General Exam Description

Prospective students can sign up to take the General Exam instead of a traditional departmental exam. For the General Exam, students will be given a series of questions linked to specific areas of study important to a liberal arts education. Students will be given the opportunity to select and answer two questions focused on completely different topics. Students will have two hours total to complete the exam and should plan on spending one hour per question.

To be considered for the General Exam, select it as one of your options in the Member Questions section of your Common Application.

The unique structure of this exam allows students to answer two very different questions so as to play to their individual strengths. These areas of inquiry — or ways of thinking about the world — encourage analysis, imagination, and the ability to think critically.

Faculty members with expertise in each study area will grade the exam answers. Exam reviewers will assess student answers based on their level of engagement with the question, their thoughtfulness, and their writing ability. Students should strive to present a balanced treatment of their selected questions, in other words, taking counter arguments into account when formulating answers to the questions. The final score will consist of the sum total of both scores.

No notes will be permitted in the exam.

On the day of the exam, you will answer just TWO questions from two separate exam areas identified below. You may only choose one question from each exam area. (In other words, answer one CS question and one UQ question, not two CS questions.) If you answer more than one question per category, your exam will be disqualified from consideration.


Creative Studies (CS)

The Creative Studies area of inquiry covers disciplines like music, art, theater, and literature. These disciplines all encourage creativity, artistic expression, and artistic appreciation. If you have an interest in art, theater, music or literature, you might select a question from this section of the exam.

If you choose to answer a Creative Studies question, you should select and answer ONE of the following:

CS1. Describe a moment when you experienced an “epiphany.” What insight or lesson did you take away from this sudden realization? (“epiphany” = a moment in which you suddenly see or understand something in a new or clear way)

CS2. What are your “favorites” and why? Select one example of a “favorite” from three of the following nine categories (let’s call them your “Stranded-on-a-Deserted-Island” cultural survival must-haves): 1) visual art; 2) literature; 3) music; 4) theater; 5) film; 6) video game; 7) comic book series, graphic novel or manga; 8) YouTube channel; or 9) television series. Be sure to justify your choices in your essay.

Exam reviewers will assess student answers based on their level of engagement with the question, their thoughtfulness, creativity, and writing ability.

Ultimate Questions (UQ)

“Ultimate Questions” areas of study explore big questions like: Why are we here? What is religion? What is freedom? And so on. This area of inquiry asks students to engage in a critical analysis of fundamental beliefs, cultural practices, and competing truth claims. These types of questions tend to form the core of disciplines such as philosophy, religious studies, and some political science courses.

If you have an interest in religion, philosophy, politics, or the overall meaning of life, you might select a question from this section of the exam.

In his book The Case Against Perfection, Harvard professor Michael Sandel examines the ethics of using technology for artificial human enhancement. Some examples of artificial human enhancement include:

  1. Embryo screeningto eliminate genetic and chromosomal disorders;
  2. The use of biotechnology, such as the CRISPR interference technique, to edit or replace undesirable genes in human germ cells or embryos;
  3. Chemical enhancement of human performance (as with anabolic steroids) or cognition (as with “memory drugs”);
  4. Implantation of technological devices, such as retinal implantsor brain-computer interfaces, within the human body.

Sandel argues that people should avoid using artificial human enhancements because the choice to use these enhancements implies that enhanced humans are valued more than non-enhanced humans, and that this is disrespectful to human intelligence, performance, and dignity. While many scholars agree with Professor Sandel’s conclusion about avoiding artificial enhancement, these thinkers do not all agree with his argument for that conclusion. Meanwhile, other thinkers in those fields disagree with his conclusion and argue that there is nothing wrong with the use of technology to improve human activity.

Using the information provided above, you should select and answer ONE of the following prompts and write your answer in a full argumentative essay.

UQ1. What does it mean to be human? How could the use of human enhancement technologies change that? Would that change be for the better or for the worse? Given your answers to these questions, do you agree or disagree with Professor Sandel’s conclusion? Justify your answer with an argument.

UQ2. How could the use of human enhancement technology change society, culture, or entertainment? Would these changes be beneficial or harmful? Given your answers to these questions, do you agree or disagree with Professor Sandel’s conclusion? Justify your answer with an argument.

Exam reviewers will assess student answers based on their level of engagement with the question, their thoughtfulness, creativity, logic, and writing ability.

Individuals, Systems and Societies (IS)

“Individuals, Systems, and Societies” areas of study examine how members of societies organize themselves to satisfy individual and collective goals. They foster an understanding of the interconnectedness of individuals, systems, and societies across local, national, and/or global contexts.  This area of inquiry forms the basis for many courses in anthropology, mass communications, political science, psychology, and sociology.

If you are interested in people, either as individuals or in groups, you might select a question from this section of the exam.

IS1. How would a student's ability to do well on this exam be affected by issues of inequality such as race, gender, and/or class?

Global Diversity and Inclusivity (GD)

Global diversity is one of Linfield College’s core values. As such, our college curriculum focuses students’ attention beyond their own national boundaries. One of the goals for diversity studies courses is to encourage students to study different cultures from a comparative, disciplinary, or interdisciplinary perspective and examine the impact of global interdependence on the lives of individuals.

If you have an interest in global issues, foreign cultures/languages, anthropology, international relations, economics, or history, you might select a question from this section of the exam.

You should select and answer ONE of the following questions:

GD1. How should we assess the United States’ role in the world? Use specific examples in your response.

GD2. Linfield prides itself on student participation in our study abroad program. We see it as a defining feature of a 21st century education that seeks to form global citizens. What does it mean to be a global citizen? Discuss how you, in your chosen field of study or areas of interest, would enhance your Linfield education by taking advantage of an opportunity to study abroad and experience another culture. Consider also how with this background you might make a future contribution in your field or local community.


U.S. Diversity and Inclusivity (US)

Diversity is one of Linfield College’s core values. As such, the college curriculum encourages students to pursue inquiry into the varied dimensions of human diversity in the U.S. such as age, ability, ethnicity, gender, language, politics, race, religion, sexual orientation, identity, and/or social class. Courses in this area of inquiry examine how the dominant/mainstream traditions of U.S. culture have bypassed or ignored the voices of those who have typically fallen outside those traditions.

If you have an interest in social diversity, justice, law, and equity issues in the United States you might select a question from this section of the exam.

You should select and answer ONE of the following U.S. Diversity questions:

US1. In 1967 Martin Luther King argued that, “We have deluded ourselves into believing the myth that capitalism grew and prospered out of the Protestant ethic of hard work and sacrifices. Capitalism was built on the exploitation of black slaves and continues to thrive on the exploitation of the poor, both black and white.” To what degree is this statement true today? Please give three examples for your argument. Be sure to include the poor, blacks, and whites in your answer. What other groups should be added to this list? Why should they be included?

US2. A Princeton study of elite universities in the U.S. found that “legacy applicants”—people, usually white and wealthy, with a parent or grandparent who attended the elite institutions they’re applying to—are far more privileged by their legacy status than applicants of color are by affirmative action policies [in terms of their admittances to universities]. What are some of the obstacles that non-legacy groups face in gaining admittance to elite institutions of higher education? Are obstacles different for different groups? If so, how and why? Do the groups have anything in common? Please give at least three examples.