Around this time of year, academics are breathing a sigh of relief that exams (and exam marking) are over. At about the same time, newspapers often invite people to send in their students’ funniest “exam howlers”. Rather than revealing their students’ mistakes, academics on twitter have generously responded to this yearly demand for “howlers” by sharing their own exam mistakes instead. We’re only human – and everyone’s guilty of a howler or two.
Since I’ve been marking second-year exams this summer, I’ve been thinking about my own second-year exams a lot. In particular, I know that I wrote a whole History exam in which I called Cleon (the Athenian stateman, real person) Creon (character from Antigone, fictional). I don’t think I got their actions mixed up, but the name change certainly didn’t help my mark. I was also very bad at spelling the name Catiline. In fact, spelling is still not my strongest point – in my PhD thesis, I managed to spell the city Locri Epizephyrioi in four different ways. It’s very good to know I’m not the only one.