Some classic questions from previous years…
Joan of Arkansas. Queen Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Babe Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Mash up a historical figure with a new time period, environment, location, or occupation, and tell us their story.
—Inspired by Drew Donaldson, AB'16
Alice falls down the rabbit hole. Milo drives through the tollbooth. Dorothy is swept up in the tornado. Neo takes the red pill. Don’t tell us about another world you’ve imagined, heard about, or created. Rather, tell us about its portal. Sure, some people think of the University of Chicago as a portal to their future, but please choose another portal to write about.
—Inspired by Raphael Hallerman, Class of 2020
What's so odd about odd numbers?
–Inspired by Mario Rosasco, AB'09
Vestigiality refers to genetically determined structures or attributes that have apparently lost most or all of their ancestral function, but have been retained during the process of evolution. In humans, for instance, the appendix is thought to be a vestigial structure. Describe something vestigial (real or imagined) and provide an explanation for its existence.
—Inspired by Tiffany Kim, Class of 2020
In French, there is no difference between "conscience" and "consciousness." In Japanese, there is a word that specifically refers to the splittable wooden chopsticks you get at restaurants. The German word “fremdschämen” encapsulates the feeling you get when you’re embarrassed on behalf of someone else. All of these require explanation in order to properly communicate their meaning, and are, to varying degrees, untranslatable. Choose a word, tell us what it means, and then explain why it cannot (or should not) be translated from its original language.
– Inspired by Emily Driscoll, Class of 2018
Little pigs, French hens, a family of bears. Blind mice, musketeers, the Fates. Parts of an atom, laws of thought, a guideline for composition. Omne trium perfectum? Create your own group of threes, and describe why and how they fit together.
– Inspired by Zilin Cui, Class of 2018
The mantis shrimp can perceive both polarized light and multispectral images; they have the most complex eyes in the animal kingdom. Human eyes have color receptors for three colors (red, green, and blue); the mantis shrimp has receptors for sixteen types of color, enabling them to see a spectrum far beyond the capacity of the human brain. Seriously, how cool is the mantis shrimp: mantisshrimp.uchicago.edu What might they be able to see that we cannot? What are we missing?
–Inspired by Tess Moran, AB'16
How are apples and oranges supposed to be compared? Possible answers involve, but are not limited to, statistics, chemistry, physics, linguistics, and philosophy.
–Inspired by Florence Chan, AB'15
The ball is in your court—a penny for your thoughts, but say it, don’t spray it. So long as you don’t bite off more than you can chew, beat around the bush, or cut corners, writing this essay should be a piece of cake. Create your own idiom, and tell us its origin—you know, the whole nine yards. PS: A picture is worth a thousand words.
—Inspired by April Bell, Class of 2017, and Maya Shaked, Class of 2018 (It takes two to tango.)
"A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies." –Oscar Wilde. Othello and Iago. Dorothy and the Wicked Witch. Autobots and Decepticons. History and art are full of heroes and their enemies. Tell us about the relationship between you and your arch-nemesis (either real or imagined).
–Inspired by Martin Krzywy, AB'16.
Heisenberg claims that you cannot know both the position and momentum of an electron with total certainty. Choose two other concepts that cannot be known simultaneously and discuss the implications. (Do not consider yourself limited to the field of physics).
–Inspired by Doran Bennett, BS'07
Susan Sontag, AB'51, wrote that "[s]ilence remains, inescapably, a form of speech." Write about an issue or a situation when you remained silent, and explain how silence may speak in ways that you did or did not intend. The Aesthetics of Silence, 1967.
"…I [was] eager to escape backward again, to be off to invent a past for the present." –The Rose Rabbi by Daniel Stern
1. Something that is offered, presented, or given as a gift.
Let's stick with this definition. Unusual presents, accidental presents, metaphorical presents, re-gifted presents, etc. — pick any present you have ever received and invent a past for it.
—Inspired by Jennifer Qin, AB'16
So where is Waldo, really?
–Inspired by Robin Ye, AB'16
–Inspired by Benjamin Nuzzo, an admitted student from Eton College, UK
Dog and Cat. Coffee and Tea. Great Gatsby and Catcher in the Rye. Everyone knows there are two types of people in the world. What are they?
–Inspired by an alumna of the Class of 2006
How did you get caught? (Or not caught, as the case may be.)
–Proposed by Kelly Kennedy, AB'10
Chicago author Nelson Algren said, "A writer does well if in his whole life he can tell the story of one street." Chicagoans, but not just Chicagoans, have always found something instructive, and pleasing, and profound in the stories of their block, of Main Street, of Highway 61, of a farm lane, of the Celestial Highway. Tell us the story of a street, path, road—real or imagined or metaphorical.
UChicago professor W. J. T. Mitchell entitled his 2005 book What Do Pictures Want? Describe a picture, and explore what it wants.
–Inspired by Anna Andel
"Don't play what's there, play what's not there."—Miles Davis (1926–91)
–Inspired by Jack Reeves
University of Chicago alumna and renowned author/critic Susan Sontag said, "The only interesting answers are those that destroy the questions." We all have heard serious questions, absurd questions, and seriously absurd questions, some of which cannot be answered without obliterating the very question. Destroy a question with your answer.
–Inspired by Aleksandra Ciric
"Mind that does not stick."
–Zen Master Shoitsu (1202–80)
Superstring theory has revolutionized speculation about the physical world by suggesting that strings play a pivotal role in the universe. Strings, however, always have explained or enriched our lives, from Theseus's escape route from the Labyrinth, to kittens playing with balls of yarn, to the single hair that held the sword above Damocles, to the Old Norse tradition that one's life is a thread woven into a tapestry of fate, to the beautiful sounds of the finely tuned string of a violin, to the children's game of cat's cradle, to the concept of stringing someone along. Use the power of string to explain the biggest or the smallest phenomenon.
–Inspired by Adam Sobolweski
Have you ever walked through the aisles of a warehouse store like Costco or Sam's Club and wondered who would buy a jar of mustard a foot and a half tall? We've bought it, but it didn't stop us from wondering about other things, like absurd eating contests, impulse buys, excess, unimagined uses for mustard, storage, preservatives, notions of bigness…and dozens of other ideas both silly and serious. Write an essay somehow inspired by super-huge mustard.
–Inspired by Katherine Gold
People often think of language as a connector, something that brings people together by helping them share experiences, feelings, ideas, etc. We, however, are interested in how language sets people apart. Start with the peculiarities of your own personal language—the voice you use when speaking most intimately to yourself, the vocabulary that spills out when you're startled, or special phrases and gestures that no one else seems to use or even understand—and tell us how your language makes you unique. You may want to think about subtle riffs or idiosyncrasies based on cadence, rhythm, rhyme, or (mis)pronunciation.
–Inspired by Kimberly Traube
- Concept: 7 Day cycle
- SSC-CGL 2000 Question on 7-Day cycle
- Concept: Day Gain Day loss
- What is Leap year?
- SSC Investigator 2010 (Anniversary)
- SSC CGL 2011 (Anniversary)
- CAT-2001 Question on calendar
- Question 1988 to 1989
- Speed Technique tip#1
- Speed Technique tip#2
- Concept: Date Without reference Day
- Table#1: The odd days
- Tablet #2: Number-Day
- What day of week was on 15th ugust,1947?
- Speed increase tip#1:
- Find the day on 10th May, 1857?
- Speed Technique #3
- Mock questions
Article prepared with help of Mr. Deepak Singh.
There are two main types of questions from Calendar
|when you’re given a reference day||when you’re given no reference “Day”|
|What day of week was it on 5th November, 1989 if it was Monday on 4th April, 1988 ?||What was the day on 15th august 1947?|
|Here question tells us that 4th April 88 was Monday, so we have a ‘reference ‘day.||Here question doesn’t give us any reference “day”.|
|can be solved with just two concepts||need to just mugup 2 table, and few steps.|
Although calendar question is not asked every year in every exam. But If and when calendar question is asked, just follow the given procedure and you’ll get the accurate answer= one mark is guaranteed=in that sense, cost: benefit is great.
Concept: 7 Day cycle
Name of the day will repeat after seven days.
1st August 2013= Thursday. Therefore 1st August + 7 =8th August also has to be Thursday.
Then what day will be 10th August 2013?
1st August =Thursday => 1+7=8 August is also Thursday
And 8 August + 2 =10 August will be Thursday + 2 days =>Saturday.
let’s try a simple question from SSC
SSC-CGL 2000 Question on 7-Day cycle
If 9th of the month falls on the day preceding Sunday, then on what day will 1st of the month fall?
As per the question 9th of the Month=Saturday. (day preceding Sunday)
Day name repeats after 7 days.
Therefore 9 minus 7=2nd of the given month is also Saturday.
Then 1st of the given month= Saturday Minus one day = Friday, Ans A
Concept: Day Gain Day loss
|+1 year||When we proceed forward by one year, then 1 day is gained and vice-versa.Example,9th August 2013 is Friday, therefore 9th August 2014 has to be Friday+1=Saturday.Reverse is also true. When we move backward by one year, then 1 day is lost.|
9th August 2014 is Saturday, therefore 9th August 2013 has to be Saturday minus 1=Friday.
|+2 Leap Year||When we proceed forward by one leap year, then 2 days are gained and vice-versa. Example If it is Wednesday on 10th august 2011 … then it would be Friday (Wednesday +2) on 10th august 2012 [because 2012 is a leap year]. The reverse is also correct: If 22nd April, 1988 = Friday , then 22nd April,1987 = Wednesday. (-2 days)|
Exception to Leap Year day gain day loss– the date must have crossed 28th February if the coming year is a leap year for adding 2 days otherwise add 1 day.
- If 26th January 2011 is Wednesday … then 26th January 2012 would be Thursday (even if 2012 is leap year we have added +1 day, because 28th of February is not crossed).
- If 23rd March 2011 is Wednesday … then 23rd march 2012 would be Friday (+2 days. As 28th February of leap year is crossed).
What is Leap year?
A normal year has 365 days. A leap year has 366 days (the extra day is the 29th of February)
A year which is divisible by 4 is a leap year except, if it is divisible by 100 then we have to check it by dividing by 400. For e.g.
- 1988, 2008, 2012, 2016 etc. all are leap years as divided by 4.
- 2000, 2400, 1600 etc. all are leap as divided by 400 (100 and 4 too).
- 1700, 1800, 2100, 2200 etc. are not leap years as they are not divisible by 400 (even if they are divisible by 4).
Let’s try a sum
SSC Investigator 2010 (Anniversary)
On 5th December 1993, Nirmala and Raju celebrated their anniversary on Sunday. What will be the day on their anniversary in 1997?
Normal year jump +1 gain; Leap year jump +2 gain.
|1996 (leap year)||2|
Sunday plus five days
Answer (C) Friday
let’s try one more with a bit difference:
SSC CGL 2011 (Anniversary)
Mrs. Susheela celebrated her wedding anniversary on Tuesday 30th September 1997. What will she celebrate her next wedding anniversary on same day (Tuesday)?
- 30 Sept 2003
- 30 Sept 2004
- 30 Sept 2002
- 30 October 2003
After 7 days=> day name will repeat
|30th September||day gain|
Meaning whatever was the day on 30th sep. 1997 it’ll repeat on 2003
Therefore, after 1997, next time Mrs.Susheela’s anniversary will be on same Tuesday on 30th September 2003 Ans A.
Now, How about a CAT level question:
CAT-2001 Question on calendar
Dec 9, 2001 is Sunday then what was the day on Dec 9, 1971?
Same day gain, Day loss
1971 to 2001=how many jumps?
2001-1971=Total 30 years jump
Out of those 30 years, how many leap years?
72, 76,….,’00 (multiples of of 4 and 2000 is also leap year because It is multiple of 400)
but no need to manually count leap years.
if you observe
18 x 4 =(19)72
25 x 4 =(20)00
so from 18 to 25 = total 8 leap years. (plz note: 25-18=7 years, but we’ve to include both years as well…therefore.. in such counting, it’ll be 25-18+1=8 leap years)
back to the start: 30 years jump and out of them 8 were leap years.
Meaning 22 normal years + 8 leap years = total 30 years
|22 normal years (+1 day gain)||22 x 1 =22 days|
|8 leap years (+2 days gain)||8 x 2= 16 days|
|total gain||22+16=38 days|
Meaning whatever was the day on Dec 9, 1971, it’ll move to +3 days on dec 9 2001
Reverse is also true: Whatever was the day on Dec 2001, it’ll be three days less on Dec 9 1971:
Since Dec 2001 was Sunday therefore,
Sunday Minus 3 days= (just count in your head): Saturday…Friday…Thursday.
Final answer is A: Thursday
Question 1988 to 1989
What day of week was it on 5th November,1989 if it was Monday on 4th April, 1988 ?
Recall our Day gain Day loss principle
For Non-Leap year, When we proceed forward by one year, then 1 day is gained and vice-versa.
If 4th April, 1988 = Monday, then 4th April, 1989 = Tuesday (Because 1989 is a non-leap year)
Remaining days until 5th Nov.89
|April (4 to 30)||26|
=Tuesday + 215
Divide 215 with 7 to find the remainder
215=(30*7)+5 Hence five is the remainder
Back to the problem
= Tuesday + [5 days]
What is the 5th day after Tuesday? Count on your fingertip: Wed, Thurs., Fri, Sat., Sunday
=Sunday (Final answer D)
Speed Technique tip#1
in above problem, if you don’t want to waste time in adding the days like 26+31+30…. then use following approach
30 days=(7*4)+2=> 2 remainder
31 days=(7*4)+3=> 3 remainder.
|Month||Days||Remainder with 7|
|April (4 to 30)||26||5 (because 26=7*3+5)|
Divide this by 7 and find remainder: 26=(7*3)+5 so remainder is 5
=Tuesday + 5
= Tuesday + 5 days
Speed Technique tip#2
in speed tech #1, if you don’t want to waste time in adding the remainders of seven: 5+3+2…. then do following
pickup remainders that add upto 7 and cancel them.
for example 5+2=7. So I’ll cancel each such pair in the table. Observe
|Month||Days||Remainder with 7after cancelling numbers that add upto “7” (e.g. 5+2)|
|April (4 to 30)||26||5|
After cancelling the two pairs of (5+2), I’m left with four 3s= 12 (because 4 x 3=12)
=Tuesday + 12
now divide 12 with 7 find remainder: 12=7*1 +5
= Tuesday + 5 days
Concept: Date Without reference Day
Example: What was the day on 15th August 1947?
To solve this type of questions, you’ve to first mug up these two tables:
Table#1: The odd days
|400, 800, 1200, 1600 etcmultiples of 400||0|
^ok but what is the use of above table? It tells us the number of “odd” days in that given year. I don’t want to bore you with the theory so just mug up those values.
Tablet #2: Number-Day
Just remember that 1 to 6 is Monday to Saturday and 0 or 7=Sunday.
^ok but what is the use of above table? just hang on for a few more paragraphs and you’ll know! Now let’s try a sum
What day of week was on 15th ugust,1947?
Subtract the given year by 1.
1947 -1 = 1946
Break into relevant years as in table #1.
|400, 800, 1200, 1600 etc (multiples of 400)||0|
1946 = 1600 + 300 + ( 46 )
Now write corresponding values from the table: 1600=0 and 300=1
Now for the number in bracket (46), divide it by “4” and add quotient in same line.
in this case 46=(11x4)+2 therefore, 11 is quotient and 2 is remainder. We’re concerned with number and quotient here
Now add all these numbers and divide by 7
And when you divide 58 by 7, you get 58= (7*8)+2. Therefore remainder is 2.
we got the number “2” = we’ll call this our “31Dec Number”
Observe second table
From this table we can see that “2”=>Tuesday
It means 31st December 1946 was Tuesday. Now we apply our “7day cycle” concept to find out the day on 15th August 1947 using the following formula
Given day= (our 31Dec Number “2”)+ *how many days till we reach 15th August?*
|from 1st Jan 1947 till we reach 15th August 1947||days in given month|
|feb (not leap year)||28|
|august (upto 15th Aug)||15|
back to the “bold part”
(Our 31Dec Number)+ *how many days till we reach 15th August?*
=2 + 227
Divide this number (229) by 7 and whatever remainder you get= that is our day from table #2
so 5 is the remainder and as per table#2
That means 15th August 1947 was Friday.
Speed increase tip#1:
in above 15th August example, Back to the step6
31Dec Number+ *how many days till we reach 15th August?*
after that, we did following:
|from 1st Jan 1947 till we reach 15th August 1947||days in given month|
|feb (not leap year)||28|
|august (upto 15th Aug)||15|
^as you see we had to sum of 31+28+31….=lot of time taken in doing the addition (+).
So, it is better to just add remainders for each month with “7”
30=(7*4)+2=> 2 remainder
31=(7*4)+3=> 3 remainder.
Now observe again
|from 1st Jan 1947till we reach 15th August 1947||days in given month||remainder with 7|
|feb (not leap year)||28||0|
|august (upto 15th Aug)||15||1 (because 14+1)|
now instead of 227 we can simply write 17
Our 31Dec Number+ *how many days till we reach 15th August?*
Therefore 19/7 = its remainder will tell us the final day
19=(7*2) + 5=therefore remainder is 5 and as per table#2, “5“ means Friday.
Find the day on 10th May, 1857?
Subtract “1” from the given year
Now breakup “1856” as per our table #1
|400, 800, 1200, 1600 etc (multiples of 400)||0|
write corresponding values from table#1
Divide the bracket number by “4” and write quotient along with number
56=14*4 + 0 therefore quotient is 14
add these numbers and divide by 7 find remainder
Speed Technique #3
after doing the division with 4 to find quotient step, you got following
Whenever you see the multiple of 7, just scratch that number (because it’ll give remainder zero anyways)
Here both 56 and 14 are multiples of 7 so even if you divide them by 7, you’re going to get zero as remainder.
=0+3+0+0=3 is 31Dec Number
as per table#2: “3” means Wednesday. Meaning 31st December 1856 was Wednesday
now “our 31Dec Number”+ ”how many days till 10th May, 1857?”
|from 1st Jan 1857till we reach 31th May 1857||days in given month||remainder with 7|
|feb (not leap year in 1857)||28||0|
|may||10||3, Because 10=(7 x 1)+3|
back to our problem
“our 31Dec Number”+ ”how many days till 10th May, 1857?”
=3 + 11
when 14 is divided by 7 we get zero as remainder.
as per table#2
Zero means Sunday. so final answer 10th May 1857 was Sunday.
- The 1st day of a century must be Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday.
- The last day of a century cannot be Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday.
- In 2013, Gandhi’s birth-anniversary is on Wednesday. In which nearest future year, will his birth-anniversary be on Monday?
- If 29th April 2013 is Monday then what is the day on 30th November 2013?
- If June 11, 2013 is Monday, what was the day on July 11, 2000
- What was the day on 9/11 attacks in 2001
- What was the day on 26/11 attacks in 2008
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