Home > #MTBoS, Maths, Teaching > Amusing, infuriating and worrying exam answers

## Amusing, infuriating and worrying exam answers

Marking exam papers, a strange experience everytime. Full of anticipation, pride, frustration, fury and humour. Some answers are incredibly funny!

The last few weeks have seen my Y8, Y10, Y11, Y12, and Y13 classes all sit internal exams, and as such I have had a lot of papers to mark. While I was marking today one of my Yr12s dropped in and asked what the funniest answer I’d seen were, and there are many. I thought I’d share some of the highlights.

In the recent year 8 test there was a “What’s wrong with this questionnaire?” question, the questionnaire was about pizzas and the second part was: “Tom asked ten of his teachers, explain why this isn’t a good way to collect data”. My favourite answer was:

“Tom shouldn’t ask his teachers because teachers work too hard and as such don’t have time to eat pizza”!

And while we’re in questionnaire questions, why do so many just tick a box?!

We’ve all had the brilliant “explain how you got your answer:” “I guessed”. And a favourite of mine which came up when I was training “can you use your answer to part a to calculate _____” “no” (at least it’s honest!)

The most worrying type of answer is the one that shows there is no common sense being used. Colin Beveridge often tells an anecdote about a student who was adamant the moon was 5cm away as his calculator said so. Today I was marking a paper by a yr11 (who scored a bit overall). There was a question along the lines of “Mary’s goat produces 22.1 litres of milk a day, estimate how many half litre bottles you can fill after 280 days.” The student in question had quite a lot of working out, and came to the final answer of “4”. If you are not open mouthed, look at the question again. See it? More than 20 litres a day, half litre bottles, so more than 40 bottles A DAY, for nearly 300 DAYS! To leave the answer 4 shows that no common sense check has been applied. There were a few instances of this across the class (a top set of very intelligent young people), so I’m going to work on some common sense in our first lesson back.

There was one student who had got slightly mixed up with how many cubic centimetres were in a cubic metre who answered a question about a tank emptying by saying “200000 hours, (haha, I know that can’t be the answer, but I can’t find my mistake)”, which shows that she at least had applied common sense to her thinking.

I once had a pupil draw an actual tree, because she didn’t know what a tree diagram was. A colleague told me his favourite ever was “what are the chances of picking ______ From a box?” which garnered the response “you don’t know till you’ve picked it!”

Then there are these questions I photographed last year, from yr8 tests:

The most infuriating ones I see at A Level are things like 11^2 = 144, or the ones where a minus sign becomes a plus the line before. Or one that one of my yr13s last year made his specialty, where you copy half the question correctly and then the second half incorrectly, then answer your modified question perfectly, but not get any marks. Or then there the work out a constant correctly, but then write a totally different number in your final equation. These errors are normally met with a “GRRRRR, how many times do I need to tell you? CHECK YOUR ANSWERS!!!!!! “