So you think you can comp?

From 1931 to the early 1960s, students in the College had to make the grade.

The year is 1937. You’ve just completed courses in the biological sciences, humanities, economics, and philosophy. You studied anatomy and botany; read the Odyssey, Oedipus, Medea, the Bible, Herodotus, Aristotle, Plato, and Lucretius; you sharpened your statistical skills and pondered the gold standard; you compared Enlightenment philosophies.

Now you’re ready to take on the comprehensive examinations that will solely determine your grade in each class. Some tests might last up to eight hours. You might be asked to recall details from readings, discuss a quote, or defend a position (how are the mores related to the laws?).

From the rustling stacks of department records that the Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center has preserved, we bring you a selection of exam questions from 1937. And a reminder from your economics professor: “If you have lots of facts in your mind, confine yourself to the important ones; and do not exceed the time limit specified above.”