Sounding Off

Exam horror stories...

Last week Debbie Jabbour wrote about her experiences taking AU exams, and I asked students to send me their exam stories.

I’m sure many of us have strange stories to tell about writing exams! I am currently working towards a Certificate in French language proficiency, so exams, especially in another language, can be unnerving.

During one of my final exams, about 10 minutes in, a fellow seated a row over from me sneezed several times, then proceeded to sniff every few minutes for the next 2 hours! I thought I would go nuts, but tried my best to concentrate.

During another exam, the lady seated next to me talked to herself (actually whispered, but equally annoying). I don’t think she was doing French, otherwise I would have listened in!

Sue MacKenzie

When I was taking an accounting course, I and two other students started a small study group here in Edmonton. We would meet at a restaurant or someone’s house to work through problems together and study for the exam. One evening we were talking about how the sense of smell could trigger very vivid memories. One of the group got the idea that if we studied with a scented candle burning it would help lock the information into our minds. The drawback, though, was that to unlock our supposedly vivid recollection of what we were reading, we would need to burn the same type of scented candle when we wrote the exam. We decided we’d each take a candle with us into the room when we wrote the exam.

The day of the exam I packed my candle and matches into my bag, and off I went to AU’s Edmonton Learning Centre. When I explained what I wanted to do to the exam supervisor, she looked at me rather disbelievingly, but said I could burn the candle as long as no other student in the room objected to it. I later found out that my study partners chickened out and didn’t take their candles to the exam room.

I can’t confirm whether the scent unlocked my accounting-saturated brain cells, but I did pass the exam with a decent mark. However, I’m likely the only student to ever, quite literally, burn the proverbial flame of knowledge during an exam.

Shirley Barg

I encountered an psych exam that only had a handful of short answer questions that needed to be limited to 2 or 3 sentences. The questions had nothing to do with the quizzes, I could only answer three of them. In order to have passed this test I would’ve need to memorize the entire text! Needless to say I failed the exam, and had to rewrite it again. I don’t know yet if I passed. The rewrite was just as difficult as the original exam!

Sandra Moore

I wrote one exam where everyone seemed really stressed – the room was totally hushed and tension filled the air. People were hunched over their papers in deep concentration and you could have heard a pin drop. Then the guy up front nudged his desk forward, and the large plastic clock hanging high up on the partition wall dislodged and clattered down onto his desk! They guy shot back about 6 feet, and half the room jumped up and yelped! I nearly wet myself. I don’t think anyone had much success concentrating after that.

Tamra Ross Low

Send your exam stories or other stories about distance education to