We've all been there haven't we? We all remember the student life, the late-night cramming, the piles of course-work books full of impenetrable facts and figures!
But this time it's different, isn't it? Because, as well as lacking decent studying facilities (you can't cram properly in those soulless rooms of the Charlemagne building opposite Berlaymont Towers) you're facing cross-examination by - gulp! - members of the European Parliament!
Ridiculous! No wonder control over education policy has emphatically NOT been handed over to Brussels! Seriously though, there is absolutely no need to worry, because help is at hand!
So put down that heavy primer on the Interoperability of Intermodal transport net works (or something else equally yukky that you're having to learn!)and follow my eight point plan to success - including an ingenious all-purpose answer to any tricky, intrusive or impertinent professional and personal questions those self-righteous MEPs may throw at you!
But first, a word of reassurance: you almost certainly already know more about your chosen subject than your inquisitors...yes, really!
Think about it: when did any of them take a formal and public exam in their chosen Parliament committee speciality? When, for that matter, did any national politician face an exam when switching ministerial portfolios from one subject they didn't know anything about to another?
Never! Because what matters most is having a good team of pointy heads around you - the very people who have spent the last few days force-feeding you loads of indigestible verbiage you can't get your head around!
I know what you're going to say: the obvious answer would be to let the civil servants face cross-examination by MEPs, because they're the clever ones who went o the College of Europe and took the Eurocratic oath!
They'll also be doing all the policy-wonky-donkey work, but; sadly; it's you ion the dock in the democratic cockpit of Europe and everything will depend on what happens in the three hours you'll be sitting there.
The first 15 minutes involves correctly reading out what the worker bees in your allotted directorate-general have prepared on your subject. So that's okay.
But the subsequent 165 minutes of annoying questions will find you at your most exposed.
That's when the following cribsheet should come in handy.
1 - DON'T assume MEPs know more than you do on your nominated subject. They're bluffing
just like you are.
2 - DON'T get bogged down in detail on policy. If stuck, use lots of acronyms, even invented ones. Similarly, refer to lots of Treaty Articles, preferably real ones, preferably in the policy area area you are supposed to understand.
3 - DON'T display irreverance, impatience or irritation, although you will feel all three. Treat all questions as though they are sensible and relevant. Use hesitation, deviation and repetition wherever convenient.
4 - DON'T reply: "I don't actually know the answer, but I've got plenty of staff who do...". Also avoid: 'I'll get my people to get back to your people on that".
5 - DO begin your responses to difficult questions with one of the following "ignoring" introductory phrases: "I think what's really important is............."; "What we all have to remember is that.........."I think there are three key points........."(Only deploy the last option if you really do have at least two key points up your sleeve).
6 - DO remember what cheeky German MEP Sven Giegold said about the Commissioner-designate from the country I know best when the two met in Strasbourg recently: "He (Lord Hill) just absorbed the questions - the answers had no substance". If you can achieve the same, you should be safe as houses.
7 - DO sound as if you care about your portfolio. When Peter Mandelson was quizzed about his designated trade dossier years ago, he casually but calculatedly produced a bar of chocolate during questioning and ate it. The point was to display the FAIR TRADE label on the wrapper. Genius! Find a similar piece of business to perform, if possible, to
demonstrate your whole-hearted commitment to the whatever it is you will be doing.
8 - DON'T answer questions attacking your professional integrity or personal morals. Simply read out the following: "The European Parliament claimed triumph in securing the Commission presidency for its chosen candidate and called it a major step forward for the democratic process. Your chosen candidate has now selected the Commissioners he thinks appropriate for each post. He must know what he's doing. He surely wouldn't patronise you by sticking a joker in the pack, would he? I therefore refer your question to Jean-Claude Juncker."
Good luck to you all!