I Take the Columbia School of Journalism’s Prospective Students Practice Test, and Realize I Am Far Too Stupid for Columbia and Possibly for Grad School in General

Identification: Please identify and state the news or historical significance of the following:

1. Name the Mayor of New York City

As a (however recently arrived) local, I understand and support that the first question in this series should touch on New York City governance. NYC is the primary place of “news or historical significance” in the U.S. The answer is Michael Bloomberg. I know this, because you can’t wait tables in NYC (as I do) without every single last one of your tables requesting ‘Bloomberg’s finest,’ as if it were the grandest and most original joke ever to be made about tap water.

2. Karl Rove

Karl Rove was Bush’s evil right-hand man for awhile, who looked like a cross between Ralphie in A Christmas Carol and Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Capote. He stepped down during that whole Plame thing, and I haven’t heard much about him recently, except that Sheryl Crow lit into him about the environment at the White House Correspondents’ dinner not too long ago.

3. Bernard Law

I have two men in my mind: one is a dyspeptic-looking black man, and the other is a flabby-faced Brit. But now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure the Brit is actually Bernard from Lost (who isn’t even British, ha ha). So I’m gonna go with…the black guy?

4. Brown vs. Board of Education

This was a landmark court case that said there shouldn’t be racial segregation in public schooling. I guess it must have been overturned later on or something.

5. Tony Soprano

A cuddly, teddy bear of a murdering misogynist. I downloaded the theme song for this show onto my ipod, and there’s about four minutes of syncopated talking before the part you hear on the show actually starts. I wish I’d spent my $.99 on that Maroon Five song I pretend that I hate.

6. Donald Rumsfeld

You know, asking these open-ended questions about such major players is really tough, Columbia. I mean, Rove, Rumsfeld…how am I supposed to define these people in a mere three sentences? He’s Bush’s ex-Secretary of Defense, and Maureen Dowd calls him Rummy. There.

7. The Freedom of Information Act (significance?)

FOIA!!!!!!!!!!!!! Fun to say. I’m constantly torn between not wanting the government to intrude on my private affairs, and really wishing my private affairs were of interest to the government.

8. The Gulf of Tonkin (historical & current significance?)

The Bay of Pigs was an incident in which President Kennedy funded rebels in Cuba to overthrow Castro, but it didn’t work, and then things got worse. It is currently significant because Cuba is still there, although no one is really sure if Castro is or not.

9. Eminem

Eminem? Seriously? Is he even still recording? Okay, well, he’s a white rapper, father of Haley Ja— Wait a minute, Columbia. Is this one of those things where I’m supposed to not know this question? Like, I’m supposed to know about FOIA and Rummy and so forth, but I’m supposed to have no clue who Tony Soprano or Eminem are? I’m onto you, you tricky journalism school, you.

10. Lee Bollinger

Bernard Law’s fat-faced British cousin.

11. Bill Frist

He’s from Tennessee and so am I! I would not let him operate on me.

12. Name 6 of the 15 countries that are members of the United Nations Security Council as of January 1, 2003.

John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia and Stephen Breyer. I can name the rest, too!

13. Lance Armstrong

He rode a bike, had cancer and was married to Sheryl Crow. That’s the second time Sheryl Crow has come up in this practice test! I’m pretty sure she had cancer, too, but Lance’s cancer is more popular, because his was featured on a bracelet. Lance and Sheryl have since divorced, and now Lance is running around everywhere with Matthew McConnahey and acting like a total jackass.

14. Francis Crick & James Watson

Famous bank robbers.

15. Ramadan

Festival involving stampedes. Westerners should not backpack in predominantly Muslim countries during it.

16. Hugo Chavez

Went all over South America on a motorcycle, before becoming a popular T-shirt.

17. Frida Kahlo

The only woman mentioned in Columbia School of Journalism’s practice test. I’m just sayin’. Was more of a successful personality than a good artist, in my opinion, but then, who am I to say? Since we’re discussing Frida Kahlo, I should also mention her personal life and how hard it was being married to Diego. But if you’d asked about Diego, we’d just talk about his work.

18. Hans Blix

UN weapons inspector with emo glasses who reminded me of a mole, which was especially funny since his job was digging up weapons. That weren’t there.

19. Saddam Hussein

I have never heard of this person, and I’m pretty sure that’s a made-up name.

20. Gerhard Schroeder

He was the Chancellor of Germany back when we wanted to go to war in Iraq, but now it’s Angela Merkel, and I prefer her because of that whole Bush-giving-her-a-massage thing, which was hilarious. I can’t remember Schroeder ever doing anything funny.

Done! So…scholarship?


  1. gaussling says:

    Doesn’t the Columbia School Of Broadcasting advertise in the back of Popular Mechanics?


  2. Duncan says:

    Oh, this is so so wonderful. Did Rove really step down? I’m not so sure. . . But this made my day!


  3. Elizabeth says:

    No, he didn’t. I don’t know why I thought that…there was talk about it for awhile, I guess.


  4. Elizabeth says:

    Just saw that this is the McSweeney’s front page today:



  5. Saira K. says:

    Totally random and late, but did you get in?


    1. Elizabeth says:

      Ha ha, I didn’t actually apply. I was just looking at their website one day and thought this sample application “current events” test they required was really silly. Apparently, they agreed, because I looked at their website again a few months later, and the sample test was gone, as was any mention of the requirement.


      1. Saira K. says:

        Ahh okay. Haha. I’m in the process of applying and have no idea what the hell to expect on this test. I guess we’ll just have to see. Fingers crossed.

        Thanks for the response.

        PS- your blog is delightful.


  6. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you! And good luck!


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