An Aptitude for Scholastics

Those of us who've already gotten past high school are really lucky. Starting soon, the dreaded SATs are going to get even tougher -- they're going to include essay questions. With multiple guess, even the densest of us had a shot at hitting the right answer. But essays are killers. Sometimes even the people making up the test don't know the answers.

For those of you who still have that rite of passage ahead of you, our spies at Educational Testing Service have leaked a portion of the essay section.


1. Describe the common origins of the terms "Port Authority" and "Port-a-Potty," paying special attention to all five senses.

2. Develop and defend a theory as to how the ending of Hamlet might have differed if the characters had been given access to semi-automatic weapons.

3. If you were his friend, what would you call Ishmael?


1. According to the song, one is the loneliest number. Using induction, along with any necessary axioms from Euclid, give a convincing proof that this is indeed the case. For extra credit, prove that two can be as sad as one.

2. How much is enough?

3. Describe ways in which life as we know it would have differed if pi was equal to twelve.


1. If you were a president, who would you be?

2. Could FDR have taken Hirohito in a fist fight? Could the two of them together have beaten Stalin?

3. While most presidents have at least one good catch phrase, some never said anything memorable. Taking into account events of the time, as well as customs and traditions, come up with a good line for Warren Harding.


1. Que pasa?

2. Parlez-vous Anglais?

3. Quo vadis?


1. One beaker holds 350 ml of HCl. A second beaker holds 245 ml of NAOH. Taking into consideration both the ph and the molecular weight of the solutions, which of these two beakers would you rather spill on your pants?

2. Given the natural breakdown of carbonic acid into carbon dioxide and water (H2CO3 => H20 + CO2) as observed in typical carbonated beverages, wouldn't you like to be a Pepper, too?


1. Name all the stars. If you need more room, you may use the back of this page.

2. If they can put a man on the common cold, why can't they cure the moon?


1. It is well known that the head of a planeria can be split, and that the flatworm will grown two heads in response. Write a sample dialogue between two such heads.


1. Einstein said that God doesn't play dice with the universe. Would this stand have forced Einstein to also disallow Yahtzee and backgammon?

2. A physics students has just stepped off the roof of a 1,600 foot tall building. He took his laptop computer with him. Assuming the student can type 60 words per minute, give an example of the longest note he could complete before he reaches the ground.


1. Explain why aptitude tests are the single most important tool any university can use in evaluating applicants. This portion of the test has no time limit. Take as long as you need. When you are finished, be sure to sign the release granting us permission to use your answer in any way we see fit.

Written by: David Lubar
Contributed by: Nick Mathis

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