There are at least three "surprise" tests we have seen Starfleet use for either cadet or command candidates. Any Trek fan is quite familiar with the Koyabashi Maru. In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Coming of Age, Wesley Crusher steps into a room for test, then hears an explosion and has to pick which of two people he will save. It turns out that decision was a test. In Thine Own Self, Counselor Troi is trying to become a bridge officer and goes through a holodeck simulation a number of times, each time with the Enterprise exploding until she finally gives the holographic Geordi an order to do something when she knows he won't survive.

In The Wrath of Khan, Saavik talks about how the Maru is a bad test of her command abilities. She seems to have gone into the test quite unaware of what it was about or that it was intended to be a no-win scenario. It would seem a large part of the goal of either test would be eroded if the candidate knew, ahead of time, what the test was about and what the goal was for those evaluating the test taker. If Wesley knew he was going to be tested on his worst fear, he could have prepared for it. If Troi knew what the goal was in her test, she could have easily passed it the first time she went through the simulation.

While many institutions have an honor code and expect people to not discuss tests they've taken until students in other classes have taken that same test, usually there's no need to specify, "Do not discuss this test with people who will be taking the course next year."

Is there any mention, anywhere in Trek, or any indication there is anything like a non-disclosure agreement for people who have taken these surprise tests? Or maybe an indication the content of the test is considered confidential or secure material not to be discussed with anyone who had not taken these or similar surprise tests?

  • 4
    I'm pretty sure that Wesley knew he would be tested against his worst fear after having talked to Worf earlier in the episode, and seeing one of the candidates after his test - Wesley just didn't consciously know what his worst fear was, or when the test would come.
    – HorusKol
    Commented Aug 28, 2016 at 23:32
  • I think a point could be made that it wasn't so much that he knew he'd be tested against his worst fear, but that he knew there was something severely frightening about the test. He just wouldn't know why it was so frightening.
    – Tango
    Commented Aug 28, 2016 at 23:38
  • 4
    From the script: "It's not the ones that I've studied for that I'm worried about. It's the psych test. Facing my deepest fear and living through it."
    – HorusKol
    Commented Aug 28, 2016 at 23:41
  • Related question: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/190504/…
    – user89104
    Commented Jul 4, 2018 at 3:04

1 Answer 1


Apparently students are allowed to talk freely about their testing regime. It's down to the instructor to make the test sufficiently surprising/relevant/unique as to make any attempts to prepare for it (by reviewing the details given by earlier testees) utterly useless.

WESLEY: (angry) How can they know what my deepest fear is when I don't?

WORF: (shrugs) By analyzing your psychological profile. They were right about everyone I tested with. Including myself.


WORF: It is very... difficult for me to depend on anyone else. For anything. But especially for my life.

TNG: Coming of Age

Even had Wesley known every microscopic detail of Worf's test (which apparently involved him having to rely on another crewmember) that knowledge would have been totally worthless, as his own test involved leaving a crewman to die.

Presumably much the same would apply to the test that Troi took in TNG: Thine Own Self. A Vulcan would have no difficulty whatsoever in passing a Bridge Aptitude Test that involved sacrificing a lower-ranked officer, but might, for instance, struggle to resolve a situation where they had to deal with a crewman who was acting illogically.

  • 1
    There still might be such an agreement or classification for the Maru.
    – Tango
    Commented Aug 28, 2016 at 23:45
  • 1
    @Tango - I get the impression that the Maru test is something that is extensively wargamed by students. It's down to the testers to make each iteration uniquely difficult. The versions that we see simply rely on intensely overwhelming (and unfair) odds. Whenever the testee comes close to accomplishing their goals, the machine throws in another half-dozen enemy vessels until the Federation ship is dead.
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 28, 2016 at 23:57

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.