For those who grade: Share your stupidest answers

I’m a librarian and I teach dozens of seminars in Fall Semester on “How to Do Research at this Library 101”. There is a quiz for the seminar that is basically a scavenger hunt. Grading one of the last quizzes to come through yesterday I found one answer I’ve never received in what must the thousands of tests I’ve graded.

The question:

This student’s answer:

I laughed so hard I gave the poor kid full credit. Talk about losing your precious.

Other favorite answers:

When asked to find a book by Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Autobiography of Mark Twain

When asked to find a work of fiction about Nazi Germany: The Diary of Anne Frank

When asked to find a scholarly article about any of the plane crashes on September 11, 2001: from a Des Moines newspaper:John Ritter’s Death A ‘Complete Shock’ Say Friends & Family (Ritter died on September 11, 2003)

When asked to find a video about modern agriculture: Charlotte’s Web
So what are some of your favorite answers you’ve ever received on a test you’ve graded?

I teach first year undergrad mathematics to physicists…

Well, I’ve had numerous students tell me that 2 multiplied by 0 was in fact 2.

Then there was the student who used the wrong method, but which coincidentally, because we were working with trigonometric functions, gave the correct answer. He spent a good fifteen minutes arguing with me that because it gave the correct answer, the method was entirely valid. Which it was not.

However, the silliest thing anyone’s ever said to me in class was the guy yesterday, who, in all innocence asked, “Is George Bush a liberal?”.

Which step of the writing process takes the most time?

Plagerizm [sic] takes the most time, I think.

Physics for an variety of non-science majors - mostly sophomores and juniors.

Q: Describe the relationship between frictional force and normal force.

A: F = u*N, therefore F and N are not related because they’re on opposite sides of the equation.

Q: Describe how the initial conditions of the cart affect its final conditions (or some such thing - it was letting a cart roll down a ramp and explaining the problem in terms of potential / kinetic energies.)

A: The final speed of the cart depends on how high it starts (correct) and how long it was sitting there before release (???). If the cart stays at the top of the ramp for a long time, it will gather lots and lots of potential energy and will thus be going really fast at the end.
I really enjoy teaching but, apparently, absolutely suck at it.

I doubt it. I’ve developed a somewhat Calvinist view of teaching: some students are just damned from the start and will never attain academic grace.

One teacher I had in high school posted the funniest answers to quizzes. One such:

Question: “I baptize with _, but the one to come will baptize with _.”

Answer given by student: “I baptize with water [correct], but the one to come will baptize with holy water.” (Correct answer: holy spirit)

Me: Edema is the accumulation of excess fluid in the tissues of the body.
Later that day, question on quiz: What causes edema?
Student Answer: Dehydration.

Sometimes you just have to laugh (a glass of wine helps, too).

One of my favorites…

Essay Q for high school Earth Science, something or other about Wegener and Continental Drift.

A: blah blah…and Africa and South America fit together like a jigsaw puzzle and they have the same fossils because they were connected 250 years ago…blah blah

Hey, what’s a factor of a million among friends? The first thing I thought when grading this was, “Hey, that explains how they got all the slaves here!”

This totally cracked me up. Forget hydrogen cells; the solution to our oil dependency is here somewhere, I can just feel it.

I once read something on the worst answers to science quiz questions. There was one answer that had me laughing my ass off:

“Magnet: Something you find crawling all over a dead cat.”

Oooh, I found that list. Here’s some more:

  1. H2O is hot water, and CO2 is cold water.

  2. To collect fumes of sulphur, hold a deacon over a flame in a test tube.

  3. When you smell an oderless gas, it is probably carbon monoxide.

  4. Water is composed of two gins, Oxygin and Hydrogin. Oxygin is pure gin. Hydrogin is water and gin.

  5. A super saturated solution is one that holds more than it can hold.

  6. Liter: A nest of young puppies.

  7. Momentum: What you give a person when they are going away.

  8. Vacuum: A large, empty space where the pope lives.

  9. Artificial insemination is when the farmer does it to the cow instead of the bull.

  10. The pistol of the flower is its only protection against insects.

  11. A fossil is an extinct animal. The older it is, the more extinct it is.

  12. To remove dust from the eye, pull the eye down over the nose.

  13. For a nosebleed: Put the nose much lower that the heart until the heart stops.

  14. For head colds: use an agonizer to spray the nose until it drops in your throat.

  15. Germinate: To become a naturalized German.

  16. The tides are a fight between the Earth and moon. All water tends towards the moon, because there is no water on the moon, and nature abhors a vacuum. I forget where the sun joins in this fight.

  17. Blood flows down one leg and up the other.

Well, whenver my professor marks my Soil Mechanics final she’s going to see some golden answers for some of the theoretical questions. These answers were so ridiculously wrong, she has to realize I was joking. Not that I could have lost any more marks, there’s still nothing less than zero, right?

The inability to do algebra exhibited on the Physics 101 exams I just graded is . . . is . . . it . . . it . . . it . . . . it just saps my will to live. I mean, I don’t think that everybody in the world has to be an algebra whiz, but if you’ve spent an entire semester watching the professor do algebra correctly, getting your homework marked off for doing it wrong, and getting points of exams for doing it wrong, wouldn’t you, at some point, say to yourself, “Hmmm. Maybe I should figure out how to freakin’ do algebra or something?”


Argh!!! Look at the freakin’ UNITS, people! It doesn’t make any freakin’ sense!

Y= 5


If it had happened once or twice, I’d just think the student had forgotten to copy the square from one line to the next. No big. But it happened at least ten different papers! Where they consistently made this mistake any time they had to add together things that were squared!!! What is UP with that??? Do they think the wee two is just decorative? Are they thinking it’s just a funny little label, like a subscript, that they can ignore when they plug in numbers?

AND WHY, when they’ve had to do problems involving things like kinetic energy and Bernoulli’s equation ALL SEMESTER LONG, have they NOT FIGURED OUT THAT IT GETS MARKED WRONG EVERY SINGLE TIME???


Then again, when I graded the exam of a student who came to me mid-semester, nearly in tears, because she had had a long illness, wasn’t doing so hot before that, and was convinced that she was going to fail the course. So she came to my office twice a week for the rest of the semester. We went all the way back to the beginning of the semester and worked our way up to the current subject matter. And guess what?

She nailed that exam.

Who was that exam’s daddy? She was.

She was all over it like sauce.

Bernoulli is her bitch.

Newton says to her, “Thank you ma’am may I have another.”

Aw, yeah.

With students like this, I may, some day, find the courage to love again.

This makes me extremely worried about the stupid answers that I have written. I’ve written some bad papers in college, in fact whenever I post on the SDMB about things like passive voice and verb usage it is because I absolutely suck at the syntax of ideas, its like a mental handicap for me. I cannot, for the life of me, recognize passive voice if it is hitting me in the face. (Or should that be, “Passive voice is hitting me in the face and I can’t for the life of me recognize it” ? ARRGHHHH!!! :mad: )

I am able to absorb concepts and understand them, but when they come out of my brain in the form of a paper, they wind up looking like alphabet soup. :frowning:

Oh, and I can totally see the thought process behind that one too. (I love figuring out the logic behind really goofed up stuff like that. There almost always IS a credible reasoning behind stuff like that, just doesn’t work the way they think…)

LOL…just…LOL. :stuck_out_tongue:

Depneds on the subject matter. I’ve graded papers in which a student couldn’t explain something but drew an elaborate doodle that indicated that she very definitely understood the concept. And another student wrote a crazy analogy that also displayed a thorough understanding of the particular subject matter. So they got full grades.

However, if the topic is such that it’s essential that one has the ability to communicate the idea to others, I may not have been as generous.

I don’t grade papers, but when my sister was in the 7th grade and was required to take Russian history her teacher read off some weird answers from one of the tests. The question on the test should have been a throwaway–it was “Who is buried in Lenin’s tomb?”

Among the answers:

“People go shopping in Lenin’s tomb.”

“They have parades in Lenin’s tomb.”

“They fly airplanes in Lenin’s tomb.” (!!! now that must be something to see!)

“Stalin is buried in Lenin’s tomb.”

OK, let’s try this:

It is hitting me


I am being hit

Or, more simply, let’s conjugate the passive form (Og bless, I hope I don’t get this wrong) of a verb in the passive tense. “To be hit” seems as good as any other.

I am hit
you are hit
s/he/it is hit
we are hit
you are hit
they are hit

Common factor that separates each of these forms from the verb “to hit” is the part that makes it passive: the form of the verb “to be”. However, this rule isn’t utterly hard-and-fast. Note the difference between “I am hit” and “I am hitting”. If your main verb (in this case, “to hit”) is in the form verb[ing], then to make it passive you must do this:

I am hitting


I am being hit

IOW, as far as I know, if you have a verb whose infinitive (to [verb]) does not end in -ing, and the form you’re using does (I am hitting, I am beating, I am surfing, etc.), then it is not passive. By contrast, if you’re using an -ing form of “to be” with your verb, then it is passive (I am being hit, I am being beaten, I am being surfed, etc.) That passive form will, I think, always be past-tense.

To sum up (I hope - folks didn’t click on this thread expecting a lesson in grammar), let’s look at your verb phrase “it is hitting”. That is NOT passive voice because the verb with the -ing ending is the acting verb. Were that “it is hit” or “it is being hit” it would be passive.

(I’m hoping this is completely accurate, but anyone with anything to add/correct is welcome to do so.)

I’ll give it a shot.

The active voice is generally arranged in subject-verb-object order. Incubus gave us a perfect example of an active voice sentence:

I cannot recognize the passive voice.

For the purposes of this example, let’s regard I as the subject, recognize as the verb, and the passive voice as the object. Strictly speaking, the object isn’t three words (technically, the object is only the noun voice), but if we look at the object as three words long, things should be clearer.

The passive voice “flips” the word order–the object comes first, then the verb (with the help of an auxiliary–we’ll use is in the example), then we bring in a preposition (by), and the subject finally comes last. Here is the above example, rendered in the passive voice:

The passive voice is not recognized by me.

As you can see, it’s a little more complicated than I made it sound, and I won’t get into why I becomes me. But, Incubus, you should have enough linguistic knowledge of English to see what is happening. Let’s look at a few more examples–A and P will stand for Active and Passive, respectively:

*A: John kicked the ball.
P: The ball was kicked by John.

A: I won the tennis match.
P: The tennis match was won by me.

A: Sue plays blackjack in Las Vegas.
P: Blackjack is played by Sue in Las Vegas.*

As you can guess from the last example, the passive voice can get a little unwieldy at times. And you should always remember to make the auxiliary that you bring to the passive agree in tense with the original active voice sentence. See how I had to bring the passive voice auxiliary verbs in line with the original active voice tense in the above examples?

I will add that one of the problems with the passive voice is that it lends itself to “subject dropping”–that is, you can still have a correct sentence without a subject:

The passive voice is not recognized.
The ball was kicked.
The tennis match was won.
Blackjack is played in Las Vegas.

This can be a notorious way to get out of specifying things. A few of my students tried to use it on many occasions, only to get a big, red, “By whom?” or “By what?” on their paper, if specifying the subject was necessary. And trying to get out of specifying the subject when it was a part of the exercise was perhaps one of the stupidest things any student tried to pull in my class.

Former College-Level Grammar Instructor

Engineers et al generally hate Word’s “this is in the passive voice; consider revising” whining.

Incubus, here’s what helped me remember the passive voice:

Imagine you are writing a lab report as an engineer. Now, active voice would dictate that you write such things as, “I then connected the…”, “I next increased the amperage to…”, etc. You are the one doing the actions.

However, you are not the most important thing in the lab/experiment. So in lab writeups, it is quite common to instead write things like, “The voltmeter was used to solve this problem.” Active voice would have you write, “I used the voltmeter to solve this problem.” No one cares about you in the lab, though. :wink: In this instance, they care about the problem and what was used to solve it, so the voltmeter takes center stage.