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Did He Pass the Test?

boy taking a test

Does the thought of taking tests fill you with terror? Probably. Classes haven't even begun for us yet, and I'm already thinking about tests. We're in faculty in-service meetings this week on campus and they have been excellent - very helpful and thought-provoking! Next week we'll be working in our offices getting our courses ready to go. Then after several days of course registration, classes will begin September 3. Part of teaching is writing and grading tests. But tests aren't limited just to the realms of academia. Many potential employees have to take tests to show their competencies for the jobs they'd like to land.

Here's a story about a man in that very situation.

Tom is applying for a job as a signalman for the local railroad, and is told to meet the inspector at the signal box.

Tom seems like a good prospect, and the inspector decides to give Tom a pop quiz. He starts off by asking, "What would you do if you realized that two trains were heading towards each other on the same track?"

Tom says, "I would switch one train to another track."

"What if the lever broke?" asks the inspector.

"I'd run down to the tracks and use the manual lever," answers Tom.

"What if that had been struck by lightning?" challenges the inspector.

"Then," Tom continues, "I'd run back up here and use the phone to call the next signal box."

"What if the phone were busy?"

"In that case," Tom argues, "I'd run to the street level and use the public phone near the station".

"What if that had been vandalized?"

Tom quickly replies, "In that case I'd run into town and get my Uncle Leo."

The puzzled inspector asks, "Why would you do that?"

"Because he's never seen a train crash!"

(So, did Tom pass the test and land the job?)

Now here's a little test for you. It appears to be a list of trick questions with obvious answers, but it really is!

The world's easiest test?

(Answers follow, but NO cheating!)

1. How long did the Hundred Years War last?

2. Which country makes Panama hats?

3. From which animal do we get catgut?

4. In which month do Russians celebrate the October Revolution?

5. What is a camel's hair brush made of?

6. The Canary Islands in the Pacific are named after what animal?

7. What was King George VI's first name?

8. What color is a purple finch?

9. Where are Chinese gooseberries from?

10. How long did the Thirty Years War last?

Now remember ... NO cheating!

Answers to the world's easiest test…

1. 116 years, from 1337 to 1453.

2. Ecuador.

3. From sheep and horses.

4. November. The Russian calendar was 13 days behind ours.

5. Squirrel fur.

6. The Latin name was Insularia Canaria — Island of the Dogs.

7. Albert. When he came to the throne in 1936 he respected the wish of Queen Victoria that no future king should ever be called Albert.

8. Distinctively crimson.

9. New Zealand. (Chinese gooseberries is an older name for kiwifruit.)

10. Thirty years, of course! From 1618 to 1648.


If that test made you feel as dumb as it made me feel, maybe this final item about testing will make you feel like a rocket scientist (or at least a rocket surgeon…).

A college football coach had recruited a top talent for the team, but the player couldn't pass the school's entrance exam. Needing the recruit badly, the coach went to the dean and asked if the recruit could take the test orally. The dean agreed, and the following day the recruit and the coach were seated in his office.

"OK," the dean said, "What is seven times seven?"

The recruit looked terrified as he thought it over for a moment then said, "I think it's 49."

The coach immediately jumped to his feet. "Oh, come on, Dean," he begged, "give him another chance!"

Lends weight to the oxymoronic nature of the expression "sports scholarship," doesn't it? Do you have a test experience you'd like to tell about? We'd love to read about it in the comments.


"Right affections lead to right thinking, and right thinking leads to right living." - Dr. Bryan Smith

=^..^= =^..^=

Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, then the lesson afterwards.

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8 Comments on “Did He Pass the Test?”

  1. #1 Dave
    on Aug 21st, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    I got one of those quiz questions right. That’s higher than one of my high school chemistry tests during 11th grade. To explain, I think the highest grade in the class on that test was a 32. Not a fun class period for us.

  2. #2 Carrie
    on Aug 21st, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    I hope Tom got the job–after going through all that and thinking of all those good answers, and being foiled at every turn, he at least deserves to enjoy watching a train wreck! (I say this because it’s imaginary–the thought of a real train wreck is dreadful.)

  3. #3 Michael
    on Aug 21st, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    Well, the history questions were right down my alley. The Hundred Years’ War question is one I love to discuss with my students. Did they just stop counting after 100? Did they round down? It was the Middle Ages after all. I used to have a true/false statement about the Hundred Years’ War on a test that said something to the effect of “The Hundred Years’ War lasted one hundred years.” I thought it was simple and straightforward and obviously false. However, the better students (who often tend to think too much) wrestled over that one and would often answer “true” since they argued that the war did last 100 years, and then some beyond that. So, I gave up and no longer have that question. It’s not that big a deal anyway.

  4. #4 Rob
    on Aug 21st, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    Dave, I’m sure your history is much stronger than your chemistry … at least judging from your blog….

    Carrie, I chuckled audibly at your comment, knowing you. Thank you, though, for the clarification for the sake of those who don’t know you. 🙂

    Michael, aren’t true/false questions fun?! Teachers have to craft them so carefully and still cannot anticipate every strange twist of logic that can undo the best of wordings. By the way, did you notice earlier this week that you are now number 6?

  5. #5 David McGuire
    on Aug 21st, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    Undoubtedly, you have heard about the really tough question that appeared on the final exam in a philosophy class.

    The question: Why?

    The correct answer: Why not!

  6. #6 Rob
    on Aug 23rd, 2008 at 8:51 am

    David, that reminds me of something dumb I did in 10th grade. My English teacher, Miss Luella Moss (that was really her name!) was also our school’s Latin teacher. We thought that she was possibly old enough to have helped create Latin centuries earlier. Anyway, on one of her tests I had no idea what the right answer was to one of her questions, so I wrote in French “Je ne sais pas” = “I don’t know.” When I got my test back, she had written “Cur non?” I had to ask her after class the meaning of what she wrote. She had replied to my French by writing in Latin “Why not?” She had very kindly yet effectively put me in my place. I’ve never forgotten the incident, the lesson, or the great teacher who taught me that lesson.

  7. #7 David McGuire
    on Aug 24th, 2008 at 12:04 am

    Normally, I try to stick with only one response to one of your posts, but your mention of your Latin teacher brought back memories from over forty years ago when I attended high school in Plymouth, Michigan, a western suburb of Detroit.

    My Latin teacher—and do they even teach Latin any more—was Miss Alita Hearn. She was “old school” in the 1960s. She wore “suits” to class; she was prim and proper. Indeed, Miss Hearn was old enough to remember when the old, old Plymouth High School had burned to the ground during the 1920s, as I recall. She was a Christian Scientist, but she would invite all of us Latin students to her house for a Christmas party every December.

    I was eternally grateful to Miss Hearn for what I learned in her classes, because when I came to BJ as a freshman in 1967, my English classes were easier to navigate because of learning about prefixes, suffixes, origins of words, etc., in my Latin classes.

    We used to joke about her having lived at the end of the Roman Empire, and her favorite line was what some student had written inside the cover of his Latin book. It went something like this: “Latin killed the Romans, and now it is killing me.” Her response to that was that she had lived a long time, and that she was very much alive! Ah, good memories, especially when you can actually remember those memories.

  8. #8 Rob
    on Aug 24th, 2008 at 6:46 am

    David, don’t give posting a second comment a second thought. I’ve seen many blogs where the blogger and commenters carry on lively exchanges, and even commenters to each other. I think it’s great! So comment on!

    I only wish I had taken Latin from “Luella Puella” (Luella girl, as we lovingly called her.) Especially if I had had any inkling that I was going to become a foreign language teacher, I really wish I had taken Latin! That’s one of those things in my childhood I would go back and change, but alas!

    In our school the kids wrote on their Latin book covers:
    Latin is a dead language,
    As dead as dead can be,
    First it killed the Romans,
    And now it’s killing me!

    Miss Moss’ students would have a Saturnalia every year and some would even wear togas. Look at all the rollicking good times I missed out on by not taking Latin, let alone the solid linguistic instruction! Our high school offered four years of Latin! My wife took 3 years of Latin before coming to BJA for her senior year of high school where she did both semesters of senior English first semester, along with some other classes and then began college in January! Talk about good preparation!