What does an Intro to Comparative final exam at MIT look like?

Here are a couple of examples:

Final exam last semester

After three and a half years of occupation, U.S. attempts to build stable, democratic government in Iraq have utterly failed. Iraq is plagued by a weak state unable to guarantee public order, mounting ethnic conflict, pervasive corruption, anemic economic performance, and poor prospects for democracy. Drawing on the knowledge you have gained over the semester, think about the five issues mentioned above (state-building, ethnic conflict, corruption, economic growth, and democracy).

Then answer the following three questions:

1. What recommendations would you have made to Coalition authorities at the beginning of the occupation to maximize the odds of a successful outcome?
2. To the extent that they are different, what recommendations would you make now?
3. How effective or ineffective do you think these your recommendations would have been or would be?

At 1:30 p.m. on the day of the exam (Tuesday the 19th), we will ask you to address ONE of these topics only, and we will specify which one you should address. For instance, we might ask you to answer the three questions listed above as they apply to economic growth: (1) what policies should the Coalition have adopted to maximize economic growth, (2) what recommendations would you make now to increase economic growth, and (3) how effective or ineffective do you think these recommendations would have been or would be in stimulating economic growth? The exam topic will be emailed to the class and posted on the class website. You are encouraged to collaborate with your fellow students in working through possible responses between now and the 19th. However, you must write the exam entirely by yourself. We do NOT expect you to do additional reading for the exam beyond the materials covered in class and the papers on Iraq that is now posted on Rather, you should leverage the general knowledge you have obtained over the semester — and the rather limited information you have acquired on Iraq — to address the topic.

Submit your exams to me and Professor Lawson byemail as an MS Word attachment or hand in a hard copy to Professor Lawson’s office. The deadline is 7:30 p.m. December 19th. No extensions will be given, and you will be penalized for lateness in a draconian fashion. If you hand your exam in by email, you are responsible for ensuring that the attachment can be opened in MS Word.

Final exam topic two years ago
You have been appointed to a panel of experts who will independently prepare advisory reports to L. Paul Bremer, who is seeking advice on options for the constitutional future of Iraq.

You have been asked to answer three questions.

1) What are the most important issues that should be considered by constitutional designers, assuming their goal is to build a stable democratic system in Iraq?
2) Given these issues, how should Iraq’s new constitution deal with the following three institutions: (a) Executive-legislative relations, (b) electoral rules, and (c) federalism or decentralization? Please feel free to discuss closely related institutional design issues (e.g. bicameralism) as well.
3) Finally, if you could impart one additional piece of advice about the design of the new system, what would it be and why? (E.g. media regulations, status of religious organizations, oil ownership, civil-military relations, etc.).

Your response to the first and third questions can be rather brief (15 percent each). Most of your attention (70 percent) should be given to the second question. Please submit by 4 p.m.

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