An old cartoon that I remember had the dad saying to his son, “In my day, we weren’t teleported to school; we had to ride in a rickety old bus!”
From among the Papers of Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, Jr., here is a page describing two exams at Faith Theological Seminary in 1954, plus, for added comparison, a church history exam from Westminster Seminary, dated 1972:
FAITH THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
APOLOGETICS — DR. BUSWELL
Time limit : two periods
Use no books, notes or helps
I. (about one third of your time)
Sketch a Christian system of Ontology and Epistemology.
II. (about two thirds of your time)
Discuss at least four (4) systems of apologetics (including something about Thomas) which we have studied this semester.
SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY— DR. BUSWELL
Time limit : 2-1/2 hours.
Use Bibles, Greek and Hebrew, but no other books, notes or helps.
I. List the chief topics discussed this semester.
II. Discuss in some detail at least three fourths of these topics.
The next semester, the exams were a bit more descriptive in content:
FAITH THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY May, 1954
FINAL EXAMINATIONS — DR. BUSWELL
Time limit – 2 periods
Use Bibles, (Greek, Hebrew, English) but no other notes or helps. Answer all four questions. Divide your time according to your idea of relative importance.
I. Discuss the Decrees of God.
Bring out the relation of the decrees to the problems of evil, free will, the glory of God, etc.
II. Discuss the Doctrine of Creation.
Bring out related problems of metaphysics, etc.
III. Discuss the Nature of Man as Originally Created.
IV. Discuss Sin, – Original Sin, Particular Sins, Sin in Human Nature, Sin of Unbelief, etc.
Time limit – two periods. No books, notes or helps.
I. Discuss “the defense and confirmation of the gospel” or “a reason for the hope” showing what you have gained as an apologete and what kind of ammunition you can use in “contending for the faith.”
II. List as many of the students’ problem topics as you can remember and discuss two or three.
III. State briefly the main point of your own problem topic.
To be written in your own time with all library aids and handed in before the end of examination week.
Give your own important gleanings in the four great fields of syntax, cases, prepositions, tenses, moods.
Or to move into more recent decades, here’s the final exam for Reformation history at Westminster Seminary, December 1972:
1. Summarize the life and religious development of either Luther or Calvin (20% of exam)
2. Summarize the general nature of “second generation” Reformation theological problems and answers.
Discuss in detail two of the following: (30% of exam)
a. the theological issues resolved in the Formula of Concord.
b. Arminianism and the Synod of Dordt.
c. Amyraldianism and the Formula Helvetic Consensus.
3. Discuss briefly five: (50% of exam)
a. Luther’s view of election
b. Petrus Ramus
c. Distinctives of the Second Helvetic Confession
d. Distinctives of the Heidelberg Catechism
e. Anapbaptist church discipline
g. Perkins’ view of “moderation”
h. the Reformation in Scotland
i. Reformed views on revolution
Okay, time’s up. Put your pencils down. How’d you do?