Skip

"General Franco was supported by right-wing panties"
July 19, 2013 9:32 PM   Subscribe

Times Higher Education compiles its annual exam 'howlers.'
posted by anothermug (44 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 


El Nino is Spanish. It is the Spanish world for child. Like all things Spanish, it is dangerous. It kills people and burns down trees. This child is more than a child. It really isn't a child at all. It is a storm. A deadly storm that kills people and burns down trees.
posted by medusa at 9:58 PM on July 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


An r looks like an n? Hoo boy.
posted by telstar at 10:13 PM on July 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


When did High Times start putting out an education issue?
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:20 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I feel like I've heard that one about how sex was "discovered by Darwin and Mendel" before.
posted by EmGeeJay at 10:22 PM on July 19, 2013


I got most of the way through the "36 Test Answers..." buzzfeed (ick) link before I could no longer pretend that it wasn't full of fakes and stopped reading. Most obvious one, 31. It's basically all well-known chestnuts of the genre, not something you'd find in any real classroom.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:23 PM on July 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


Even though I'm aware they're often fake, I can't help but find these hilarious, and feel kind of dumb about it at the same time. It's like a benign, non-racist version of the "Lemonjello"/"Shadynasty" baby name thing.

My personal favorite is Rome being sacked by both visible and invisible goths.
posted by vogon_poet at 10:46 PM on July 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


My friend used to refer to that thing, where you stuff a rag into a beer bottle filled with gasoline, light the rag on fire, and hurl the bottle at the sworn enemies of truth and justice?

That was a "Mazeltov Cocktail".
posted by not_on_display at 10:50 PM on July 19, 2013 [28 favorites]


That'd certainly guarantee the groom is dead certain about going through with the marriage, though.
posted by Punkey at 10:53 PM on July 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Collecting these are one of the great perks of teaching. My favorites in the last few years were the student who claimed that Jesus was born from " esmasculate conception" and the one who said the Greek god Hermes and Egyptian god Anubis, who both escort the souls of the newly dead to the Underworld (psychopomps), were "psycho pimps."
posted by bibliowench at 11:09 PM on July 19, 2013 [10 favorites]


That was a "Mazeltov Cocktail".

Particularly dangerous when made by Acidic Jews.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:12 PM on July 19, 2013 [43 favorites]


I marked some undergraduate German language exams once that had these awesome errors (some probably only funny if you speak German). The sentences are from short essays the students had to write about a trip they had been on.

(1) Das Essen in Moskau war sehr schwierig aber lecker.
"The food in Moscow was very difficult but tasty". [schwierig = difficult; schwer = heavy].

(2) Es war so teuer dass meine Creditkarte hat kaputt gegangen.
"It was so expensive that my credit card broke".

(3) Der Kellnerin war faul und schlank.
"The waitress was lazy and slim".

(4) In an essay about a trip to Germany: Es war grau und regeln.
"It was grey and rules".
(A freudian slip, perhaps?) [regnen = to rain; Regeln = rules]

(5) Sie ist die schmeckesten Essen in der Univers! Sehr lacher.

(6) One student, instead of Meeresfrüchte, kept writing Seeobst.

(7) Another must have mixed up scheiß ("shit") and Schweiz ("Swiss"), because he wrote after describing a really bad experience (that had nothing to do with Switzerland): Es war ganz schweiz ("It was really Swiss") and then about a slightly better evening: Das war nicht so schweiz ("That was not so Swiss").

(8) And finally, I think it's relevant that this excerpt is from an essay by a Japanese student (about her trip to the beach): In das Meer war 3 oder 4 Blauwal. Ich liebe Meeresfrüchte, so diesem Blauwal war am schönsten.
"In the sea were three or four blue whales. I love seafood, so these blue whales were the best."
posted by lollusc at 11:23 PM on July 19, 2013 [13 favorites]


Never underestimate the signal distortion capabilities of a clueless idiot surrepititiously whispering to an even more clueless idiot.
posted by Dr Dracator at 11:31 PM on July 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Never underestimate the signal distortion capabilities of a clueless idiot surrepititiously whispering to an even more clueless idiot.

Yesterday at work, one of my friends burst into my office, excited, because in the process of grading tests with another grad student, they'd found a kid who literally had copied the other kid's name, apparently alongside his own.

"I thought that was just an old joke!" I said
"I know! That's what I said, this only happens in movies! Anyway, we're going to tell the professor that they should expel him. Not really for cheating, just because you should just automatically not be allowed back at college if you're that stupid."
posted by kagredon at 12:57 AM on July 20, 2013 [18 favorites]


Not a test, but in a pop quiz in our beginning Japanese class, the teacher went down the rows, each person saying the number they were. So, "Ni-juu hatchi" (28), "Ni-juu kyu" (29), "San-ju" (30), "San-ju etchi" (thirty perverts)...
posted by happyroach at 1:37 AM on July 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


For some reason, I tend not to attract these kinds of errors. Instead, what usually happens is that on the I.D. section of an exam, someone will, say, insist that a quotation from Tennyson's "Lady of Shalott"* is really from Darwin's Origin of Species, at which point I begin to reflect on the amount of effort (or non-effort) it takes to make such an error.

*--OK, students confusing "Shalott" and "shallot" does happen with some regularity. I now remind students that there are no onions in that poem.
posted by thomas j wise at 1:38 AM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yesterday at work, one of my friends burst into my office, excited, because in the process of grading tests with another grad student, they'd found a kid who literally had copied the other kid's name, apparently alongside his own.

I had the 21st Century version of that last semester, kid handed in his Brother's essay from a previous year. Obviously didn't realise that Safe Assign checks against previously submitted essays.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 3:05 AM on July 20, 2013


Ah yes, San-ju Etchi- one of Kurosawa's lesser-known films, but equal in many ways to his great masterpieces.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:52 AM on July 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Extremophiles can be defined as those that tolerate extremes of temperature, extremes of pH and extremes of pleasure

I know there's a tumblr for this but the new nsfw rules makes it impossible to find #saveTumblr #whereIsThePorn #yahooSavages
posted by Foci for Analysis at 4:25 AM on July 20, 2013


those All-American undergrads - seniors at purportedly good universities even!- who mix up the US Civil War with the US Civil Rights Movement in essays and exams... they're like Peter Pan, they never get old
posted by Bwithh at 4:41 AM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have a special place in my heart for the undergrad who completely seriously and non-ironically raised her hand in class to explain that the typewriter was invented by a Mr. Qwerty
posted by Bwithh at 4:42 AM on July 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


This is often less fun on engineering, but I did have a student who gave pump speed in units of "liquor port second" instead of liters per second. When I asked them to make geometric assumptions ("Assume a sphere or cube") and clearly state their assumptions, I got "Assume a spherical cube" from one student. I wasn't sure I could.
posted by JMOZ at 5:16 AM on July 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


One student, writing on its evolution, opened her essay thus: "Sex has puzzled biologists ever since it was discovered by Darwin and Mendel."
"An unpleasant image," suggested Adam Hart, professor of science communication at the University of Gloucestershire, on the unlikely union of the two eminent Victorians.


Speak for yourself, Professor Hart! *fanfics*
posted by Erasmouse at 5:57 AM on July 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


Assume a spherical cube

Ah, that's just a rounding error.
posted by Segundus at 6:33 AM on July 20, 2013 [20 favorites]


That was a "Mazeltov Cocktail".

Packaged in a 1.5 liter Manischewitz bottle?
posted by mr. digits at 6:45 AM on July 20, 2013


One of my classmates in in junior high read aloud a report on marine microbiology to the class and inadvertently rendered every instance of 'micro-organisms' as 'micro-orgasms.'
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:01 AM on July 20, 2013


As a high school geography teacher, I once saw " the dominican republic of the congo" in an essay about imperialism in africa.
posted by Groundhog Week at 7:32 AM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cut My Frog Into Pieces
(This is my lab report)
posted by Ickster at 7:54 AM on July 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


When I was teaching freshman composition, I once had a male student turn in an essay about being a cheerleader in high school, clearly written from a female perspective. When I called him on it, he admitted that his girlfriend had written the essay for him. It hadn't occurred to either of them that she should write his personal essay as if she were him.

One of my favorite funny lines from a student essay was, "Abstinence is almost 100% effective at preventing pregnancy."
posted by not that girl at 8:16 AM on July 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


But I always assume most of the things in these kinds of lists are fake. I've seen articles tracing some of them back to humor books published 50 years ago, for instance.
posted by not that girl at 8:17 AM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is often less fun on engineering...

My favorite calculus final was from a student who decided early on in the exam that whatever role of dice he made in taking this class had not come up the way he wanted and decided to stop answering questions and start drawing cartoons:

1st cartoon: a stick-figure
2nd cartoon: a couple of stick-figures, oh look one of them has a knife
3rd cartoon: one stick figure is now shooting a bunch of other stick figures

.
.
.

last cartoon: a stick attack helicopter is raining down fire upon a classroom of students.

did I mention the student was wearing a long dark trenchcoat? I watched him complete his exam thusly, checking up on him every once and a while and he eventually left peacefully.
posted by ennui.bz at 8:23 AM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Assume a spherical cube

Ah, so it's a topology class, then.
posted by erniepan at 8:41 AM on July 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


But I always assume most of the things in these kinds of lists are fake. I've seen articles tracing some of them back to humor books published 50 years ago, for instance.

Some of them may be, but I've heard kids and classmates say some pretty adorable and hilarious things. After reading the Odyssey : "But who was Zeus?" I think some mistakes are also just easy to make, like miswriting bubonic or not understanding the Dark Ages.
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:55 AM on July 20, 2013


I recently graded an undergrad paper in which the Holocaust was referred to as "Hitler's escapade." Also the paper had nothing to do with Hitler or the Holocaust or Germany or Jews. It was a paper on cultural hegemony in country music.
posted by tealsocks at 10:56 AM on July 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


When I was working in a course on formal languages and automata, one student answering an exam item in which the answer involved regular expressions, came up with the amazing notation abuse "hence the language is ab* for *>5". Augh.
posted by Iosephus at 12:43 PM on July 20, 2013


graded by a friend recently: "Ethiopia has the highest slum dwellers."
posted by avocet at 1:13 PM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Things I know are true, as I did them, or know the person who did them:
Final exam for 2nd year inorganic chem: What is the industrial synthesis of H2SO4. As I recall it is 5 steps long. My friend Jeff remembered the first two and the last two, so he wrote those down, and for the middle one wrote something along the lines of . I later borrowed this trick for a proof in Quantum Mechanics where I was in the same situation.

My friend and I went to pick up our 3rd year organic chemistry final assignments. The prof greets us and says he has to check which pile our assignments are in before he gives them back. He reported that we were in the good pile, and handed them back. We asked what the other pile (which was about half as tall as the good pile I think? Or more? It was really big)) and he reported that it was the "I need to talk to you pile", and showed us the top two assignments, a retro-synthesis question on each. So in a retrosynthesis you start with the target molecule, then take it back to something you can buy, step by step, with each stage showing a molecule, what you do to it and connecting them with arrows.

Something like A <- B <- C <- D, right? So, the first test looks totally normal. They wrote ABC on one line, then ran out of room and drew D below it; perfectly normal. Then he showed us the next one. It was written in a much smaller hand, so that it only took up 2/3rds of the page....yet they still drew the next line vertically instead of horizontally. They'd copied everything without thinking about it, and made it really obvious that they'd copied the person who had run out of room.

posted by Canageek at 3:51 PM on July 20, 2013


After a few years of grading undergraduate papers, I've accumulated a good number of these. Many of my favorites are simply awkward introductions or transitions, when the point a student is trying to make is clear but the sentence clearly tumbled out so abruptly that it's unintentionally hilarious:

"Like we have television and movies today, the Greeks had vases to paint images on."

"Like Claes Oldenberg, public works of art naturally confront the viewer and prompt the viewer to ask questions."

"The thing with sculptures is that they sort of lead to my next point."

For some reason, though, this one especially tickles my family - my dad always asks if I've come across any more "Stone Age papers" when he knows I'm grading:

"Much of this age contained many abstract geometric shapes and lines. With these designs came much more intricate statues of stone, hence the Stone Age was born."
posted by Austenite at 2:18 AM on July 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Canageek, what was the trick?

As I recall it is 5 steps long. My friend Jeff remembered the first two and the last two, so he wrote those down, and for the middle one wrote something along the lines of . I later borrowed this trick for a proof in Quantum Mechanics where I was in the same situation.
posted by forgetful snow at 2:26 AM on July 21, 2013


...jumping between two states without an intermediate stage?
posted by metaBugs at 3:25 AM on July 21, 2013


forgetful snow: Writing 'magic' when you forget one step in a long sequence of things.
posted by Canageek at 4:22 PM on July 21, 2013


forgetful snow: Writing 'magic' when you forget one step in a long sequence of things.

I don't think I know anyone who got a degree in chemistry without pulling this at least once. And I know a lot of chemists.
posted by kagredon at 4:34 PM on July 21, 2013


A colleague had a student make a flip book out of his blue book depicting a bomb exploding and leaving a cloud of smoke shaped like the letter F. It was all the student wrote.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 5:07 PM on July 21, 2013


I drew a "Punnett Cube" on a biology test once; it was like a Rubik's Cube of traits. The TA grading it gave me +10 for creativity, and -10 for being clueless.
posted by not_on_display at 7:10 PM on July 21, 2013


« Older Paths of ...   |   Neutrino and meson breakthroughs Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post