Sunday, May 6, 2018

One more way to do well
on an exam

It’s midterm time in Stebbins Hall, University of California at Berkeley. But this trick should work even better with finals, when it’s more difficult to track down exam takers:

Stebbins circulated a myth that it was possible to outwit a reader by writing “Second Blue Book” on the front and writing one brilliant last sentence inside. This was supposed to make the reader believe he had lost the first blue book, which would fill him with such guilt that, rather than admit to carelessness, he would give the student an A.

Beverly Cleary, My Own Two Feet: A Memoir (New York: William Morrow, 1995).
Related reading
All OCA Beverly Cleary posts (Pinboard)

[“The reader”: a graduate student.]

comments: 6

MK said...

That would have been an automatic "F" in my courses.

Michael Leddy said...

Notice that Cleary calls it a myth. It reminds me of the story about the two students who miss their final because of a flat tire. The professor gives a make-up exam with one question: “Which tire?”

MK said...

Your comment reminds me of an actual case. Two students with different TFs (or TAs) handed in the same paper. After they got the papers back, one of them went to her TF (TA), asking why she got some kind of a C while the other one got some kind of a B, and complaining how unfair that was. Needless to say, they both got their grades changed to an F.

Michael Leddy said...

That’s (sadly) hilarious. Your story reminds me of an incident in which three of my students were involved in plagiarism: A gave his paper to B, who adapted it with slight changes. B then gave his paper to C, who did likewise. (How could I tell who used whose paper? I’m a close reader.) All three denied everything. B or C asked, “Do you think I’m gonna be stupid enough to copy from someone in the same class?” They ended up going to Student Standards, where they wasted everyone’s time before finally admitting what they did.

Geo-B said...

I had 2 students who turned in the same paper. I asked them to my office and thought they had worked together or one copied off the other. They were mystistified. It turns out a nearby university had published a series of model papers, and they had, unbeknownst to one another, copied that paper. If only one had, I would never have known. Karma strikes again.

Nowadays, my assignments evolve, as the students develop the topics.

Michael Leddy said...

Karma indeed. I don’t think that the average plagiarist ever imagines someone else taking the same route.