Claim:   Student makes humorous guesses at answers on chemistry exam.


Origins:  On our “Shortchanging the Subject” page we cite some legendary examples from students who, faced with essay exam questions they couldn’t handle, chose to answer completely different questions


The images linked below illustrate a different approach to handling unanswerable test questions: just write anything, even if your responses are completely goofy and nonsensical. You may not get any credit for your answers, but at least you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you didn’t leave sections of your exam paper completely blank. There’s always a chance the professor may not read what you’ve written, or that he’ll be sufficiently impressed with your honesty and sense of humor to throw a few points your way.

Even if the student whose 2003 chemistry exam is excerpted below didn’t score any points with his professor on these selected questions, his answers are worthy of enshrinement in this collection of contemporary lore. Each of the pages shown here will display a full-size image when clicked upon, and the questions and answers given within each are transcribed beneath.

Graph of overall mass vs. time

1. Explain the shape of the graph

Answer: Its curvy, with a higher bit at the end and a rather aesthetically pleasing slope downwards towards a pretty flat strait bit. The actual graph itself consists of 2 strait lines meeting at the lower left hand corner of the graph and moving away at a 90° angle. Each line has an arrow head on the end.

When acidified potassium permanganate is added to a solution of sodium iodide, a reaction occurs. Write a balanced equation for the reaction by writing balanced half equations and combining them.


        MnO4 –> something
        something else –> Another thing
        stuff –> other stuff

Which species is the oxidant (oxidising agent) in this reaction?

Answer: 1st one

Justify your answer

Answer: Guess

Write a balanced half equation for the reaction at the positive electrode.

Answer:     2 + 3 = 7

Write a balanced half equation for the reaction at the negative electrode.

Answer:     fork + shoe = spleen

Explain why the concentration of sulfate ions increases in the electrolyte?

Answer: Aliens. Damn aliens are responsible for everything weird thats going on around here.

Explain why an atmosphere of argon is required in the second stage.

Answer: I’d say it was probably those damn aliens again. Them and their illegal moon rock trade. Always trying to kidnap all the argon.

Describe what you would observe as this reaction took place. Link your observations to the species involved.

Answer: Add contents of packet and return to boil whilst stirring continuously. Simmer on a medium heat for 10 minutes. Sauce will thicken on standing. Serves 4.

Last updated:   22 June 2011