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    Presently, I’m considering whether to apply for 2006-admission at Oxbridge.

    I receive high marks in the Danish educational system, but since I haven’t been to Britain more than once and language of instruction at my school is Danish, I don’t know if the level - both with regards to content and language - in my English essays is comparable to the one in yours at all.

    Therefore, I would like someone doing A-levels to read one of my English essays and comment on it generally – to give me an indication of, whether my English academic level is ridiculously low or even on the same or better than in your essays written at A-level.

    I really hope someone would spend 15 minutes or so of their time, doing this favour for me.

    Thank you in advance!



    ***** I've attached one of my essays written in English here *****

    Flowers for Algernon

    Bioethics is an incredibly interesting branch of philosophy that deals with ethical issues arising in medicine and from advances in experimental sciences. It essentially covers three significant areas – the relationship between professionals and patients, health care in social justice, and new medical knowledge and/or technology. Several aspects – and different point of views on those – related to these areas appear in Daniel Keyes’ science-fiction novel with the riveting title Flowers for Algernon. The following essay is based on an extract of the novel, and its purpose is to discuss the overall ethical outlook that emerges in this. The starting point for discussion will, however, be an analysis that intends to examine some less abstract topics; in particular what the positive/negative effects are of the experiment, and how we are made to sympathize with Charlie in the story.

    The genre of Flowers for Algernon is a little unusual, and it can be determined to fictive diary. It’s the basic principle in the composition that the story is told through Charlie’s so-called “Progress Reports”. In the beginning of the story these are almost unreadable due to Charlie’s IQ of only 68. Although his low linguistic intelligence doesn’t allow him to express himself properly, it’s revealed that he is supposed to undertake an accordingly IQ-increasing operation of surgical character, and that he submits his progress reports to some doctors in order to provide an insight in his anticipative improvements. In spite of the numerous risks of failure involved, the prospective operation is a fact that he’s very happy about, and he’s especially keen on being selected for the project:

    "Their going to use me! Im so exited I can hardly write. (…) I like Miss Kinnian because shes a very smart teacher. And she said Charlie your going to have a second chance. If you volunteer for this experiment you mite get smart. They don’t know if it will be permanent but theirs a chance. That’s why I said ok even when I was because she said it was an operashun." (p. 219)

    If one wasn’t familiar with the circumstances, one would probably expect the author to be a child rather than a 34 year-old. He’s a grown up, who childishly enjoys life, and who approaches life with an extraordinarily heart warming and optimistic attitude. His attitude becomes even more extraordinary in the light of the knowledge that he hasn’t had what one normally would consider a privileged childhood. The text actually says that he suffered great defeats during his upbringing:

    "I had a test today. I think I faled it, and I think maybe know they wont use me. (…) I was very skared even tho I had my rabbits-fot in my pockit because when I was a kid I alwais faled tests in school and I spilld ink to. (p. 216) & He rote something down on a paper and I got skared of faling the test. (…) I dont think I passd the raw shok test." (p. 217)

    He continuously expresses a fear of failing tests or being rejected. Obviously, it’s brought about by a low self-esteem, which possibly is caused by a consequent lack of acceptance from his surroundings. Beside his teacher’s recommendation, he hasn’t been able to achieve much success in an ordinary way yet. Nonetheless, he hasn’t given up hope as he through attending literacy class, and now seriously revising for the tests up till the operation, exhibit a wish and a total commitment to improve his skills. The psychologist Dr. Strauss is the scientist, who will satisfy Charlie’s long for being smart:

    "Nothing is happening. I had lots of tests and different kinds of races with Algernon. I hate that mouse. He always beats me. Dr. Strauss said I got to play those games. And he said some time I got to take those tests over again." (p. 221)

    As is seen in the quotation above, Charlie participates in the experiment in parallel with the mouse called Algernon. The technique that Dr. Strauss has developed and wants to use on Charlie has never been applied to humans before, but only on Algernon. Because Algernon is at a later stage in the process, he foreshadows Charlie’s fate. At this point of the story Algernon’s learning curve is amazingly steep, and thus he’s smarter than Charlie until the inevitable happens – the doctors succeed in changing Charlie’s cognitive abilities for the better. The operation in itself doesn’t contribute to increase his comprehension, but he gains the ability to accumulate much knowledge at rapid speed. He keeps up with his literacy lessons, but he also begins to follow some sort of heuristic procedure:

    "I told Dr. Strauss what good is it to get smart in my sleep. I want to be smart when Im awake. He says it’s the same thing and I have two minds. Theres the subconscious and the conscious (that’s how you spell it)." (p. 223)

    The doctors make sure that Charlie is exposed to all sorts of things that can have an affect on both his consciousness and sub consciousness. For instance they advice him to turn on his TV before going to bed, which probably is intended to expand his sub consciousness and through that promote intuitive hunches. It seems as if he gradually gains the sense of locality that he lacked before, but the heartrending consequence of this is the realization that he in his entire life has been a laughing stock to his so-called friends/colleagues:

    "I didn’t know what to do or where to turn. Everyone was looking at me and laughing and I felt naked. I wanted to hide myself. I ran out into the street and I threw up. Then I walked home. It’s a funny thing I never knew that Joe and Frank and the others liked to have me around all the time to make fun of me." (p. 227)

    He becomes deeply ashamed of his behaviour when he was feeble-minded, and it entails a complete dissociation from his old mentality. The fact that he distinguishes between the situation prior to the operation, where he was ignorant, and the situation after it, where he experiences an enlightenment, is caused by a major displacement in his personality structure:

    "I figured out a new way to line up the machines in the factory, and Mr. Donnegan says it will save him ten thousand dollars a year in labor and increased production." (p. 230)

    Apparently, the development Charlie undergoes involves a transition on work from being more of a liability towards an asset to the company. Analogously in the science project, he suddenly begins to join the two leading scientists in their study of artificial intelligence rather as an assistant than as a patient. It appears that his ability to solve complicated problems through abstract and critical thinking escalates, and when he overtakes his former employee and the two scientists, it is strikingly that he’s not humble like most geniuses. He becomes arrogant, and he draws attention to his excellent level of attainment with the purpose to hold his own. Among other things he uses his intellect to humiliate others through undermining their authority:

    "I asked Dr. Strauss how Nemur could refute Rahajamati’s attack on his method and results if Nemur couldn’t even read them in the first place. That strange look on Dr. Strauss’ face can mean only one of two things. Either he doesn’t want to tell Nemur what they’re saying in India, or else – and this worries me – Dr. Strauss doesn’t know either." (p. 234)

    On the one hand, there are many positive aspects of his improvement in all his intelligences. For instance his mathematical and linguistic intelligence allow him to undertake scientific research, and his interpersonal intelligence allows him to see beyond the surface and have sophisticated confidence in a person of the opposite sex. On the other hand, he begins to treat those inferior to him as disrespectfully, as they treated him when they were superior to him. At the point where he’s reaching a climax, his unfeeling character traits are overshadowing:

    "I must not become emotional." (p. 238)

    In addition he begins recognizing the scientists’ stimulus (such as being chairman at Princeton University) towards carrying out the experiment and their precendences and strategy, whereupon he is swelled with disgust towards some of the circumstances. Hence he publishes a paper called “The Algernon-Gordon Effect: A Study of Structure and Function of Increased Intelligence” in which he sets forth, why the doctors’ research shouldn’t be accepted and approved officially:

    "The facts and the results of my experiments are clear, and the more sensational aspects of my own rapid climb cannot obscure the fact that the tripling of intelligence by the surgical technique developed by Drs. Strauss and Nemur must be viewed as having little or no practical applicability (…)." (p. 238)

    After having finished his scientific career, his intelligence begins to contract as he predicted. His deterioration is characterized by loss of coordination, amnesia, impaired motor activity, and a shrinking brain. This leaves Charlie in a convergence towards the exact same position as in the beginning of the story, many of his own and the surroundings’ unresolved issues intact.

    Throughout the story it seems as if we feel sorry for Charlie, and we are able to understand him. This has off course something to do with the earlier mentioned genre of the novel – fictive diary. The genre implies that we follow the story-line through the eyes of Charlie, and though some parts of the diary to some extent resemble straight journalism, it’s reasonable to assume that the diary is biased in favour of the diarist. The thoughts that find expression in the diary are based upon the unique premises/experiences that define the individual Charlie Gordon, and the information we receive is only the one he minds taking into consideration. The absence of an omniscient medium might make us find someone or something unsympathetic that Charlie only attributes negative value. At the same time we will most often feel empathy with Charlie since it’s his feelings and thoughts we are familiar with and not the counter-part’s. This can be substantiated by taking a closer look at the following paragraph, where Charlie has just applied for getting his old job back:

    "Later Frank Reilly came over and said Charlie if anybody bothers you or trys to take advantage you call me or Joe and we will set em straight. I said thanks Frank and I got choked up so I had to turn around and go into the supply room so he wouldnt see me cry. Its good to have friends." (p. 243)

    Charlie might refer correctly to the conversation with Frank, but the fact that he accentuates exactly this incidence could be caused by a subtle wish about legitimatising his choice of returning to the factory and thus feel better.

    It emerged in my analysis that Charlie was most satisfied with his life just after the operation when he both were likable and possessed the ability to increase his intelligence. Respectively prior to and after the experiment, he was either to dumb or too intelligent to live a life with common joys successfully. It’s the scientists who Charlie hells responsible for conducting the operation with the recklessness purpose to triple his intelligence. The scientists are represented as being concerned with their own academic success without giving the patient’s right to be informed or the patient’s emotional consequences any further thoughts. According to the author, acting with such irresponsibility is a way of committing hubris, which as a necessity requires a Nemesis-effect, knocking the two scientists off their pedestal. This can also be associated with another Greek myth – the one about Prometheus tricking Zeus. In a rather religious reading one could argue that the Hubris-Nemesis effect was indeed caused by the fact that the doctors had been provocative towards God. This should be understood as if the abilities one’s personality contains are defined by God and therefore other human beings may not try to change those. When the two doctors encourage Charlie to undergo surgery in the brain, they in fact ask him to allow them to lay hands on the divine dimension in man.

    I agree with the author of the novel that the doctors should not have kept valuable information secret for Charlie, since I regard confidence as being the most important factor in the relationship between patients and professionals. However, I certainly don’t agree on the point of view that an experiment like the one in the novel cannot be defended ethically. I think that an experiment like the one in the novel could actually be a great contribution to medicine and society in its whole for everyone independent of their position on the social ladder. Whether or not one has an inborn intellectual potential, I find it necessary that one in the journey of life always seeks to expand one’s knowledge and in that way aim at cognitive sublimity. In my opinion it’s the responsibility of clever people to accelerate the learning process for those, who aren’t able to think sufficiently abstract. If man succeeds in changing the attitude from just settling with man’s fragile mind as the author suggests, in the long run it might be possible to generate a supranational hyper-mind, which is able to make plausible solution models to the major questions in life.

    Man is something to be overcome. What have you done to overcome him?
    - Friedrich Nietzsche.

    As much as i would love to oblige i know nothing about philosophy

    Try posting in the philosophy forum
    • Thread Starter

    Alright, but it's just an English class assignment on a normal extract of a novel...

    What is your general impression of my language/essay competences compared to British standards based on the submitted essay?

    Ok i've picked out a few bits that sound a tad weird to me but generally speaking your language is superb
    it can be determined to fictive diary
    No idea what that means!!
    "Their going to use me! Im so exited I can hardly write. (…) I like Miss Kinnian because shes a very smart teacher. And she said Charlie your going to have a second chance. If you volunteer for this experiment you mite get smart. They don’t know if it will be permanent but theirs a chance. That’s why I said ok even when I was because she said it was an operashun." (p. 219)
    In this paragraph your spelling is horrendous - sorry but you've used some common mispellings:
    Their is a possessive pronoun. You want to use they're - ie an abbreviation of they are
    Similarly "she's" is an abbreviation of "she is" and requires an apostrophe, and "your" is another possessive pronoun that should be replaced with "you're"
    there's (short for there is)

    Oh hold on just reread that this is a quote from somebody with an IQ of 68. Ok so scrap that i'm assuming he writes it like that not that you mistyped it.
    Nonetheless, he hasn’t given up hope as he through attending literacy class, and now seriously revising for the tests up till the operation, exhibit a wish and a total commitment to improve his skills.
    Here you've changed tense
    Either ... as through attending literary class he has exhibited a wish
    Or... through attending literary class he has shown that he exhibits a wish
    just after the operation when he both were likable and possessed the ability to increase his intelligence.
    He was (were is the plural form)

    in their study of artificial intelligence rather as an assistant than as a patient.
    "As an assistant rather than as a patient" flows better

    So yeh wow i don't have time to reread a few times but at face value it appears very good - and the language is definitely the kind of standard i'd expect from an A-level candidate

    I haven't really had time to read it all, but at a glance.

    - You wouldn't really be able to tell that you were Danish and not writing in your native tough
    -The technique doesn't seem quiet right, whilst doing English A-level I was always taught to embed quotes and not to just make a quotation sandwich of quote point quote point. The depth and technical vocabulary of points didn't seem right either (I only read 2 or 3).

    Don't foreign Oxbridge candidates have to take an English language test set by them??? If this was the case I'm sure you would be fine.

    Below, to give you an idea, is an extract from one of my AS English Frankenstein Essays that got A/B and the following remarks: “Try to make sure you use embedded quotes densely and spend less time explaining quotes and more analysing them.” By all means this is not perfect, but was written a year and a half ago and will hopefully give you and idea or where you stand.


    Frankenstein’s growing acceptance of this, leads to his attitude, slipping back to that of enthusiasm. He talks of his “fellow-creatures”, when he is talking of his fellow-humans, this implies that the boundary between creature and man has become very ambiguous, and hence allows us to think that Frankenstein now considers his creation as much human as man.

    The next event to happen is that of the “birth” of Frankenstein’s creation, Frankenstein’s attitude is again very positive here, as mainly he actually goes ahead with it. Yet he also “beheld the accomplishment” the word “beheld” implying that he was god like, again his ego, and the word “accomplishment” referring to the fact he now sees his creation as an accomplishment, and not a forbidden exploration into nature. His happiness is further reinforced as he talks of “instruments of life”, as if he is about to save someone life. This shows his positive thinking, but is also ironic as in the end these are the instruments that cause his, Elizabeth’s, Justine’s, Cleval’s and William’s death.

    The monster is then born when Frankenstein “infuse[strike] a spark”, showing his willingness and his powers, which causes “convulsive motion”, which represents his pride of the birth. But this is where Frankenstein’s outlook changes forever; he instantly describes the creation as a “catastrophe” and as a “wretch”, both very negative words. Yet despite this he still feels pride in his creation as he describes it very picturesquely using the ideas of the sublime and the beautiful, and sexual language, such as “lustrous”. Yet this doesn’t last long before he fixes on its “watery eyes” which gives the impression that something is missing to make it human, that it is not such a great creation. This frustration turns into anger as he says he “deprived myself”, he had put in so much but had failed to create a human, but had only made a monster. He also states that he “had desires it with an ardour”, which throws this idea of a perfect human and suggests that this was his dream but he had failed. It also carries on in a typical horror story way with words such as “breathless horror and disgust filled my heart”, showing how Frankenstein feels inside. Also from now on, as before he talked of the birth of his monster he talks about the death of himself mentally. Strongly showing that his attitude towards his creation is now on of anger and fortitude.

    I'm often impressed by the standard of English exhibited by so many foreign people today. Yours is very good and I believe you'd have every chance of a place. Your grammar, in places, lets you down but that can be easily rectified. It is also undoubtedly the bane of academics' existence to see so-called text speak, such as 'mite', 'nite' or even 'l8r'. I had an interview last December and met a Russian girl in a similar situation. She didn’t quite get some of our jokes due to their context (and, let’s face it, English humour is an acquired taste) but she seemed to be very bright. I’m not sure if she was offered a place, though. To improve your chances or any English test I’d recommend reading some basic literature like ‘The Oxford Guide to English Usage (Oxford Reference)’. Things like this, although boring and laborious, could be very rewarding and lead you to success in your application.

    If you are going to uni to study a subject such as a science or engineering your english will not let you down at all. If you want to study an english course you will have a tough time when you consider that english people eat,drink and sleep the english language. But go for it. Only way to find out is to apply.

    I have heard that Danish dont have lessons until they are 10. I heard they just go to school to play. This makes me wonder what standard of education 18 year olds have in your system.

    Yeah, generally it's just a few minor grammatical mistakes, but it's definately good.
    • Thread Starter

    "I have heard that Danish dont have lessons until they are 10. I heard they just go to school to play."

    Unfortunately, it's true. Our school system is very weak due to the influence of grown up hippies. Until we turn 15 we have so-called oral group examinations and we are taught that we are all equal. I remember once during a project – I wrote 20 pages and spend many hours at the library (I got a B). A girl from my class expressed her view on her chosen topic by making a strike at school (she got an A for being ‘independent’).

    However, grammar school is completely different. It’s only the best students, who are admitted, and the teachers hold master’s degrees in the subjects they teach. Also, we hand in essays and problem-sheets usually three or four times a week (e.g. one physics report, a math problem-sheet, an English essay) – this is very good practice! We have some long written examinations too that are quite good, but we still have (unfair) oral examinations, although they in contrary to the incidence above have an academic content.

    To my mind, the main problem is our universities. A degree in Denmark is almost self-taught – you’re completely anonymous, just an examination number (read: absence of tutorials, essay hand in, campus spirit, etc.). Thus many of those not able to look out for them self delay their studies considerably, and despites the requirement for medicine for example is 38 points in the IB, 15 % drop out within the first year.
    (This paragraph should explain why I’m interested in gaining an English bachelor’s degree).
    • Thread Starter

    By the way, I agree with you – despite its length, this essay doesn’t contain much sophisticated analysis or interpretation. I don’t hope I sound to be arrogant by saying this, but the level in my essays written in Danish is way beyond this level. Thus, I hope I will be allowed to submit one English essay and an authentically translated Social Studies essay, when applying for admission at university.

    Yep i think you've pretty much got the measure of what we are saying
    1. Your English is VERY good for a non-native speaker - especially for a Dane
    2. Your analysis is not as sophisticated as what i would expect from an A-level English student but your use of sophisticated vocab is still very good, and believe me I've read a lot of English essays by German Abitur students: and i think you are very good in comparison to them. I'm guessing that your analysis is held back by your language skills not by your analytical powers
    3. While i'm not sure if universities would allow you to submit a Danish essay, and i'm not sure if the quality of your writing is good enough to get you into Oxbridge i am sure there are other UK universities who would be willing to take you

    I have a suggestion
    There is a French girl in the year below me who finished her IB too early to start at University, so she has done a year of English A-levels, in order to improve her English, as she intends to go to Reading University.
    If you have the means to do it, i would seriously consider spending a year in England and doing an AS in English. You could do this at the same time as working part time, or you could take some other A-levels: e.g. do English language and English literature. This would improve your use of English and thereby your chances of being accepted by an English university

    Christian you will have absolutly no problem gaining a English bachelors degree. Your understanding of English will pass the basic "ability to learn in english test" that unis make foreigners take. Just get grades that the unis want and you stand as much chance as everyone else. If you are doing the IB then this is an acceptable standard of education. Just get what the uni want.
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