and then the Greeks built a giant talking fiberglas trout, with which they would deceive the Trojans

sometimes to see who cheats, or to entertain myself, I make different versions of the same test. I scramble the order of the answers and don’t tell the class. I also sometimes put such absurd choices down that the student is really only left with one or two options.

BUT ….for this to work, you have to actually read  the questions.

I  gave  a short quiz on the Trojan war. Most people got an A or B.  A  few took it several days later when I changed the order of the answers.

Question: Troy was in present day:   a) Turkey  b) Roast beef   c) Greece   d) Italy

Question: the Trojans were tricked by: a) a giant wooden duck   b) a talking fiberglas trout

c) a jack in the box    d) a giant wooden horse   ( is this question a gift, or what?)

Question: the king was married to:  a) male name of enemy   b) male name of enemy

c) male name of enemy      d)woman’s name

People who took the test later wrote down the exact letters for a perfect score. IF you were taking  the first test. Here are their answers.

  •   the Trojans were deceived by a talking fiberglas trout
  •  the king was married to another guy who happened to be the enemy
  •  Troy was located in present day roast beef.


Very often a second or third year student has come up to me and told me earnestly that they are no longer cheating in my class.Then they beam at me,  waiting for praise. I can imagine this behavior in the workplace. “Boss, I’ve decided not to short the register anymore.”    When I recall their grades from their cheating days they are almost always  C grades. My recommendation: If you aren’t smart enough to study, at least be smart enough to cheat off someone who knows more than you do.

Discovering someone cheating is sometimes so entertaining  that it’s a shame to call them on it. Particularly when it is rather clear that none of the cheaters actually read or were cognizant of what they wrote.  Sample translation:  ” then on the third sailor the road to the island was great and brave and many.”   I have had up to six identical translations of this sort, but the best was when someone  had scrawled some unintelligible letters.

Illegible scrawl

Like this, but more illegible

and then I had a second one :

illegible scrawl 2

yep, identical to illegible scrawl 1

and then a little later I found:

illegible scrawl identical to first twoI found a total of four. Not only were they not words, they weren’t even letters.

I put the papers in a file, marked it “CHEATERS FILE”  and put it on the overhead projector. “If you cheated, come down and talk to me about it. If you don’t, then I’ll hand it my own way.”

Eighteen students came to my desk.

Two boys came to my desk and said, ” Can we see what you have there? We aren’t sure whether we cheated.”

“Either you did all the work, and handed it to someone else to copy, or someone else did all the work, and you copied it verbatim. That’s how you tell.”

The boys conferred with one another.  ” Okay, we’ll be right back.”   They talked for awhile in whispers. ” Well, we just aren’t sure if we cheated on this one.”

I once wrote in fine print on a test that the answers were posted on the ceiling.  Lots of students never read the instructions, much less in fine print. Then I did tape the answers on the ceiling, but in print too fine to be read from the ground. I also wrote that the answers were taped under the desk.  When they looked under the desk they found a paper that said we have to stop meeting like this. The best part was noticing that at least two thirds of the class had not read the fine print.