Friday, August 1, 2014



In this chuckle-inducing collection, Benson gathers actual test answers. What these answers have against them: they’re wrong. What they have going for them: they’re hilarious. Sometimes the students have alarming misconceptions, other times it’s clear they figure if they don’t know the answer they might as well have fun, and in a few cases the answer suggests the student actually knows their material but couldn’t resist a good joke.

Benson categorizes the answers by school subject: Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Math, Business and Technology, Psychology, History and Geography, and English. Notice that almost half of those are different Science subjects, so we certainly know where people toss up their hands in despair the most.

I figure the best way to illustrate the humor here is with examples of my favorites. Starting with Chemistry: in response to “What is a vacuum?” a student answered, “Something my mom says I should use more often.” Then there’s the person who defines “activation energy” as “what is needed to get up in the morning.”

In Biology, the observation that “A fossil is the remains of an extinct animal. The older the fossil, the more extinct the animal is.” tickled me. I also like the student who thinks “When you get can become intercontinental.”

Physics calls out the common poor phrasing that Newton invented gravity. Another cheeky student answers the question “What does a transformer do?” with “It can go from being a robot to a sports car in three seconds.”

Math is packed with students looking for sneaky loopholes. Like when the test asks them to find the lettered corner of a triangle and they simply draw an arrow towards that corner rather than calculate anything. Or the students whose answers to word problems seem more like social commentary than mathematically accurate.

I laughed aloud at the Business and Technology question “What happens during a census?” where someone answered, “a man goes from door to door and increases the population.”

Psychology opens with one of those who couldn’t resist a good joke. The question: “Describe what is meant by ‘forgetting’.” The answer: “I can’t remember.” On the other hand, I sure hope someone’s joking when they say a “stereotype” is “the kind of CD player you own.”

History and Geography starts by listing different students’ amusing definitions for various types of farming. Another student takes a shot by answering “Where was the Declaration of Independence signed?” with “At the bottom.”

The last section, English, no doubt appeals the most to me as an English major, avid reader, and writer myself. In response to “How does Romeo’s character develop throughout the play?” one student answers, “It doesn’t.” Sometimes when editing my own fiction I’ll find funny autocorrect mistakes. I mistyped a word and the computer caught that and changed it automatically...except it didn’t change it to the right word. Well, I hope that’s what’s going on with the student who wrote “When you leave the gravy out too long, it congenials.”

This makes a great gift book. It’s also a fun one for reading with someone else or leaving out on a table to start conversations. May there always be students who don’t know the right answer.

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