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STACK 2009

Tuesday 17 March 2009 by legendary_totoro

The STACK is held once a year, and I’m willing to undertake it as long as I don’t get it...

As you should know, it’s a formal exam I’m taking in order to get hired as an official teacher.

Last year, I failed the written parts of the contest with a score of 13,2 out of 40 points. The limit was at 16 points so I was 3 points under the line. Many people said it wasn’t that much because :
- it was my first time taking it
- 3 points is about 1 or 2 questions correctly answered in each topic
- of the specific conditions here since we take the tests from 10PM to 3AM

Anyway, I didn’t get a lot of preparation this year because of my full-time job as an auxiliary teacher. I still went to the exam site, here are some informations from the inside...

First Topic : Analysis

The first night (March 8th) is supposedly the time when I just try to grab some points here and there since Analysis isn’t my forte in maths.

This year’s topic dealt with some classic results such as Wallis’ integrals, Stirling’s formula and Bernoulli’s polynoms. I’m really not into this branches of maths but surprisingly enough, I found the approach easier than last year. I have to admit, we did an hour or two on these subjects last year, so I was familiar with the methods.

The topic is divided evenly in 4 parts and after reading it as a whole I said to myself I must get to the 3rd part since I recognized some lines I knew I could demonstrate. Alas, I never got there since I stopped agonizing somewhere in the middle of the 2nd part just after clarifying some of Bernoulli’s polynoms.

Compared to other candidates, I seem to have fared just well since I heard some of them talking about how bad they just did. On the other hand, since it’s a national contest, it’s not really a contest between us but rather a fierce competition between us (a dozen of persons) and the rest of France (couple of thousand persons)...

Overall, I’m somewhat satisfied because I did more questions and didn’t leave as much blank areas as last year. Time will tell if the quality of my work has improved or if it’s just some kind of self-satisfaction illusion.


I got back at 3:30AM, and couldn’t fall asleep until 4:30AM. I woke up around 8:30AM when the phone rang. Guess what ? It was just some voice mail saying there were some unread/unlistened messages... I was so disgusted I couldn’t get more than 4 hours of sleep, oh well.

I tried to find my way back into Morpheus’ arms but to no avail. Around 10:30AM, I phoned my cousin to see if we could grab some food together and share a joyful meal. I went to his place, saw a documentary which exposed the theory of a conspiracy on Humans flying to the Moon during the Apollo missions. Just bleh.

After this, we took away some food from a nearby snack and ate with his parents. Happy times and a good way to relax. Some chit chat later, when 3PM arrived, I went back and tried to get a sneeze. I couldn’t sleep until 4:30PM and woke up at 7PM.

I had a quick diner and started to prepare myself for the second part of the written tests.

Second Topic : Algebra & Geometry

The second night we had to deal with some linear algebra, matrixes and polynoms. After dealing with half the subject, we were invited to look at some Poncelet’s theorem mixed into some complex geometry. Needless to say, I didn’t get even close to that part.

Somehow I managed to cover 2 parts out of 4 which is supposedly enough to pass, given you don’t have too many mistakes along the way.

The last few questions I dealt with were largely unanswered and I couldn’t even find some ways to grind some points... Overall the topic seemed too blurry to my eyes, I couldn’t understand well the global structure.


After discussing with my comrades, they didn’t seem too happy about this year’s topics. It’s rather strange for some people to have ran through full training to make these kind of comments, especially when I, who didn’t have any training at all, seem globaly confident...

Anyway, it’s not really a competition between us, around 12 people but rather a competition between us and the rest of the world (about 5000 candidates). We’ll just have to wait and see.

I’ll keep you posted on the results as soon as I get them around mid May. In the meantime, you can always light some candle in the nearby church, you never know...

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