Tuesday, January 3, 2017

GOEFlix: Binge-Crusting

Hello Crustyland:  we have all barely recovered from the Feast of the Holy Name, which can only mean one thing...it's General Ordination Examinations time!

Since 2011, this blog has hosted a recap and dissection of the General Ordination Exams.  We'll continue to do so, but there will be some changes this year.

Most importantly, Crusty will not be posting any questions or commentary while the exam is going
Hey  Crusty's still cool.
on.  Increasing numbers of people take the GOE outside of the three-day window this first week of January.  Posting the questions has the potential to compromise the integrity of the examination for people who are taking it on a different schedule the Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday of this week.

Crusty knows this is disappointing for those for whom this blog has been a part of GOE week.  Keep in mind the reason COD stated blogging the GOEs:  he personally found his GOE experience to be one of the most isolating, depressing, and disempowering experiences in the church (though to be sure it is not the for all folks, and COD did take his GOEs over twenty years ago), and vowed that if he had the chance, some day he would try to make it less so for others.  Crusty's sorry not to be able to provide the kind of live blogging opportunity this week for the many folks who do take the exam within the three-day timeframe, but the integrity of the exam process is important.

In addition, Crusty will again be having a substitute blogger, The Dread Pirate Crusty (if you don't know this reference, COD weeps for you).  COD was elected to the General Board of Examining
Chaplains in 2015, and is now part of the team that writes and evaluates the GOE.  Crusty is committed to working with the GBEC on continuing to make the exam more fair, open, and transparent.  COD thinks great progress has been made -- for instance, exam takers now receive the same assessment rubric/outline that readers do -- and looks forward to continuing to improve the exam.  But it's an inherent conflict of interest.  While bringing back the Dread Pirate Crusty, COD must note he is only hosting the commentary on this site; he is not providing the questions or assisting or contributing to DPC's commentary in any way.

When the all-clear has been given from the GBEC that all test takers have finished, be prepared for a Netflix-like dump of an entire week's worth of commentary on which to binge-Crust.

To the test takers:  remember, there's no way to study for this.  You know everything you need to know.  The questions are all open source.  Stay calm, outline the questions, remember to look at the rubric as well as the questions, and answer exactly as they are asked. 


  1. So, while we agree there is no way to study content for the GOE's, we former GOE takers out here in Bedford wonder if perhaps practicing one's timed writing skills might be a good way to advise folks to prepare...no? A bit late for this year, but for future takers... Just a thought!

  2. Absolutely. Can't speak for others, but as seminary prof, I would try to assign a word limit, timed question as one of the essays so that the first time somebody answers something under these conditions isn't in a GOE context.

  3. Oh what a welcome change from 2010! Rubrics and open resources! Huzzah!!!

  4. Still no all clear? I am excited to see the questions!

  5. A test taker has shared all of the questions with me as of last week. Is it still embargoed?

  6. I served as assistant to the GOE Administrators from 1990 to 2002 - Bishop Gordon Charlton and Professor Locke Bowman. Bishop Charlton had been a missionary, Dean of the seminary in Austin, Texas, and Suffragen Bishop of Texas. Professor Bowman had been Christian Education professor at Virginia Seminary. We all tried to make the GOE as humane as process as possible. I'm sorry COD did not have a good experience. The General Board of Examining Chaplains is elected by the House of Bishops. In my time it included 4 bishops, 6 seminary faculty, 6 parish clergy (most former seminary faculty) and 6 lay people (most of them college faculty) with a staff of 2 - the Administrator and me. I received nominations from bishops (and seminary deans for GOE Candidates not sponsored by a diocese), and corresponded with the GOE Candidates. I also typed and photocopied the exam questions, and photocopied and sent to the readers and chaplains the answers. On occasion I also filled in as a Reader and as one of the Chaplians. The GOE process was subject to as much false myth and false projection as any other part of our dysfunctional church. In the 1990's about half the GOE papers were judged proficient in all 7 areas, another 15 per cent in 6 areas - so two-thirds of the GOE Candidates in any year wrote good papers. Another quarter were judged proficient in 3, 4, or 5 areas, and about 10 percent in 2 or fewer areas. Papers judged proficient in no areas at all were very rare. I can remember one in 10 years. All papers were read by four people - the lay and clergy readers, a supervising member of the Board, and by either the Chair of the Board or the Administrator. The fewer the areas the more care was taken. Over the years I learned that poor papers resulted from one or more of three problems: (1) the writer took so much time looking for an answer that there was no time to write it out, (2) the writer was unable to write a cogent paragraph, and (3) the writer did not answer the question asked. Every year we received a handful of comments from seminary faculty that their bright student failed in an area where the student had particular knowledge. We reviewed these papers and frequently found that the student had written an excellent essay on some aspect of the issue raised in the question, but did not answer the question asked. In the long letter of instructions I tried to alert GOE Candidates to this problem. I am glad to report that some later told me that was helpful. One final point. In the late 1990's I did an analysis of 16 years results by seminary. Each of the seminaries did about as well as any of the others. The candidates from all were judged proficient in about 80 per cent of the areas. And those in the non-seminary M.Div. group including students of non-Episcopal seminaries, candidates for other than the M.Div. degree, and graduates who either did not take the GOE in their Senior year or who were taking it for a second time (usually because they had not been accepted by a diocese in the ordination process) did statistically as well as Episcopal Seminary M.Div. students.


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