People love daft exam mistakes. From smart-Alec responses to accidental sexual puns, the silly answers students have given in exams have entertained teachers, professors, and – later – members of the public for years.
There have been books on this topic. The Lord only knows how many articles have collected different examples. And there’s even an award that’s given out annually to the person who makes the daftest, or funniest, mistake.
Honestly, part of the charm of most of these answers is that no-one really knows whether they were supposed to be jokes or legitimate answers to test questions. We suspect that, given the stress that students are under when they sit their exams, less of them may be smartass answers than we might like to believe. Either way, some of them are very funny indeed.
So, let’s take a look through some of the sillier exam mistakes ever made – or, at least, ever made public. We hope that the test-takers don’t feel too bad about us all sharing their funny answers to exam questions.
We hope they make you laugh as much as they did us! And for a more serious look at exam mistakes, check out our article on common exam mistakes and how to avoid them.
Unfortunate Spelling Errors in Exams
Let’s start with some amusing spelling errors that you’d really probably rather avoid. However, we’re pleased that they didn’t – otherwise they wouldn’t be here for us to be laughing at them!
Back in 1999, emails were circulating around the internet (did we even have the internet back then?) that shared some of the funnier awkward answers given by poor school kids. Whilst these days, we’d probably share them in a different way, the errors remain pretty hilarious.
Awkward Spelling Errors.
One student gave an unwitting comment on the potential pains of marriage when writing that Socrates died from an “overdose of wedlock”, whilst ancient Egypt was thought by one child to be lived in by people who “all wrote in hydraulics”. Again, we’re only assuming that these were mistakes; what we do know for sure is that they are definitely wrong.
A classic of the spelling error genre was one person’s description of the exploits of Sir Francis Drake. Maybe he had in fact “circumcised the world with 100 foot clipper”, but we wouldn’t like to say for sure whether this is anatomically possible. It certainly isn’t pleasant.
Meanwhile, moving to a different time in history, one poor candidate appeared no better than the people he or she was describing when they said “in midevil times most people were alliterate”. Knowing spelling should be essential for school, precisely so that mistakes as awkward as this aren’t made again.
Two of our favourites are understandable mistakes. They are mistakes that anyone could make. Honestly, it’s probably precisely that that makes them so laugh out loud funny.
One student, describing the reasons for the success of fascism in 1930s Spain, commented that “General Franco was supported by right-wing panties”. Another, meanwhile, analysed how “in 1945, Stalin began to build a buffet zone in Eastern Europe”. If only these two were such fun-loving people!
Oh, come on – it’s funny!
Check out the most common exam mistakes!
Historical Bloopers in Test Papers
History is full of events and characters that are silly enough that we don’t really need to embellish it to make it any more farcical.
However, mistakes don’t respond to the logic of need, so here we are with some perverse and absurd variations on true events. Again, whether deliberate inventions or the product of poor exam preparation, we can’t know for sure. Let’s just hope that these people have lived down their mistakes.
Most Hilarious and Heart-breaking History Exam Mistakes
One of those ones that, whilst wrong (like really wrong), is almost poetic is a student’s comment on the British history. The sun never sets on the British Empire, they wrote, “because the British Empire is in the East and the sun sets in the West."
Honestly, whether this is a history or geography error is maybe a matter of debate. Whichever it is, it is wrong. Very very wrong.
In another answer that is as intriguing as it is funny – and just plain wrong – is one person’s analysis of the history of sexuality. Sex, writes the student, apparently from the University of Gloucestershire, “has puzzled biologists ever since it was discovered by Darwin and Mendel”. Good stuff guys – but it must have been a little tricky for them to get it on when they had never met.
Finally, our favourite historical howler might not even be so wrong after all. As one student writes, “Jesus was probably the main factor the American Civil War was fought the way it was. Not only was Jesus super cool he was really smart. He was born in 1923”.
Yeah, okay – when we said, “not even so wrong”, maybe we were being a bit generous.
Find out how to actually avoid mistakes in exams!
Scientific Slip-Ups that Shouldn’t Have Happened in Serious Tests
Yes, history is supposed to be the sort of subject that allows a bit more creative freedom. Whilst you can’t exactly make stuff up in your exams, it’s not like you’re answering multiple choice questions now, is it?
Unfortunately, somehow, people are still capable of making the most horrendous of mistakes even in that most precise of disciplines, science. ‘How?’, you ask, and ‘how indeed’, we reply. However, they happened, so you have to laugh – or else you know what will happen.
Science Exam Mistakes
So, what have we got?
According to one student, there are three types of blood vessels (this is lovely): “arteries, vanes, and caterpillars”. We’re guessing that you hardly even noticed the spelling error. Of course you didn’t!
Anyway, another accidental poet or philosopher surmised that “the Earth makes one resolution every 24 hours”. We love the idea of the Earth resolving to do things – and so often! Obviously, you know what they meant to write – right?
Again, smartass or innocent? “Parallel lines never meet, unless you bend one or both of them”. Logical, you might say, even wise. At least give them credit for their scientific – practical and pragmatic – frame of mind.
One of our favourite science exam mistakes is the answer to the question, “Explain why phosphorus trichloride is polar” – but it could be the answer to all questions of science in the universe: “God made it that way”. Well, yeah, maybe he did – where’s the mistake?
Other Silly Exam Mistakes that Might be Best Forgotten
There are hundreds of examples of these things, and new ones emerge every year: from maths errors to grammatical and punctuation errors, there are infinite resources for awkward mistakes across the whole range of different subjects.
We obviously don’t have time to cover them all here – and the chances are they won’t even stay really funny with too many. At least it is a better joke here than when you make them in your final exam, however.
To finish, here are some mistakes that come from all over the spectrum – and that you’ll hope you won’t make during the exam yourself.
It's not only you that makes mistakes by the way. Exam boards make mistakes too!
Other Silly Exam Mistakes
One student newspaper reports that some poor student spent an exam writing about gnomes – when the question really asked about genomes. We hope that this isn’t true. Luckily, it seems like it might be stretching things a bit too far (it can’t be true!).
Meanwhile, over at a different university – in business studies this time, so you can forgive them – one student was asked about the “four Ps of marketing”. The response? “Product, price, place, distribution”. Oh gosh – your teacher will always have told you to read the question properly.
Another student, potentially even in the same subject, was asked how to make British industry more globally competitive. “Put PE teachers in charge” was his answer. As good a suggestion as any, we might say.
Avoid Making the Same Daft Mistakes
Whether you’re in GCSEs or A Levels, sitting a practice test, a mock test or a university exam, we’re all going to make mistakes. The trick is to avoid as many as you can – and for them not to be made public when you do.
And whilst we laugh, don’t let yourself get dejected. A mark is a mark and there is no point in ever beating yourself up about an examination. Make sure your exam prep is perfect and that you’re well rested before the exam day – and there’s nothing else you can do.