Exam Horror Stories

Cite this Article
Thomas A. Lambert, Exam Horror Stories, Truth on the Market (January 04, 2008), https://truthonthemarket.com/2008/01/04/exam-horror-stories/

Many TOTM readers are students or professors, so it’s likely that there are a number of examination horror stories out there among the readership. As we professors finish up earning our pay grading exams, I thought I’d share a couple of my own horror stories — one as a professor and another as a student — and see if I can get others to contribute theirs.

First, the professor story.

Last semester was pretty rough for me (I took a new administrative position, which has greatly reduced my blogging time — New Year’s resolution: Blog more!). To celebrate the end of the semester, I decided to spend a few days in my favorite European city, Amsterdam. I was to leave on December 26 from Knoxville, Tennessee, where my family lives. Since I didn’t have time to finish my grading before heading to my parents’ house, I had to take with me a small suitcase full of Contracts exams. When I arrived at the Knoxville airport on December 26, my flight to Detroit (from which I would connect to Amsterdam) was delayed. Realizing that my window for making a connection in Detroit would be mighty short, I decided to check only my clothes suitcase and take the exam suitcase as a carry-on. Prudent, I thought.

When I reached Detroit, I had to race to catch the Amsterdam flight. I barely made the flight and was told as I was entering the plane that the overhead compartments were full and that I would have to gate-check my carry-on bag (the exams). No problem, I thought, as I could see the gate-checked bags being loaded onto the plane.

When I arrived in Amsterdam, I went to baggage claim and was surprised but pleased to see my larger clothes suitcase on the carousel. Wow, I thought. Northwest Airlines is amazing. They managed to transfer my luggage from the Knoxville-Detroit flight in about 10 minutes. Within a few minutes, though, my enthusiasm for Northwest waned, as I realized my gate-checked exam suitcase was not in the offloaded luggage. It waned even further when I took my claim check to the baggage office and was told there was no record of my missing bag in Northwest’s system.

At that point, I started to panic, but the nice Dutch man behind the counter assured me that the bag must have been left on the steps in Detroit and would be on the next flight to Amsterdam, which was to arrive at 5:55 AM the following morning.

After a fitful night’s sleep, I called the baggage office at the Amsterdam airport to check on my bag. I was disheartened to learn that the bag was not on the morning flight from Detroit and had not been scanned into the Northwest Airlines system. Still no record of the bag’s existence.

I had to do something, so I grabbed a train to Schiphol Airport and convinced the security folks to let me into the bowels of the airport, where unclaimed bags reside. I searched through all the unclaimed luggage, but mine was nowhere to be seen. I also waited around for the next flight from Detroit. No bag.

At that point, I began preparing for the worst. As I wandered through the city for the rest of the afternoon, I composed in my head an email to the dean and associate dean explaining that I had lost all of my Contracts exams. It was not going to be pretty.

When I finally returned to my hotel room at around 4:30 PM, I had a letter from the front desk: “Dear Mr. Lambert, Your luggage has been found and will be returned to the hotel between 16:00 and 20:00 this evening.” I immediately ordered champagne.

Around 6:00 PM, my luggage and I were reunited (and it felt so good!).

Reunited (for blog)

Next, the student story.

The exam for my own Contracts course (taught by Larry Lessig) was a four-hour take-home exam. At that time, the University of Chicago Law School allowed students taking take-home exams to state in advance what their travel time would be to and from the law school. That amount of time was added to one’s allotted exam-taking time. Since I was taking my exam in the law school library, I gave myself only 10 minutes to get to and from my study carrel. This meant I’d turn in my exam earlier than most students, who drove home to take their exams.

About halfway through the exam, I realized I was running woefully short on time. I therefore flew through the remainder of the exam and rushed to the registrar’s office to turn in my diskette. When I arrived, no students were around, but that didn’t strike me as odd, since I figured most were in transit.

As I handed the diskette to the registrar, she said, “Wow. An hour early. Impressive.” I looked at the clock on the wall and freaked out as I realized I was wearing a watch set on Eastern time. I retrieved the diskette from the registrar, ran back to the library, and tried to do a little more work on the thing. I was so flustered, though, that nothing in the exam or my answer made any sense. I ultimately ejected the disk, turned the thing in, and drove home.

As it turns out, Contracts was my highest first-year grade. Perhaps I should’ve spent less time on the other exams!

Anyone else got an examination horror story to share?