The Friday Funny: Challenge, pressure, and performance

[Oops, we both posted a Friday Funny this week, from opposite ends of the earth! Enjoy!]

It’s been back to school or college for many young people all over the world – or soon will be.

One major concern no matter where you are is how academic achievement is going to be evaluated, what the expectations are, and how high the stakes are if you flunk. Just like all evaluation really.

And we all know that there’s nothing like a little challenge and pressure to really focus the mind.

This little gem, adapted from the Joke Buddha site (further suggested adaptations and additions most welcome!), explores what real stretch exam questions might look like, in some cases with some rather drastic consequences should you fail …

Sample Exam Questions

Computer Science: Write a fifth-generation computer language. Using this language, write a computer program to finish the rest of this exam for you.

History: Describe the history of the papacy from its origins to the present day, concentrating on its social, political, economic, religious, and philosophical impact on Europe, America, Asia, and Africa. Be brief and concise, yet specific.

Electrical Engineering: You will be placed in a nuclear reactor and given a partial copy of the electrical layout. The electrical system has been tampered with. You have seventeen minutes to find the problem and correct it before the reactor melts down.

Pre-Med: You will be provided with a rusty razor blade, a piece of gauze, and a full bottle of Scotch. Remove your appendix. Don’t suture until your work until it has been inspected. You have 15 minutes.

Public Speaking: Twenty-five hundred riot-crazed protestors are storming the classroom. Calm them. You may use any ancient language except Latin, Hebrew, or Greek.

Biology: Create life. Estimate the differences in subsequent human culture if this life form had developed 500,000 years earlier, with special attention to the probable effect, if any, on the English parliamentary system circa 1750. Prove your thesis.

Civil Engineering: This is a practical test of your design and building skills. With the boxes of toothpicks and glue present, build a platform that will support your weight when you and your platform are suspended over a vat of nitric acid.

Music: Write a full piano concerto. Orchestrate and perform it with a clarinet and drum. You will find a piano under your seat.

Psychology: Based on your knowledge of their early works, evaluate the emotional stability, degree of adjustment, and repressed frustrations of each of the following: Alexander of Aphrodisias, Ramses II, and Gregory of Nicea. Support your evaluation with quotations from each man’s work, making appropriate references. It is not necessary to translate.

Chemistry: You must identify a poison sample which you will find at your lab table. All necessary equipment has been provided. There are two beakers at your desk, one of which holds the antidote. If the wrong substance is used, it causes instant death. You may begin as soon as the professor injects you with a sample of the poison. (We feel this will give you an incentive to find the correct answer.)

Sociology: Estimate the sociological problems which might be associated with the end of the world. Construct and carry out an experiment to test your theory.

Mechanical Engineering: The disassembled parts of a howitzer have been placed in a box on your desk. You will also find an instruction manual, printed in Machine Language. In ten minutes a hungry Bengal tiger will be admitted to the room. Take whatever action you feel appropriate. Be prepared to justify your actions.

Economics: Describe in four hundred words or less what you would have done to prevent the recent economic recession.

Mathematics: Derive the Euler-Cauchy equations using only a straightedge and compass. Discuss in detail the role these equations had on mathematical analysis in Europe during the 1800s.

Political Science: There is a red telephone on the desk beside you. Start World War III. Report at length on its socio-political effects, if any.

Religion: Perform a miracle. Creativity will be judged.

Art: Given one eight-count box of crayons and three sheets of notebook paper, recreate the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Skin tones should be true to life.

Physics: Explain the nature of matter. Include in your answer an in-depth evaluation of the impact of the development of mathematics on science.

Metaphysics: Describe in detail the probable nature of life after death. Test your hypothesis.

Philosophy: Sketch the development of human thought and estimate its significance. Compare with the development of any other kind of thought.

General Knowledge: Describe in detail. Be specific.

2 comments to The Friday Funny: Challenge, pressure, and performance

  • EVALUATION: Evaluate everything. You may use a random sample, but only if you can prove it is random, comprehensive, adequately sized, and uses verstehen wherever appropriate. Grading is 33% for concision, 33% for coverage, 33% for methodology, and 1% for validity.

  • Susan Kistler

    Evaluation: Use an RCT to evaluate a complex, innovative start-up program ranging across multiple contexts and systems. Elaborate upon what works, for whom, when, and in what context. Ensure that your evaluation design meets all expectations of the Program Evaluation Standards and that you adhere to the Guiding Principles for Evaluators. You have one month and $10,000 to spend. Your report should not exceed ten pages, including all appendices.