Mock exam on the Secret

We invite you to look carefully at the annals of the exam questions that have fallen in the Sciences Po Network’s competitive exams.

Indeed, it is with practice and experience that you will be able to better understand the expectations of this very special and new test, the Contemporary Questions.

In order to help you, we present here a few typical questions that would be likely to fall during the exam. As a reminder, the question that fell in 2019, when the theme of secrecy was also on the syllabus, was: Can democratic institutions be based on secrecy?

After these explanations, here are our mock exam on the theme of Secrecy.

White topics: Secrecy

  • Is it still possible to preserve secrecy today?
  • Does secrecy allow citizens to protect themselves?
  • Is transparency always the best option?
  • Is it still possible to have a private life?
  • Does the State need secrecy to survive?
  • Is secrecy a public enemy?

→ Contemporary Issues Method

Mixed white questions Revolutions and Secrecy

  • Does state secrecy prevent revolutions?
  • Do revolutions escape the public?
  • Are there such things as secret revolutions?

There is a dedicated article on our site on how to come up with an effective plan, which applies perfectly here. You can use these tips, or trust yourself. The important thing is to come up with something you can be proud of. It would be good to push your training to the point of finding the question that pinpoints the problem, which is, of course, different from the question. The question is the question, or area, that you will be working on; the question that pinpoints the problem is to highlight the underlying problem, that is to say, a question that is difficult to answer by organizing the material given by the topic. In the end, it will be more useful for you to do the exercise (outline and question that pinpoints the problem) on the other subjects, rather than developing all the points and all your knowledge on a single subject. We therefore advise you to deal with all the exam questions quickly, rather than with one subject at length.

39 thoughts on “Mock exam on the Secret

  1. Good morning ! I tried to build an outline on the question “Does secrecy allow citizens to protect themselves?” Here is Problem: To what extent is secrecy a vector of freedom for the individual? I – Citizen secrecy, a bulwark against the inquisitive gaze of the State a) Secrecy, an anti-totalitarian weapon

    • (first paragraph or 1P) Hannah Arendt (The Totalitarian Regimes, 1952)
    • How Pasternak managed to transfer Doctor Zhivago, in the West: thanks to secrecy
    • (2P). The use of the blockchain

    b) The whistleblower, paragon of transparency but who paradoxically needs secrecy

    • (1P). He pierces secrets but deserves protection – > Sapin I.I. Law
    • (2P) Secrecy of sources, an ethical requirement – > ECHR judgment Goodwin v United Kingdom – > “secrecy of sources, cornerstone of freedom of the press”

    II – Secrecy can nevertheless imprison humans < /u> a) The family secret, a psychic drama with visible long-term consequences

    • (1P). On the need to reveal a family secret in which almost always has catastrophic consequences over several generations (Serge Tisseron, Les secrets de famille, 2016)
    • (I had forgotten to put it on but now it came back to me when I retyped the text: the film Benny’s video by Michael Haneke, where we see a child committing atrocities because of his mental disorder due to a family secret)
    • (2P). The secret, destroyer of the couple Yves Henri Bonello, jurist (the Secret, 1996)

    b) Professional secrecy is healthy, “intra-professional” secrecy is dangerous

    • (1P) Bernard Hoerni “there can be no care without confidences, confidences without confidence, and confidence without secrecy” – > of course, but it is only a question of “external” secrecy and not internal between the doctor and his patient
    • Serge Tisseron, psychoanalyst (Les Secrets de famille< /em>, 2016): information that the therapist has but of which the patient does not even know it himself can lead to a situation similar to the family secret = leakage of the secret
    • (2P) The secret of the partners: Georg Simmel (Secret and secret societies, 1906) : trust (intermediary between knowing and not knowing) must be put between the proponents of a company

    I have the impression that my b) is a little weak, and it lacks references on the blockchain I did not find many I will dig one little And you what do you think? Have a good day!

  2. Hello, I have an outline for the question: Does state secrecy prevent revolutions? I – A) Secrecy institutionalized by the State – secret services since Louis XI, black cabinet, Machiavelli with The Prince B) State secrecy protects citizens – art. 296 of the EU treaty on state secrecy – secret negotiations like the EU with the Taliban (even if it is not a state) or even France with the djiadists in the Sahelian zone; ransoms, terrorism, economic espionage II – A) Revolutions are perceived as a threat to the State – secret societies which are suspected by the State (G.Simmel) perhaps for fear of a revolution? – communism with Fidel Castro and the USA which tried to overthrow him B) Democracy is in a way an effect to kill revolutions, it prefers reform – dialogue, deliberation – yellow vests III – A) However, democracy must to leave room for those who wish to express themselves, and therefore to authorize revolutionary criticism to exist and sometimes to act – May 68, feminine revolution – the revolution can be the sign of an unhappiness of the democratic State which has every interest in seeking a solution rather than repressing it B) The drift of state secrets – state lies: scandals such as Mitterrand’s hidden cancer, the Sarkozy-azibert affair – the demand for transparency: limits etc. Thanks for your advices !

    1. Hi Ruth Lukombo, It’s hard to fully grasp the logic of your outline without titles for the major parts. On the other hand, the tracks mentioned in your sub-sections are very interesting and quite adequate for this subject, so it’s a good sign. Just reading your proposal, we would therefore advise you to work on your transitions well and to make sure that the proofreader follows the thread of your argument. Good revisions before the test this afternoon,

  3. Hello, Could you please give me a feedback on the question “Does secrecy allow citizens to protect themselves?” Pb: How can the relationship of secrecy to citizens reconcile private life and public life? I – Secrecy guarantees freedom A – respect for private life B- The State for the benefit of the common good II – Secrecy: citizen threat A – the risk of a “disenlightened” citizen (only partial access to information, the risk of being deceived by its representatives) B – ideology of transparency III – Towards a less secret society A – A public space in transition (declaration of heritage, GDPR, etc.) B – NTIC and the challenge of dispossession of its secrets Thank you very much in advance, Sincerely yours.

    1. Hello Chloe,Your problem is not very clear, we do not really understand your idea (in particular the expression: “relation of secrecy to citizens”) If we interpret it in the sense of: How to reconcile citizens’ private and public life, this takes the question outside the imposed perimeter. There are good leads in your plan. They will have to be supported by references as solid as possible, as we explain in this article of method in contemporary issues. Indeed, having reflection is, of course, important for this contemporary question test, but it will gain in influence if it is based on strong sources. It is therefore on this point that we advise you to work, as well as on the stage of the problem. Good luck for tomorrow, in less than 24 hours you will all be relieved that it is over!

  4. Hello, I chose to train on the question “The secret, public enemy?”. The problem I drew from this is “To what extent is the role of secrecy ambivalent both in its use at the state level and at the individual level?” I- The risks incurred by the state by excessive use of the secret a). The secret is an integral part of the state => Machiavelli’s “The Prince”/« King’s Secret » Louis XV/“the secret of the vote” law of July 29, 1913, b) Criticized and undermined by thinkers and discoveries => opinion of the Enlightenment on publicity/constitution of 1958 article 37/telephone tapping NSA II – The paradoxical utility of secrecy to protect the integrity of Man a) Secrecy, protector of private life => medical secrecy/data protection GDPR Facebook hack/witness protection b) Lack of transparency is sometimes harmful => usefulness of the Skynet system in China/Aristotle “the great morality” Thank you in advance for giving me your opinion on my training, I still have a little trouble finding the title of the games.

    1. Hi!

      I don’t really understand the difference between your Ib and your IIb. Otherwise your outline looks pretty good to me, you have a good ref.

      1. On Ib I tried to talk about the threat of secrecy on the state and in IIb on the individuals themselves but you are right it is not very clear

        1. Hello, We find the idea of playing on scales excellent, especially if it is based on the polysemy of the word “public” (in the sense of the State or in the sense of the public as a gathering of individuals) Thanks to Charles for his comment, which allowed you to clarify this intention. Charles also mentions the references you use, which are indeed relevant and varied. Precisely, they are so varied that sometimes their association can seem a little extreme, and therefore strange. Thus, the couples Aristotle – Chinese cyber, or the Enlightenment – the NSA leave the impression that you go from cock to donkey. (it’s the difficulty of the outline you chose) Good job for tomorrow’s test! We can only encourage you to give all your energy, because it’s worth it!

  5. Hello, I have chosen the issue: Does the State need secrecy to survive? Do you think that this problem would be relevant, in what way the State to continue must be a minimum of transparency without totally rejecting secrecy?

    1. Hello Arthur, Your problem is very similar to a reformulation of the question as follows: The State – “How the State” does it need – “must be” of secrecy – “minimum transparency without totally rejecting secrecy” to endure – “to endure”. Admittedly, you suggest a solution by degrees rather than “yes” or “no”, but we think that you would benefit from consulting the “question that pinpoints the problem” part of our article devoted to this method in contemporary issues. You have time this evening to fully understand what is and what is not a problem, and this could be a real advantage tomorrow for the competition.

  6. PBR: Is it still possible to have a private life?
    My problem: Should we choose between total transparency of the individual even if it means no longer having a private life in the name of security or should we be careful not to show yourself to the world to the detriment of transparency and security 
    1 Necessity and risks of transparency
    A In politics (declaration of assets of ministers and the president) and in economics with recent scandals Eco, sanitary, etc. à NRE Act, Anonymous
    B to suppress privacy in the name of security (RDA – Stasi, North Korea, Skynet in China and 1984 by George Orwell and the Patriot Act – 
    2 Necessity and risk of privacy
    A Privacy protection law RGPD, CNIL
    B Darknet – drugs, weapons and child pornography –

    1. Good evening Alistair, Your problem is relevant. The formula “Keep yourself from showing yourself to the world” is strange, it gives the feeling that you have forced not to repeat the word privacy.< /span> Your outline is also rather balanced, but in our opinion suffers from a certain weakness, particularly in two points: your 2.B. which deserves to be fleshed out, and an absence of a third party which would nevertheless be welcome to offer a solution or a perspective as to the challenges to come. Finally, your big one talks a lot about politics, freedom, citizenship, while your big two only explores the digital domain. A proposal in the comments below posed the same pitfall… Can you not see any other area of privacy other than the web? For tomorrow, we advise you to draw as many ideas as possible from the draft to have more elements when you build your plan. Good evening,

  7. Good evening, I would need your advice in order to find an issue on the question Does the State need secrecy to endure? I found two of them, however, none of them satisfied me.

    • Here is the first: How does the state use secrecy to its advantage in order to perpetuate itself?
    • Here is the second: How does the State, by setting up a society without secrets, organize itself in order to settle in the long term?

    Thanks in advance

    1. Hello Quentin, we will help you find a good and effective problem. The first problem that we identify in your issues is that there is no longer any question of “need”. This notion is however at the heart of the question, and it is often on this type of words that one must play to find a problem and even a plan. To find a good question that pinpoints the problem, you have to find a paradox. In other words, it is necessary to identify two correction to the exam questions which seem contradictory to each other, and which take up all the terms of the question. What apparently contradictory double affirmation could you find in relation to the question, on the model: “On the one hand it is true that, …; but at the same time, it is also true that…”?

      1. thank you for your advice, I have therefore arrived at a paradox: On the one hand, it is true that the State has the need, in order to retain its power over its people over time, to put in place a policy of transparency which is demanded by it and therefore to avoid an uprising, but at the same time it is true that in the past the States that had kept this power the longest needed secrecy more than ever to keep its people in the dark. I therefore arrived at the following problem: How can the State do without secrecy to keep power over time when it was an essential need of certain States that have persisted in the past? Is this problem already more relevant than the first 2? thank you very much good day

        1. When you say “The States that have kept this power the longest needed secrecy more than ever to keep their people in the dark.”, we understand your idea, it will just be necessary to express it well, because without realizing it you make a pleonasm, “it takes ignorance to keep in secret”. It is very well corrected in your final problem which proves to us that it was only the clumsiness of inattention. And it makes us very happy to see that you were able to find such a problem which is indeed very good! Cheer! ✔️ Small precision, you can perfectly report this paradox that you found as it is in your introduction. In other words, you can very well integrate this whole passage, corrected after our remarks – “The State has the necessity, in order to […] ignorance of its people.” – In your introduction, it will be an excellent way of lead to your problem.

          1. Thank you very much for all these tips, I will take them into account tomorrow!

        2. Hello, I find your outline and your problem interesting, and I would like to know (if you wrote it) what is your hook and more generally your introduction. Thanks in advance

  8. chose the issue: “Does the State need secrecy to survive?” My problem is: “The decisions of the State are they only with the aim of continuing even if it means disappointing its people?” I) Should a State be transparent towards its people? A) No, he must only think about his survival, according to Machiavelli. B) No, otherwise the categorical imperative can be broken between the state and its people if the revealed state secrets are immoral C) Are state secrets ranked according to their morale, according to Immanuel Kant. II) Isn’t the first objective of the State to satisfy those who elected it? A) Is secrecy contrary to the values of the republic? B) Is a secret society totalitarian (example from 1984, from Orwell) C) Secrecy implies ignorance, is it a step back before the Age of Enlightenment which fought against obscurantism? I’m not sure what it’s worth, if you could give me an opinion. Thank you in advance and good day

  9. Hello, I wanted to do the question that fell in 2019: “Can democratic institutions be based on secrecy?”. With the definition of democracy, I found the following paradox: how can the people have any power if it is kept in ignorance? This allowed me to find the following problem: Are secret institutions democratic? Isn’t there a risk of drift? My outline would then be: I/ Democratic secret institutions? a- Publicity and accessibility of the law (essential to democracies): political institutions (legislative, executive and judicial) cannot rely on secrecy b- The place of transparency in the law: law 2013-907 and art. Penal Code 223-6 (in France) c- Exception in the military field: secrecy is even forbidden (whistleblowers) II/ The risks incurred a- Doubts and criticisms of the benevolence of the government: according to Immanuel Kant (whose opinion is shared by Eric Schmidt), an action requiring secrecy to succeed is immoral b- Abuse of the government: Skynet system (China) c- Loss of public trust: leads to violence (Capitol revolt in the United States) Would it possible to have a return? Thank you and have a good day.

    1. Hello Carmen, It’s surprising, because the paradox you find (“ How can the people have any power if it is kept in ignorance?”) seems to us to be a much more effective and relevant problem than the problem you are leading to. Because your question that pinpoints the problem (“Are secret institutions democratic?”) inverts two terms of the question, and therefore only reformulates, or worse, change the question. The problem is the paradox that hides behind the question, so we encourage you to work on your first reflex which was the right one! Your very “Sciences Po” outline works very well, and your references are excellent. You probably have the necessary background, so you have to train as you do now to problematize. We can therefore only encourage you to continue on this path. Have a nice day,

  10. Hello, I wanted to train on the question “Does the State need secrecy to last?” Problem: What place does secrecy occupy within society and can we imagine that the State does without it? (I have the impression that my problem is not terrible so if you have any advice to improve it I will take it :)) I. &nbsp ;  Secrecy inscribes a separation between citizens and the State which can be conducive to discontent a)   Secrets in politics lead to citizens’ distrust of institutions b) The presence of secrets makes crises more likely and more serious c) &nbsp ; Transparency therefore seems necessary for the functioning of a fairer world and a true democracy II.    The state needs secrecy in politics a) Total transparency goes against democracy b) &nbsp ; Se essential cret in diplomacy c) Transparency would amount to exposing oneself to the enemy Also I wanted to ask you, do you think that a subject that crosses the two themes is likely? Because no matter how hard I try, I don’t see what I could say for this kind of subject.

    1. Indeed your problem is not very relevant, because it poses two distinct questions, and the second question which is the most interesting part can be answered by yes or no, and therefore is not such a good problem. So, for the contest, avoid separating with an “and”, try to understand what deeper problem hides the statement. We will do an article on the issues, but we won’t have time for it between now and the m competition, so you can see the correction from previous years to better understand the expectations of an issue in contemporary issues, and also look at the explanations to make a question that pinpoints the problem in philosophy because it comes close. As for the plan, these are interesting ideas, especially in your sub-parts, provided you support them well with references. The corrector will still be unsatisfied, and will hope for a third part: how to solve the difficulties posed by the secret (your capital I) which the State nevertheless needs (your capital II). It would be possible to stop there by developing your sub-parts well, but it would be interesting to have a third part that is more open to solutions and the future. Good luck, it’s already good, continue your efforts until Saturday!

  11. Good evening, I chose the question “is it possible to have a private life” and here is my plan: Issue: Is total transparency becoming inseparable from our lives, where are we going to be in ability to continue to keep certain things secret. I. Privacy is a concept rooted in our lives for a long time a)  A concept with ancient origins (Aristotle, French Revolution, legal definition) a)  The emergence of a “ private life ” digital II. Nevertheless, transparency has become the preferred ideology a)  Secrecy perceived as negative and dangerous, a source of scandal and mistrust  b)  The birth of the culture of sharing I.  But the right to privacy remains fundamental a)   A right to privacy in a society where the boundary between transparency and voyeurism is increasingly blurred (Affaire Griveaux…) b)   Keeping secrets to protect social relations (medical secrecy…) Is it relevant?

  12. Hello, I chose the question “is it possible to still have a private life” and here is my plan: I. Privacy is a concept rooted in our lives for a long time a) A concept with ancient origins (Aristotle, French Revolution, legal definition) b) The emergence of a digital “privacy”  II. Nevertheless, transparency has become the favored ideology a) Secrecy perceived as negative and dangerous, source of scandal and mistrust b) The birth of the culture of sharing III. But the right to privacy remains fundamental a) A right to privacy in a society where the boundary between transparency and voyeurism is increasingly blurred (Griveaux case…) b) Keeping secrets to protect social relationships (medical secret…) Is it relevant?

    1. Hello Marie, These are a lot of interesting tracks. The background looks interesting. It is rather on the arrangement of the parts that it could be good to rework. It will be necessary to respond more quickly and more frankly to the problem. For example, your I. retraces a history of private life, which is interesting, but we would rather see it in the introduction, or at the limit as a sub-part, merging I. And II. But this beginning of the outline does not answer the question’s question: “is it possible to have More”, even if we agree, the past can enlighten the present. In III, you mainly explore the theory: in law there is a private life. But it seems to us that the question rather raises the question of practice: “is this really the case, and is it possible?” Yes in law, but the answer must be more complete. In any case, these are good leads, it is just the organization and arrangement of ideas that you need to work on in your proposal. Good evening to you,

  13. Hello I chose a subject that was not present in your list however I would like to know what you think of my plan. Here is the topic: Is secrecy necessary in politics? Here is my problem: How is the notion of secrecy used by the State in order to govern? I- The use of secrecy in the different types of political regimes A- Totalitarian and monarchical regimes 1 study of older regimes such as Machiavelli with “the Prince” 2 study of totalitarian regimes through Nazi Germany B- In contemporary regimes and democracies 1 on the legal level with the UDHR and the preservation of secrets 2 privacy and the right to secrecy, freedom of expression… II-The consequence of the implementation of a policy of transparency therefore limiting secrecy A- A policy of publicizing private space 1 Statie = no right to privacy in the GDR 2 contradiction a few years later with “glasnost” = fall of the USSR B- Towards the end of secrecy in our democracies with the arrival of new technologies? 1 the example of wiki leaks: towards the end of state secrecy? 2 social networks: towards the end of privacy? Thank you so much

  14. Hello, these questions are very interesting. I wondered if for each idea, an author should be quoted to support our argument. I am indeed afraid of quoting too much and “hiding” behind an author

    1. There are no absolute rules, so you can completely propose a reflection without support from an external source. In general, it is better to err on the sidelines than on the sidelines. But we fully understand your concern, which is well founded. The remedy for the criticism of hiding behind the authors is to press the transitions, which follow a logic which is personal to you, and to exploit in a more developed way the sources which you use. Thus, it will not be enough to give a quotation, but it will have to be explained: why did the author say that? Is it biased or unbiased? Why is his argument valid? What nuances can you bring to it? If you master this kind of questionnaire on your references, the corrector will know that you are not hiding, but simply that you have solid knowledge in the service of personal and relevant reflection.

  15. Hello, I chose the question “Does secrecy allow citizens to protect themselves?” But I didn’t know whether to talk only about privacy or not. So here is my outline and I will need an opinion please: Pb: to what extent do new technologies lead to a redefinition of the needs of secrecy? AI Secrecy has always allowed individuals to establish a personal zone Through the privacy that is protected creates bonds of trust B The advent of transparency is disrupting the links between secrecy and individual Transparency as an ideal of enlightenment exposition of privacy II. A. Without secrecy, the citizen is subject to many abuses, particularly concerning his private life GAFAM State B. Secrecy is therefore a protective and must be protected Preserve secrecy and personal data supervise digital Thank you

  16. Hello, we are two and we both chose two different outlines for the question “is it still possible to have a private life?” and we would need an opinion: Plan 1: Is digital a threat to privacy? I- Necessary preservation of privacy to live in society a) privacy essential to the development of the individual, freedom of opinion, .. b) framed by the Institutions II- The digital age endangers privacy a ) Big Data, social networks impede privacy b) unveiling of scandals by whistleblowers show that digital technology is not sufficiently regulated by law III- Misguided privacy sometimes allows societal progress and better security a) Metoo, incest,… b) terrorism prevented by the NSA Plan 2: Since the Digital Revolution, are we forced to reveal our private lives? I- Privacy is a right guaranteed for all a) basis of law, professional secrets,… b) allows the individual to develop, autonomy, origins,… II- Endangering privacy since digital a) arrival of the Internet, data, social network b) surveillance, geolocation, whistleblowers III- Privacy must be preserved ruptures may appear a) Incest/rape b) Totalitarian regimes Thank you, Have a nice day

    1. Hello to both of you, In general, there is a major common defect in your two proposals, even if the remark concerns more the first outline proposed: it is to see in the threat to privacy only the digital. The exam question is reduced to a single aspect of the problem, certainly important, but largely insufficient. To remedy this, you will have to spend more time on brainstorming, and derive everything you can from the question, without setting yourself any limits. A question that can help you is to understand what is the inverse of the question? What is the opposite of privacy? Is the opposite of privacy only GAFAM servers? In detail, you actually address other aspects within your games, and these are very good leads. We still have to review the whole thing. In any case it’s a good idea to practice, it will save you from going too fast on a subject, and thanks to that you will remember to look at the question in all its dimensions. In your opinion, where is privacy today outside of digital? Drawing inspiration from current events, such as the criticisms against the global security law which has just been approved, isn’t there something to be said about the growing role of the State?

      1. Thank you for your advice, we will take it into account, indeed, we had perceived this problem but it was difficult for us to find another way.

  17. I chose the question “is it still possible to have a private life” Here is my outline I. The increasing individualization of societies values privacy A. Constantly reinforced privacy legislation Art 9 of the Civil Code of 1970 added to the constitution B.Privacy perceived as a necessary characteristic of societies: Freedom of the Moderns VS Freedom of the Ancients (Benjamin Constant) II. However, if privacy is valued, so is its intrusion A. Privacy at risk in the digital age and the commodification of data: Tim Wu and “surveillance capitalism” B. Its intrusion, characteristic inherent not only in economies but also in governments

    1. Hello Mina, Your outline is quite successful! On vocabulary, “individualization values privacy” sounds weird because individualization is not a person → promotes privacy? value privacy? Always a question of vocabulary, “the intrusion is valued” is even stranger, because to value is ameliorative while an intrusion is very pejorative. You need to communicate your idea more clearly. Basically, it’s not bad, and the references are very relevant. If you choose a 2×2 plan, to reach a Sciences Po level you would have to be more ambitious: 2x2x2. Otherwise the concealer will remain unsatisfied. That’s good, keep it up.

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