How to Get an A on Your Final Exam

How to Get an A on Your Final Exam

From Chicken Soup for the College Soul

How to Get an A on Your
Final Exam

During my senior year in college, I served as a teacher’s assistant. One of my roles was to administer and proctor the exams. The class was a freshman introductory course, which had well over five hundred students.

The students were given four exams during the semester and one cumulative final exam at the semester’s end. In order to manage these five hundred college freshmen, I had to establish rules. The rules were as follows. The exams began at exactly 9:00 A.M. The students would pick up their test booklets and blue books and proceed to a seat of their choosing. They would have exactly fifty minutes to complete the examination. At exactly 9:50 A.M., I would call out, “Pencils down!” Everyone had to stop writing immediately, put their pencils down, proceed to the front of the room and turn in their blue books. Those who did not put their pencils down at exactly 9:50 A.M. and turn in their blue books would receive an automatic F, no exceptions!

When final exam time came, the students were so indoctrinated into the system that I only needed to announce one warning at 9:40 A.M. So as the final minutes ticked away, I announced, “It is 9:40. You have ten minutes until pencils down.” Then at 9:50 A.M., I barked my last command for that semester: “It’s 9:50, pencils down. You know the rules!” And boom, all pencils went down, just like always. All 500 students stood—or was it only 499? Yes it was. Everyone filled the aisle except for one sneaky guy—a guy way up in the nosebleed section.

He was just writing and writing away. I saw him up there, but he didn’t think I could. Once again, I barked, “Pencils down everyone!” But he kept writing and writing, trying to beat my system. How dare he! Boy, would I get him! At 9:58 A.M., as I began to organize the stacks of examination packets, I saw this young man running down the aisle to surrender his exam to the table.

“Here, Mr. D’Angelo, take my blue book!” he huffed and puffed.

“I cannot accept this. You know the rules. Pencils down at 9:50 A.M., or you get an automatic F.”

“Please, Mr. D’Angelo, take my blue book!”

No! You know I can’t do that. It’s against the rules.”

“Please, please, take my blue book. I’m barely passing this class. My mom and dad will kill me if I have to repeat this class. Just take it, and no one will ever know.” A tear began to stream down his cheek.

“I’m sorry. I just can’t.” I went back to the stacks, organizing them one by one. The young man just turned and walked away with his shoulders slumped.

Now with a stack of five hundred or so blue books in my arms, I watched the freshman walk up the stairs toward the exit. Just about at the halfway point, I saw him boldly turn around, with great confidence, you might say with a hint of arrogance. He swiftly jogged down to me.

He questioned softly, “Mr. D’Angelo, do you know who I am?”

“Why no, and frankly I couldn’t care less.”

“Are you sure you don’t know who I am?” he inquired with even greater confidence. I started to get a little concerned. Was this the dean’s son? What had I gotten myself into?

“No, I’m sorry. I don’t,” I said with a little hesitation in my voice.

“Are you absolutely, 100 percent sure that you don’t know who I am?”

“For the last time, no, I don’t know who you are!”

“Well then, good!” and he shoved his blue book into the middle of the stack and ran out the door.

Tony D’Angelo

More stories from our partners