Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Excelsior College's Ethics: Theory and Practice Exam

Excelsior College's exam, "Ethics: Theory and Practice" is worth three upper-level credits in philosophy. It's not that bad if you have had some experience arguing or researching various philosophical positions in the past, but if you haven't, there will be a lot of reading involved.

You will want to know about other philosophers and their positions as well, such as Plato, Socrates (an invention of Plato), Aristotle, Saint Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Niccolo Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Friedrich Nietzsche.

You should also read about Immanuel Kant and deontological ethics.

There are a few books which can readily summarize their philosophers' thoughts in small amounts, therefore I would recommend them as an alternative to reading a Wikipedia article about them.

Read Ayn Rand's "The Virtue of Selfishness." I can't seem to find a free copy online, but most libraries should have it, and in the event that they don't you can find it in most major bookstores. You can also support this blog by purchasing it from by clicking here. If you don't want to read the book, you can also get a quick idea of her philosophy by viewing her here:

Also read John Stuart Mill's "On Liberty" and Machiavelli's The Prince. These are free online, and both of these books are only about 100 pages in the hard copy versions I have, so they should be quick reading.

Know the difference between act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism. There are other concepts that should be addressed, too, which are too numerous to mention here. It would be a good idea to review Excelsior College's examination guide for this subject (you may have to be logged in to a free Excelsior College student account to view it).

That's pretty much it. The blog entry is short, but you'll find that the reading material linked to is extensive. Just remember that you can't only memorize this exam and pass--you'll have to understand how to argue and apply the material as it relates to practical examples. Studying for this exam might take a week or two if you put a lot of effort into it, but your hard work will pay off during the exam. Good luck!


  1. Read about the Enviromental Philosophers and definitely know who wd ross is.

  2. Thanks for the info.

    I used and studied for an hour a day for about a month and ended up with 473 on the exam. I was a bit nervous after reading your blog post, but your information helped me prepare and I ended up doing much better than I expected.