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How to Fail a Test with Dignity


picture of failing exam grade

Did you enjoy tests as a student? Most of us have written a totally stupid answer that made us wonder what in the world we were thinking during the test. But have you ever written a funny answer because you didn't know the right answer and wanted to cheer up the teacher? Of course I prefer correct answers, but I have to admit that the occasional hilarious answer is a welcome treat when I'm drowning in paper grading.

In honor of our final exams next week, today's post features funny things some students have written on tests, mostly on purpose, I think....

Here are some creative answers on science tests:

picture of funny science test answer

picture of funny science test answer

picture of funny science test answer

picture of funny science test answer


Math tests seem to be a great place for students to show that they only partially grasp the principles. Here are some examples:

picture of funny math test answer

picture of funny math test answer

picture of funny math test answer

picture of funny math test answer

The following student had not learned that the symbol for infinity is .

picture of funny math test answer

Some students go creative when they do not know the right answer, sometimes writing things that are inappropriate. Here are several examples:

picture of funny math test answer

picture of funny math test answer

The following is supposedly from the geometry test of a blonde student:

picture of funny math test answer

picture of panic button

Sadly some students simply freeze up while taking tests — their minds go blank and they can't focus enough to think about what to write. It's obvious when some have hit the panic button. Here are several examples of that happening.

This student decided to write his own question.

picture of funny test answer

This next one speaks for itself.

picture of funny test answer

picture of Scantron test

Some of you older readers may not be familiar with machine gradable answer sheets. They are a huge help to teachers with large classes, especially at crunch times. Scantron answer sheets work only with objective test questions — multiple choice, true/false, or matching. Students darken the bullet of the answer of their choice for each item.

Below is one student's Scantron sheet for the Intro to Communication exam. At the top you can see that he got no answers correct out of 100.

picture of Scantron fail

Michael's professor sent him an e-mail the following day. Here's a paraphrase of it:

Dear Michael,

Every year I attempt to boost my students’ final grades by giving them this relatively simple exam consisting of 100 True/False questions from only 3 chapters of material.

There were two possible answer choices: A (True) and B (False). You chose C for all 100 questions in an obvious attempt to luck out on at least a quarter of the answers.

It’s as if you didn’t look at a single question!

Unfortunately, this brings your final grade in this class to failing. See you in the same class next year.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I began to study French. My English teacher that year was our school's Latin teacher, Miss Luella Moss. (She was so old that we suspected that she helped write the Latin language ... but I digress....). On one of her tests I had no idea what the answer was to one of the questions, so I wrote Je ne sais pas = "I don't know," thinking she wouldn't know what I'd written. Well, Miss Moss wrote back to me Cur non? I had to ask her after class what she had written and learned that it meant "Why not?" I never forgot that lesson in humility.

Here are several tests where the teacher wrote something back to the student.

picture of funny test answer

When the student folded his test on the dotted line, he found out something about the teacher.

picture of funny test answer

It helps when the teacher has a good sense of humor, even when he can't give the student credit for the funny answer.

picture of funny test answer

One class had to make a premise, write a equation about that premise, and then solve it. Here's what a student came up with:

picture of funny test answer

He was off on the wording of 1 Timothy 6:10, where it says that the love of money is the root of all evil, but his work met with his teacher's approval anyway.

I'll end with this test question and the teacher's reply.

picture of funny test answer

If you can't get enough of these, I've done a second post of amazing student test answers.

I look forward to hearing about your experiences with funny test answers — both as students and as teachers.

quotation...

"Successful students get inside their teacher's head; successful teachers help them in." - Dr. Brian Vogt

=^..^= =^..^=
Rob

As long as there are tests, there will be prayer in public schools.


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20 Comments on “How to Fail a Test with Dignity”

  1. #1 Terry E.
    on Dec 10th, 2009 at 7:40 am

    That calculus solution reminds me of one test I took in Dr. Taylor’s linear algebra class when we had to manually solve a 5 X 5 complex matrix. My solution looked about the same way after erasing the thing for the fourth time.

  2. #2 Jonathan
    on Dec 10th, 2009 at 8:08 am

    In reference to the problem with the elephant in the way, how can an object continue moving if it is at rest?

  3. #3 Jeremy Larson
    on Dec 10th, 2009 at 8:23 am

    Many people know Tiny Tim’s response to Bob Cratchit’s toast in Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol.” (It’s repeated at the end of the story too — “God bless us, everyone!”) Apparently, 7th graders don’t. One student’s response to my test question of “What was Tiny Tim’s response to his father’s toast?” was “Yuck.” Apparently in his home, Dad can’t even make toast for breakfast.

  4. #4 Miriam Champlin
    on Dec 10th, 2009 at 8:34 am

    The “if you can’t answer a question right, make sure it’s funny” theory has long been a favorite of mine, and speaking of Scantrons, that is one of their main downsides. I have yet to come up with a creative way of making a wrong answer on a Scantron funny… Ideas?

    [I am a new ivman reader, but I am already thoroughly hooked. Thanks! (Ivman was recommended to me by Josh Michalek.... Does he get some sort of perk for expanding your subscriptions and popularity???)] :)

  5. #5 Janet
    on Dec 10th, 2009 at 8:37 am

    When I taught high school English, I put what I thought would be an easy question for everyone:

    Name the two types of clauses in a sentence:
    a.
    b.

    One very sweet, but challenged student answered:
    a. Santa
    b. Mrs.

  6. #6 Donna
    on Dec 10th, 2009 at 9:06 am

    Chemistry test question:

    Which number would most accurately represent room temperature using the Celcius scale?

    Student comment on seeing the correct answer was 20:

    Is is really that cold in countries that use the Metric system?

    (Really happened in my Mom’s chemistry class …)

    Another funny question (by a student) was whether the sun were dark on the back like the moon. You have to laugh, otherwise, you’d cry …

  7. #7 Michael
    on Dec 10th, 2009 at 9:09 am

    This doesn’t involve a test question but it is related. Yesterday in class I was trying to help the students understand the idea of privatization when it comes to industry in a country. I asked one student what the opposite of private was. Expecting to hear public in response instead he said general. I was puzzled for a moment until he explained that in an army the opposite of a private is a general.

  8. #8 Shannah
    on Dec 10th, 2009 at 9:20 am

    I’m sure as a fellow language teacher you can relate to the unintentional hilarity often found in a composition in which a dictionary was liberally and improperly used. I wish I had some in front of me from which to share translations. : )

  9. #9 Lynne
    on Dec 10th, 2009 at 9:22 am

    The test answers were funny — it brought back memories of math tests that left me in consternation, as I do not have a mathematical brain at all. Thank you for the lighthearted, clean humor! It is a ministry :)

  10. #10 Jessica
    on Dec 10th, 2009 at 9:27 am

    Great post. I like that the first picture is of an English exam… I wish I could give you some examples of funny test responses, but I was always afraid to put any on my own tests — figured I should try even if I wasn’t sure, since there was always the off chance I’d get it right–and the only tests I give now are Scantron. I’ve seen some funny lines in English papers, though. My favorites are misplaced/dangling modifiers, but perhaps I’ll save those for another day when you decide to do a post on English blunders (hint hint!).

    I really like Dr. Vogt’s quote at the end, too. I think being that kind of teacher is a lot more difficult than being that kind of student.

  11. #11 Carrie
    on Dec 10th, 2009 at 11:04 am

    Thanks for this! It was the funniest for a while. Why are people’s mistakes so funny? When I taught 4th grade I had fill-in-the-blank Bible verse tests. Here are two funnies:

    (Matthew 5:11-12 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, . . . Rejoice, . . . for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.)

    The student put, “for so persecuted they our Father which art in heaven.”

    And instead of “be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers” the student put “be ye not enfortunately yoked. . .”

    .-= Carrie’s most recent blog post … The American Way =-.

  12. #12 b.j.
    on Dec 10th, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    The really sad thing about all this is it took me a bit to get the humor in some of these, because my math is SO HORRIBLE!

  13. #13 Rob Loach
    on Dec 10th, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    Haha! Great post, Rob! I love these. There was another great one that was just posted on FailBlog too:
    http://failblog.org/2009/12/09/calculus-fail-2/

    Keep it up!

  14. #14 Sarah
    on Dec 10th, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    My dad is a science teacher and would often ask this question on final exams — “If your parents have no children, what are your chances of having a child with _________ .”

    He also recently had a student give this answer in response to the question “Name two ways to safely observe the sun.” The answer: Make sure that you do it at night.

  15. #15 Heather
    on Dec 10th, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    @Miriam: I believe my brother once used the Scantron bubbles to write “Merry Christmas” (or he might have created a Christmas tree)–and turned it in.

  16. #16 Ruth
    on Dec 10th, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    The panda bear makes me think about when I was in your French class and your cat Linus died. So I emailed you saying that in memory of your cat, we shouldn’t have a quiz the next day. You replied that Linus had left strict instructions that after he died you shouldn’t be too to easy on us. :-)

    Another “desperate plea” I made was after doing quite poorly on one of my big verse tests for Themes. I told my teacher that the fact that I wrote some of the verses right, just next to the wrong reference shouldn’t be a problem — after all, the verse references aren’t inspired! It didn’t help my grade any, but it (maybe) helped me feel better.

  17. #17 Amy
    on Dec 10th, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    Bible test question: What animal did Noah send out of the ark to see if it was safe to leave the ark? The winning answer came from the child who wrote: “a fish.”

  18. #18 Leslie Ciesielski
    on Dec 11th, 2009 at 8:29 am

    I remember one teacher we had at my high school who would give bonus points on his Bible tests if you put down an answer to a question that would make him laugh for longer than 5 seconds (or something like that — I don’t remember the exact time, but it had to be for awhile). I won’t name names, but Mr. Loach, I believe you may know who this person is :-) *hint: he’s your son-in-law!*

  19. #19 Rob
    on Dec 11th, 2009 at 10:23 pm

    Yikes! With the end-of-the-semester busyness, I’ve really gotten behind in my replies to comments. Here goes….

    @Terry – I’m amazed that you would struggle with a math test! :-)

    @Jonathan – I miss your sense of humor in class. ;-)

    @Jeremy – Are there really kids who don’t like toast?! I can understand not liking a toast, but not toast. The first year I taught I had one junior high Bible class a day. One of the test questions was worded fairly lamely, but I had to go with what we had as a first year teach. It was a fill in the blank that went as follows: Fill in the missing word in this quotation, “Blessed art thou ___ women.” One seventh-grade boy entered the word beautiful.

    @Miriam – You’re right about that limitation of a Scantron, but they are nice when the pressure is on to get your grades in. This next week for exams, I have only one machine-gradable exam — my first one on Monday. The rest are all ones I have to read and evaluate, including the two on Thursday morning, the last two exams of the week! :-) I’m glad that you’re enjoying ivman so far. Hope it continues to lighten your heart.

    @Janet – That reminds me of the joke

    Q: What’s another name for Santa’s helper?
    A: Subordinate Clauses

    @Donna – I think some major principle was being missed there….

    @Michael – That must be the colonel of the problem you were handling….

    @Shannah – Oh my, yes! I have some real faves after 36+ years of teaching.

    @Lynne – Thanks for the encouraging words, Lynne. I consider it a ministry to have a blog that’s a safe place for people to visit and enjoy themselves.

    @Jessica – Thanks for the idea of a post of dangling modifiers and such. I love those wonderful, mostly unintentional slip-ups!

    @Carrie – I’m glad you enjoyed it. Those of us who have taught can appreciate this kind of stuff the most, although I think it’s definitely been a hit with non-teachers too. Thanks for the examples from your former students.

    @b.j. – Don’t beat up on yourself. There were several that I could not fully enjoy because my skills are definitely more verbal than mathematical. Some I got because I knew vaguely that that wasn’t the way it’s supposed to be done, but I couldn’t tell you why the process was wrong.

    @Rob Loach – Hi Rob! I’ve already written you a personal e-mail, but I want my other readers to know I think it’s way cool that another Rob Loach exists and is reading my blog! :-D Thanks for the link.

    @Sarah – I must admit that I had to stop and think for a moment about what to put in the blank. The first thing that came to my mind was to put a person there, but then that didn’t seem right…. Then I understood it. ;-)

    @Ruth – Thanks for reminding me of your attempt to have a kind of moment of silence for our dearly departed Linus. Nice try. Linus was indeed very duty bound.

    @Amy – LOL!

    @Leslie – I talked with your former teacher this evening, and he confirmed what you recalled. He said he thinks it did actually happen one time….

  20. #20 Abigail Yoder
    on Dec 16th, 2009 at 11:44 am

    Correct and replace the wrong word in this sentence.
    “i very like my English teacher.”
    Instead of, “I really like my English teacher,”

    My precious Chinese student wrote:
    “I very LOVE my English teacher.”
    So sweet.


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