Taking a written exam is like deliberately entering a fugue state.
Under beaming fluorescent lights, pen in hand, you flip the paper over and feast your eyes on on of the more stressful inanimate objects out there.
You blast through the questions and give the best answers possible. Hopefully you're prepared and the experience isn't pure panic and quickened breath.
But even if you did prepare it could still happen: you draw a blank.
You stare at a question and you haven't the faintest clue what to say. You stare for minutes, look around at the other poor saps also under the gun, and reread the question roughly 87 times in a row.
You have to write something, anything. And maybe, on the off chance, you'll guess right.
About Sums it Up
"In tenth grade I was taking a test on All Quiet on the Western Front. One of the questions was an essay question."
"It read: 'In as few words as possible, summarize the main theme of the book.'"
"I responded: 'War sucks.'"
"I was correct."
"I was in the gifted program through elementary and high school. With that label attached to me, teachers assumed I was pretty smart (I was a good student as well so I wasn't just riding on the gifted label)."
"Anyway, I had really messy cursive writing."
"Once, for a fill in the blanks question, I didn't know the answer for one space. I had everything else right, so I looked like I knew what I was talking about."
"Well, my writing was so messy that for the one answer where I wasn't sure, I just put a random scribble down. Not even letters - just the unhinged flow of my unguided fingers."
"My teacher just assumed I wrote down the right answer and I got perfect for that section"
Case and Point
"I remember I had a timed essay I had to write about hubris (basically just a high ego) in some books. (I believe Frankenstein, Lord of the Flies, and Twelfth Night)."
"I had the hook line just be, 'This is the best essay ever written in the entire world, containing the best grammar, the best evidence, and the best analyses.' 'That sentence right there, is hubris.'"
"The title was also 'The Best Essay Ever.' I got probably my best essay grade then, somehow."
"Jim is making cakes and he has 1050 grams of butter. Each cake needs 25g of butter so how many cakes can he make?"
"None. He doesn't have any other ingredients to make the cakes."
Equal Parts Valid and Snarky
"Music exam. 'Name similarities and differences between these two pieces of music'"
"Two Audio files are played to the room"
"I write, 'both make me want to stab this pen in my ears' instead of the expected analysis of structure and musicality."
"I get the exam back with one mark on that question and the note, 'valid opinion bassed comparison, but do try to be more polite next time'"
"We were doing an exam in 8th grade and I couldn't think of a single piece of evidence (personal anecdote, quote, historical example, statistic, etc.) to add to my essay."
"So what did I do? Make one up."
"I believe my quote was along the lines of 'something something climbing the ladder of success something something the rungs are made of your goals -unknown ancient Roman author.' I thought for sure I was going to fail."
"At lunch the teachers called me into the lounge."
"I thought oh sh**. I'm in trouble."
"Turns out they called me in there to discuss that I got a perfect score and said they were all talking about my essay all day and that it was the best one they'd ever seen. I was in shock."
"Then the dreaded moment came. 'Where'd you get that quote from??'"
"'Uhm... I made it up because I thought I was going to fail' I thought my a** was gonna be sent home or something but instead they all just laughed. It would've been funny to me too but my anxiety said no."
Ahead of Their Time
"In a human biology test, there was a question that asked what viruses were useful for. It was meant to be a trick question, and the answer was meant to be that they weren't useful for anything."
"I wrote that they might be used to cure genetic problems."
"And they are. Now."
"I was right, they were wrong, I want my point."
A Fellow Fan
"There's a Calvin and Hobbes strip where he answers a question like 'It would be against my religious principles to answer this question.'"
"I wrote that under a question that I was baffled by. It was not valid, but the teacher knew the comic and threw me a half-credit on it."
"Had to do a German verbal exam. Learned a few handy phrases to bail me out - so near the end after muddling through I had a question I just didn't understand a word of."
"So busting out my final piece I confidently responded (in German) 'That, is a stupid question'"
"The examiner paused, then laughed out loud, said something I took to mean 'yes I guess it is' then scribbled something on her paper."
"Never did find out what the question was."
"Back in middle school, there was a kid in my religion class who developed a stupid strategy."
"Every time he didn't know the answer to a question on the tests, he would write 'God is always the answer.' It hurt me to see him have that work more than twice."
Just as Long as High School Class Period
"'What was the duration of the shortest war in history?'"
"I wrote '40 mins' on impulse, partly as a joke."
"I was right."
"During the Anglo-Zanzibar War of 1896, the East African island state Zanzibar fought back against the British Empire. The fighting began at 9 a.m. on August 26 and ended by 9:40 a.m., making the world's shortest war a mere 40 minutes long."
"We had a teacher who always said 'write something.'"
"My friend wrote 'something' and got half credit and a smiley face."
"In college, in a logic class - the very difficult question started out with 'In your opinion........' I answered that I did not have to complete the question as my opinion is personal to me and therefore not open to judgement in an exam."
"I got full credit."
Way Too Fun for Hepatitis
"I wrote 'hepatitis is a virus that will make your liver quiver. It can travel through your blood like a salmon swims up river.' On a short answer portion of the exam."
"I thought I was bombing that exam so by the time that question came along I was like meh might as well have a lil fun. I ended up getting an 88! Way better than I thought I would."
"I wrote my entire AP US History essay on 'Henry Truman' instead of 'Harry Truman' and still got a perfect score."
"I was shocked and to this day wonder if the grader actually didn't catch the mistake or if they allowed it because the rest of the essay was accurate. Shrug"
The Historical Figure Approach
"Went to a Christian high school and we were all required to take this one biblical class. One of the assignments was writing an essay on 'Who Jesus is to us.'"
"As an atheist, I knew I should have made something up but I decided to write about how he was just another carpenter in history to me."
"Thought for sure my hardcore Christian teacher was going to fail me or give me the minimum to past."
"Ended up with an A."
It's Tough Out There
"In 9th grade English we were supposed to read the book 'The most dangerous game' I being a slacker of course did not read it and didn't have time to get the spark notes version before we had to write an essay on it."
"The question was 'In your opinion what is the most dangerous game?'"
"I wrote a two page paper about Ice Hockey."
"My teacher said that technically i wasn't wrong because it was an opinion question but clearly i hadn't read the book."
Want to "know" more? Never miss another big, odd, funny, or heartbreaking moment again. Sign up for the Knowable newsletter here.