bearing the mace set the time-glass and after about 20 minutes, when all the sand had flowed through, grounded the mace with word Fluxit (“It has flowed through“). He then turned to the senior examiner with the words Ad alium, Domine (“On to the next one, Sir“).
Aren’t you glad the University switched to written examinations? They might be much longer today, but next time you’re stressing about your exams, think about how things used to be for students back in the day.
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