Fact Check

God Gets an 'A'

Faced with a difficult exam question, a student scribbles 'God knows' as his answer.

Published Oct. 23, 1998


Claim:   Faced with a difficult exam question, a student scribbles "God only knows" as his answer.



[Reader's Digest, 1949]

Just before Christmas a college professor read the following on an examination paper: "God only knows the answer to this question. Merry Christmas."

Across the paper the professor wrote: "God gets an A, you get an F. Happy New Year."

[Asimov, 1992]

When I was teaching, I loved giving lectures, but I hated marking papers. I was always afraid I would have to fail someone. The head of my department, when I told him of my worries, was quite unsympathetic. He said failing people was my job — if they deserved it.

Of course, if the student made it easy, that was different.

A student, despairing of a certain question, stared at his blank examination booklet and finally wrote, "God knows the answer to this question."

It came back with the notation: "God gets and A; you get an F."


Origins:   This legend (which dates to at least 1946) is told as a current true story on college campuses today. It could be considered the flip side of the infamous Why Ask Why? legend (in which the wide-ranging question of "Why" is answered with a pithy "Why not?," fetching an A for the brilliant student). Here, scholastic laziness is rewarded with the mark it deserves. Moreover, the professor hands the student's lofty statement back to him in such a manner as to make the ill-prepared student eat it.

College exam legends are about the war between instructor and student to prove which one is the smarter. In this one, the prof wins.

Barbara "as God is my witless" Mikkelson

Last updated:   22 June 2011


    Asimov, Isaac.   Asimov Laughs Again.

    New York: Harper-Collins, 1992.   ISBN 0-06-016826-9   (p. 295).

    Bronner, Simon J.  
Piled Higher and Deeper

    Little Rock: August House, 1990.   ISBN 0-87483-154-7   (p. 35).

    Tan, Paul Lee.   Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations.

    Rockville, Maryland: Assurance Publishers, 1979.   ISBN 0-88469-100-4   (p. 505).

    Untermeyer, Louis.   A Treasury of Laughter.

    New York: Simon and Schuster, 1946.   (p. 90).

    Fun Fare: A Treasury Of Reader's Digest Wit And Humor.

    Pleasantville, N.Y.: Reader's Digest Association Inc., 1949   (p. 12).

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