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Responsions was the first of the three examinations once required for an academic degree at the University of Oxford. It was nicknamed the Little Go and was generally taken by students prior to or shortly after matriculation, the idea being that without standardised qualifications from school examinations, the University had to verify for itself the quality of the students that colleges were accepting. The examination consisted of comparatively simple questions on Latin, Ancient Greek, and mathematics. It was abolished in 1960.[1] John Henry Newman wrote to his father on 29 May 1818: "I go up for my Little tomorrow", and records in his journal for the following day that he had 'passed Responsions'.[2]

Responsions derives from Anglo-French responsion from Latin responsio "a reply or an answer", from the Latin verb respondeo, to answer, or give a response.


Similar examinationsEdit

University of CambridgeEdit

The equivalent at Cambridge to Responsions at Oxford was the Previous Examination, so called because it was given a year previous to graduation and often called the 'Little Go'. Says one writer of the Cambridge 'Little Go':, but there Latin Responsions was a requirement for entry, School Certificate and the GCE Latin allowing exemption. However, in the early 1950s several bright students had to go to Cambridge to take it because the then Labour Government decreed that those under 16 could only take GCE as a non-candidate and so deprived them of the certificate. It presumably died when the Latin requirement was dropped in the 1960s.

'The examination held in the Cambridge University in the second year of residence. Called also "the previous examination", because it precedes by a year the examination for a degree. In Oxford the corresponding examination is called The Smalls.'[3]

Karl Pearson's obituary of Raphael Weldon (p. 8) refers to Weldon "preparing (c. 1877) for Little-Go and the London Preliminary Scientific. For the classical part of the former he seems to have worked by himself." Pearson also refers to 'Little-Go' in Cambridge in 1842 in his biography of Francis Galton.[4] Taking the examination was called 'having a little go' and the counterpart of taking Part II examinations (final year) was 'having a great go'. Both are not now used.

University of DublinEdit

The Final Freshman examination at the University of Dublin was also termed 'Little-go', which all students whether Honours or Pass had to pass till 1959 if they were to rise to Sophister standing. The ordinary undergraduate course in Arts itself (along with the Little Go examination) was abolished in 1979.[5]


  1. ^ "Bibliography & Glossary". Oxford College Archives. Oxford Archivists’ Consortium. Retrieved 5 March 2009.
  2. ^ John Henry Newman, (eds. Ker and Gornall), Letters and Diaries, vol. I, pp.53 & 54
  3. ^ Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
  4. ^ "".
  5. ^


  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainWood, James, ed. (1907). "Responsions" . The Nuttall Encyclopædia. London and New York: Frederick Warne.