Fact Check

Writing Exam While High

A student under the influence produces a bizarre examination paper.

Published Mar 17, 2001

Claim:   A student working his way through college is afraid that he will not have enough time outside of work to adequately prepare for an upcoming exam. He begins taking amphetamines in order to stay awake and study throughout the day while continuing to work at night. A few weeks later, he sits for his exam and leaves the room confident that he has done extremely well. The next day, he is summoned to the instructor's office and asked to explain why he handed in an exam consisting of nothing but sheets of paper covered with his own name.



  • This story is also told about a student, high on recreational drugs, who writes his answer to an essay question entirely on one line.
  • Another variant mentions a student so high on speed that he fails to notice his pen run out of ink after his first few paragraphs and ends up handing in four blank blue books.
  • An older version of this legend involves a coed who has a few drinks before a final exam and mistakenly ends up in the wrong classroom. She receives a 'B' in a course she isn't enrolled in, and an incomplete in the class she failed to show up for.

Origins:   The motif of a person under the influence of drugs or alcohol (and a deadline) writing a phrase repetitively without realizing it is an old one found in other arenas as well:

One of my favorite stories was related by the legendary pre-World War II Denver and New York editor

Gene Fowler. I have told it before and it goes like this: The editorial writers for a Hearst newspaper had finished their day and toddled out to the neighborhood bar to trade with colleagues what they really would like to have said. About 6 p.m., the copy desk, closing in on a first-edition deadline, discovered that there was no lead editorial — each of the three editorial writers thinking the other had penned it. Panic set in.

A copy boy (now called newsroom assistant) was dispatched to the nearby bar to fetch an editorial writer, hopefully sober enough to crank out the next morning's opening sermon. The runner dragged one writer back to the newsroom 15 minutes before deadline and positioned him before a typewriter loaded with blank paper.

The guy simply stared at the typewriter for several minutes while desk editors held their breaths. Finally, the tipsy editorial writer started typing — furiously. With two minutes to spare, he yanked the copy from his typewriter and bellowed, "Boy!" The copy boy rushed the editorial to the copy desk where editors grabbed it. Typed over and over the full length of the paper was the word "nevertheless."1

Sightings:   On the first episode of the British television comedy Red Dwarf ("The End," original air date 15 February 1988), Rimmer is ridiculed for having loaded up with amphetamines, writing "I am a fish" across the exam paper 400 times, then passing out.

Last updated:   22 June 2011


    Bronner, Simon J.   Piled Higher and Deeper.

    Little Rock: August House, 1990.   ISBN 0-87483-154-7   (p. 28).

    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   The Mexican Pet.

    New York: W. W. Norton, 1986.   ISBN 0-393-30542-2   (pp. 199-200).

    Dorson, Richard.   "The Folklore of Colleges."

    The American Mercury.   June 1949   (p. 673).

    Grant, Rob and Doug Naylor.   Red Dwarf Omnibus.

    New York: Penguin, 1989.   ISBN 0-14-017466-4   (pp. 64-65).

    1.   Shelledy, James.   "Letter from the Editor."

    Salt Lake Tribune.   5 March 2000.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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