Fact Check

The Tale of the Lost Exam Page

This story tells of a student who hatched a plan to finish his exam outside of class, only later to pretend the page had been dropped in the classroom.

Published Feb 10, 2001

Updated Aug 29, 2019
250 VCE students reading the English exam at Footscray Secondary College. Taken 1 November 1996. THE AGE A3 Picture by JOE ARMAO (Photo by Fairfax Media via Getty Images/Fairfax Media via Getty Images via Getty Images) (Fairfax Media via Getty Images)
Image Via Fairfax Media via Getty Images
A student completed his exam outside of class, returned it to the classroom and dropped it on the floor, and waited for someone to find it and turn it in.

Long have stories of various schemes been around that tell tales of crafty strategies thought up by students to achieve higher exam scores.

Author Jan Harold Brunvand documented several legendary plans of action in the 1986 book: "The Mexican Pet: More 'New' Urban Legends and Some Old Favorites." The book says that this particular scheme was quoted by Lew Girdler, "as written out for him by a student at San Jose State College who had heard it told in 1960 as something that had happened the year before."

"The student takes a test which is composed of two pages. Realizing that he doesn't know much, he spends all his time on the second page. When the period ends, he slips the first page into his notebook and hands and the second page.

Once outside the classroom, he hurriedly looks up and answers and fills in the first page. Then he takes and steps on the page. He gives this page to a friend who [has] a later class in the same room. The friend approaches the teacher after class and says that he found this 'in the back.' The teacher takes it, check through the papers collected in the morning class, and sure enough, the student's first page is missing. He grades all the papers and the student gets an A."

This tale (which dates to at least the 1950s) is a more plausible version of The Tale of the Lost Blue Book legend, both of which deal with a student who evades test questions he can't answer through the ruse of pretending that part of his exam paper was misplaced.

ThoughtCo defines a blue book as "literally a book with about 20 lined pages that college, graduate, and sometimes high school students use to answer test questions."

Another similar legend is The Tale of the Mailed Blue Book, in which a student achieves a higher exam score with two blue books, his mother, and a postmark.

Additional versions of the legend are available for reading on Google Books from Brunvand's 1986 book. One of them was played out in a television advertisement for Instant Kiwi, part of the lottery games in New Zealand:


Jeakle, Bill and Ed Wyatt. "How to College in the 90s."   New York: New American Library, 1989. ISBN 0-452-26298-4 (p. 83).

Brunvand, Jan Harold. "The Mexican Pet."   New York. W. W. Norton, 1986.

Girdler, Lou. "The Legend of the Second Blue Book."    Western Folklore: Issue 29, 1970.

Croucher, John. "Exam Scams."   St. Leonards, Australia. Allen & Unwin, 1996.

Dale, Rodney. "The Tumor in the Whale."   London. Duckworth, 1978.

Fleming, Brunvand, & Boyd (Jr.). "The Big Book of Urban Legends: Adapted from the Works of Jan Harold Brunvand."   Paradox Press, 1994.


Aug. 29, 2019: This story has been updated from an older website format, with new content added.

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

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