Education: Oral Surgery

France's grueling baccalaureate exam, the pre-university hurdle founded by Napoleon 151 years ago, has been a nightmare for secondary-school students ever since. The "bachot"' is a double headache: up to three days of stiff written exams, one appalling day of ten successive 10-minute oral exams by ten gimlet-eyed professors. Those who fail in June (65%) get another chance in September; those who fail then (80%) stay at school another year. Notable first-round failures: Anatole France, Alphonse Daudet, Andre Gide, Franchise Sagan. Though some brave bachot bumblers repeat the year as many as six times, others (like Gide) bid adieu to formal...

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