Exam season is a stressful time. Hell, some of us still have test day nightmares -- usually about showing up in our underwear with all of our teeth loose, then falling through the floor. Given the soul-scarring enormity of the situation, you'd think that teachers would pay some attention to the papers they're handing out. But if that's the case, how do you explain questions like ...
Storming The Winter Palace is a painting by Nikolai Kochergin which depicts revolutionaries seizing control of the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg in 1917. This heralded the birth of Soviet Russia. And according to one test writer, it was also the first time a Metal Gear was used on the battlefield.
VCE Exam Body
This was the image that accompanied a history exam given to thousands of students across Australia in 2012. In the aftermath, the exam body apologized and shifted the blame to an unnamed staffer who took the first image they found on Google. To the credit of the students, some tried to rationalize the enormous battle robot as either a statue or a battleship on the horizon. Although we feel that the kids who not only recognized the mech, but also pinpointed it as a BattleTech Marauder, should have been given extra credit. That's real applied knowledge there.
In June 2016, a middle school teacher in Mobile, Alabama was placed on administrative leave after she gave an eighth-grade language arts class a quiz known informally as the "LA Math Proficiency Test." This is basically a standard math test, but instead of questions about apples, pocket money, and trains traveling eastward, it's about drugs, welfare money, and bullets traveling bodyward.
-- Ramon has an AK-47 with a 30-round clip. He usually misses 6 out of every 10 shots and he uses 13 rounds per drive-by shooting. How many drive-by shootings can Ramon attempt before he has to steal enough ammunition and reload?
-- Tyrone knocked up 4 girls in his gang. There are 20 girls in the gang. What percentage of the girls in the gang has Tyrone knocked up?
-- If the average spray can covers 22 square feet and the average letter is 3 square feet, how many letters can a tagger spray with 3 cans of paint?
-- Dwayne pimps 3 ho's. If the price is $85 per trick, how many tricks per day must each ho turn to support Dwayne's $500 per day crack habit?
The school understandably apologized to parents and students for the test, which has been circulating within the system (and tanking inattentive/racist teachers' careers) since the '90s. On reflection, this might explain why so much of our country has a hard time with critical thinking. How could we not, when even our teachers can't recognize a mean-spirited joke quiz that reads like a walkthrough of GTA: San Andreas?
When 16,000 students in New Zealand complained about a statistics test containing a supposedly impossible question, the local exam board rolled their eyes and cued the world's most qualified jerk-off motion. Then they actually looked at the test.
The problem in question (the problematic question) asked students to complete a table of percentages that should total 100%. Except the figures totaled 121% -- a mathematical impossibility that sent students crashing. As one described it, "I was going back over it trying to find out what it was. I was thinking, 'What if it's just in my paper, and it's only going to be me that gets affected.'" Another, meanwhile, was unable to finish. "I died because I had no idea how to finish that goddamn table and then I didn't even try with the next one because I just lost all confidence of knowing how to do it."
The exam body issued a profound apology to the students, and promised that the faulty question would be taken into account during the grading process. Although honestly, it's a pretty good life lesson: Reality will often ask you impossible questions with no solution, and then penalize you for getting them wrong.
Eton College in the UK is the alma mater of David Cameron, Jacob Rees-Mogg, and princes William and Harry (among many, many more). Basically, it's hosted more political babies than a pig's head. So let's just take a look at what kind of exam questions they're dealing wi-
The year is 2040. There have been riots in the streets of London after Britain has run out of petrol because of an oil crisis in the Middle East ... After two days the protests have been stopped but twenty-five protesters have been killed by the Army. You are the Prime Minister. Write the script for a speech to be broadcast to the nation in which you explain why employing the Army against violent protesters was the only option available to you and one that was both necessary and moral.
That was from an exam given to students aged 13-14 in 2011 as part of the King's Scholarship Examination. We know/hope that politicians are taught at a more advanced level than us plebs, but at that age, our only experience with civilian massacres involved the words "No Russian." On the plus side, the scenario in this paper is never going to happen. A fuel crisis in the Middle East? Widespread protests on the streets of London? A prime minister who attended Eton? Pfffft.
In 2012, the New York state English exam asked eighth-graders to read and answer multiple-choice questions about a short story called "The Pineapple And The Hare." Soon after the exam, however, the test went viral when students complained that the entire thing was an unreadable mess. And not "unreadable" in the way that classic works of literature often are, but "unreadable" in the sense that it didn't make a damn lick of sense.
"The Pineapple And The Hare" is set in a magical forest where animals (and fruit, apparently) can talk. It opens with the hare chilling beneath a tree, when he's accosted and challenged to a race by the pineapple. The pineapple says the winner of the race will receive "a ninja and a lifetime's supply of toothpaste." The hare probably should stop at this point and double-check that the pineapple isn't in the middle of a massive brain(stem?) aneurysm, but instead he agrees to a race.
The next day, the competition was coming into play. All the animals in the forest (but not the pineapples, for pineapples are immobile) arranged a finish/start line in between two trees. The coyote placed the pineapple in front of the starting line, and the hare was on his way.
Everyone on the sidelines was bustling about and chatting about the obvious prediction that the hare was going to claim the victory (and the ninja and the toothpaste). Suddenly, the crow had a revolutionary realization.
"AAAAIEEH! Friends! I have an idea to share! The pineapple has not challenged our good companion, the hare, to just a simple race! Surely the pineapple must know that he CANNOT MOVE! He obviously has a trick up his sleeve!" exclaimed the crow.
The moose spoke up.
"Pineapples don't have sleeves."
Figuring that the pineapple has a plan to make everyone look foolish, the crow suggests that everyone cheer for the pineapple. The race then starts and ... the hare wins by a mile, because duh, pineapples don't have legs.
The animals glanced at each other blankly, and then started to realize how dumb they were. The pineapple did not have a trick up its sleeve. It wanted an honest race -- but it knew it couldn't walk (let alone run)!
About a few hours later, the hare came into sight again. It flew right across the finish line, still as fast as it was when it first took off. The hare had won, but the pineapple still sat at his starting point, and had not even budged.
The animals ate the pineapple.
Here are the questions that students had to answer about this wacky-ass garbage:
-- Why did the animals eat the pineapple?
a. they were annoyed
b. they were amused
c. they were hungry
d. they wanted to
-- Who was the wisest?
a. the hare
If you paid close attention to the text, you'll note that none of these questions are answered -- or indeed, even could be answered. After complaining to the media and exam board, the kids did what kids always do when they think something is butts: They turned the most-famous line ("Pineapples don't have sleeves") into a meme.
The state exam board agreed with the students, and did not include those two answers in their scores. The thing is, students were never going to be able to answer those questions. "The Pineapple And The Hare" wasn't written specially for this test; it was an adaptation of a story by Daniel Pinkwater, who later explained that it wasn't supposed to make sense. Any "serious" attempts to decipher the text would be analogous to "deciphering" Green Eggs And Ham or Spot The Dog.
According to Pinkwater, however, it wasn't all bad. He got paid for the state using his text, and after students realized he was the reason for their pain, he got to watch their hilarious attempts at intimidation. "One kid called me, and there were quite a few emails. Some kids took me to task; the phrase sellout appeared on my screen." See, this is how you can tell that this story happened in 2012. If this had happened in 2019, Pinkwater would've had his house firebombed and his nudes leaked on Twitter within an hour.
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These hilarious stories should have been taught in every school.
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