Howling for a pass

20th January 1995 at 00:00
With the examinations over in Australia, teachers' days are spent marking scripts and relying on the occasional howlers in the papers to add a touch of light relief.

However, many are beginning to suspect that some of the blunders are not as innocent as they may seem.

"How else can students protest about doing exams?" said one teacher. "In some cases they include a play on words or cleverly twist arguments so that the marker might just be confused - or amused - enough to award a pass."

The student who wrote "the population problem could be solved by the regulation of all members" is suspected of being subversive rather than stupid, as is the one who observed that if a cow is fed on sunflower seeds it will produce polyunsaturated milk.

However, the vast majority of errors cannot be put down to rebellious spirit. Algebra, writes one secondary student, was the wife of Euclid; another argues that "sex and reproduction do not necessarily go hand in hand". Charles Darwin is credited with writing The Organ of the Species. Sydney is said to be "affronted by the Pacific Ocean" and days are, apparently, longer in summer because "heat causes expansion".

Religious studies has its fair share of howlers. "Get thee hens Satan, " commanded one exam candidate. Another noted that: "Unlike drink and drugs there's no recovery from religion."

Then there was the art student who described the Mona Lisa as "the most beautiful woman laid on canvas".

But the one who said Vincent van Gogh cut off his ear and sent it to a waitress in a cafe because "he wanted to hear from her" is suspected of trying it on.

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