Our lead news story, "Use Only a Number Two Pencil, Please" (page 29) takes a look at the PE Exam—one of the toughest tests an engineer can take.
I'm sure every one of you has your own "worst exam" story. In fact, twenty years out of college I have a recurring dream in which I am taking a thermo final after not attending a single class!
That's almost as bad as a real-life take-home exam I had for an advanced heat transfer class. It met once a week, and over the course of that week I was growing increasingly frantic as the single question on the exam became increasingly more unsolvable—and it was. The instructor had inadvertently dropped a minus sign on the test question—rendering it impossible to work out. Even more disturbing to the rest of the class was the fact that a fellow student caught the error!
My husband, who ran with a rowdy undergraduate crowd, recalls one particularly diabolical exam for a differential equations class. On this particular test, none of the solutions worked out to whole numbers. So, instead of say 3U, the correct answers were always something like 2.17U or 6.12U. Years later, he's still convinced that the instructor did it on purpose as some kind of twisted revenge act.
Of course, there are times when a test goes remarkably, blessedly well. A friend of mine took an open book exam for an intro materials science course. He hadn't studied for it. Since reference materials were allowed, he borrowed textbooks from his roommate, who was majoring in materials science. Imagine his reaction when he realized that one book he brought along included every question on the test—with fully worked out solutions!
Hands down, though, the very worst test I ever took was not for engineering school at all. The final test for a learn-to-swim class required jumping off the deep end—which posed the real possibility of dying, not just flunking. (Though to be honest, one exam involving every Laplace transformation known—and a few unknown—didn't kill me, but came close.)
So I'd like to know, what's your biggest test-horror story, most worthy of a Wes Craven movie script? Drop me a line, and I'll share your experiences with readers on-line and in an upcoming edition of the magazine.