Classic Classroom Howlers Revealed
As Education Secretary Michael Gove announces a shake-up to the GCSE system, he may face a tougher task on his hands than he realised in educating Britain’s youngsters.
One book published last year, F In Retakes by Richard Benson, revealed some astonishing exam howlers, all of them genuine. But while they probably made the examiners groan at the time, they show that the UK’s young people are far from dunces, with many revealing a sly wit.
When asked when you may use inverted commas, for instance, one wag responded: “When reading upside down,” Here are some other classic examples:
- “When the teacher loses their lesson plan” given as the answer to “What do sociologists mean by ‘the hidden curriculum?'”
- When asked to calculate the mean of the group of numbers 2,12, 5, 19, 8, one candidate wrote: “Eight looks quite mean.”
- In response to a question about what a government mandate means, one answer read: “A mandate is a boys’ night out. A womandate is a girls’ night out.”
- In what ways is the “first past the post” electoral system undemocratic? Reply: “It’s not fair to people who can’t run very fast.”
- One candidate insisted that the Olympic Games were held “every 400 years”.
- Another, asked to give examples of how smoking adversely affects health, wrote: “It causes very heavy breeding.”
- Questioned about the sources for social and ethnic stereotypes, one examinee was in no doubt: “Tomato ketchup in the south, brown source in the North.”
- And quizzed on how British industry could be made more globally competitive, one young person sitting this paper was clear: “Put PE teachers in charge.”
- Fast-a, Fast-a was the Italian expression for a change of music speed according to one exam answer. Indeed.
- A dash should be used “When you’re in a rush” while a monologue is “When one person won’t shut up,” claimed a couple of other howlers. Another opined said that a semi-colon could be employed “When they have a good CV and interview,” while pronouns were described as “those in favour of nouns.”
- Finally, there could be only one way Dickens created sympathy for Pip in Great Expectations: “He gives him a girl’s name.” Of course.
Prevent the Howlers with Home Tutors
These answers no doubt raised a chuckle even as they exasperated the examiners marking these papers, and of course we can all enjoy them. But with the GCSE system undergoing a radical makeover, passing exams and getting the results young people need is no laughing matter, especially in a world where competition for the best jobs has rarely been more intense.
One answer could be to use home tutors, for that extra bit of support to realise maximum potential.
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