Obscenely stupid

British students can get points for writing obscenities on their state English exams, reports The Spectator.

One pupil who wrote ‘f*** off’ was given marks for accurate spelling and conveying a meaning successfully.

His paper was marked by Peter Buckroyd, a chief examiner … The chief examiner, who is responsible for standards in exams taken by 780,000 candidates and for training for 3,000 examiners, told The Times: “It would be wicked to give it zero, because it does show some very basic skills we are looking for – like conveying some meaning and some spelling.”

Via Flypaper.

About Joanne


  1. Doc Pomus used to say, “People cease to amaze me.”

  2. Richard Nieporent says:

    Joanne, I am finding it harder and harder to distinguish your blog from the Onion. This story has got to be satire.

  3. Well, that ought to put paid to some discussions of how American education is falling to pieces. I don’t think we’re that bad–yet.

  4. Dear Lord, this has to be the most ridiculous justification for idiocy that I’ve yet seen.

    By his reckoning, ALL of my students are literate – which, I assure you, they are NOT. To call gutter language, which any fool can utter (although, not, alas, spell correctly – I’ve seen the crumpled notes left behind – they are too often sadly incapable of spelling vulgarities correctly), acceptable for test purposes, signals the last SOS of a dying civilization.

  5. “To call gutter language, which any fool can utter… acceptable for test purposes, signals the last SOS of a dying civilization.”

    Absolutely. I may quote you on that, Linda, if you don’t mind.

    And, Richard, I saw the original article earlier, and also thought it must be satire.

  6. “… signals the last SOS of a dying civilization.” It’s only one of the “signals” that England has been sending these past few years.

    From the newspaper articles, it sounds like while not everyone is particularly happy about it, nobody stood up and said “this is madness!”.

  7. It’s important to note that the amount of credit for the answer is nothing close to a passing score. The point is that it wasn’t an answer that earned a zero, like a completely blank piece of paper would.

    I don’t think that the answer given IS really better than a blank paper, but saying “hey, we’ll give two points out of 27 for any answer that carries any meaning at all” isn’t really a sign that the apocalypse is upon us.

    When someone starts passing kids for similar answers, it’s a different story.

  8. When someone starts passing kids for similar answers, it’s a different story.

    I agree. I’ve had to fight tooth and nail to get plainly plagiarized papers excluded from the NY English Regents exam. Despite finding identical articles online in Wikipedia, several APs didn’t feel it merited disqualification. This, despite announcements that anyone whose cells went off would be disqualified. This seemed worse to me, somehow.

    It was only when I started saying things like, “Boy, I hope no one reports this to the state,” that the APs began to agree with me.

  9. Margo/Mom says:

    Dunno–I have known kids who thought that there was an “h” word, and who couldn’t keep straight the order of the t, c and h in the “b” word. I’d give them a couple of points.

  10. In the article I read:


    It was reported that the student received 2 points out of 27. While that’s not a passing score, I do consider that a significant number of points for ANY two word answer, let alone this particular 2-word answer.

    And the attitude of the scorer is really the alarming thing, in my opinion: He spelled it correctly! He used nice penmanship! He’s making a statement! Bravo!

    If he’d used a colored pencil we could’ve given him 2 more points for creativity.

  11. Margo:
    There isn’t an “h” word?

  12. Margo/Mom says:


    Not unless you are referring to a gardening implement.

  13. OH! Gotcha.

  14. NYC Educator,

    APs are rarely interested in handling plagiarism in my experience. Despite having clearly defined school and district policies and clear proof in the form of original sources and the student’s paper, more often than not, APs leave teachers hanging. The only cases, it seems, in which our school consistently follows the policies involved students who confess and apologize. There’s a warped lesson in that.

    At least with the Regents exam you have the threat of going to a high authority who we assume would care. How schools generally handle academic dishonesty is really appalling.

  15. “OH! Gotcha.”

    I think you misspelled it.

  16. What about the double-hockey-sticks “h” word?

  17. Bart, I get 2 points for punctuation, though.

  18. Margo/Mom says:

    What about the double-hockey-sticks “h” word? Good point. I had in mind the one that starts out “Your momma is a h_”

  19. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Wash this blog out with soap!

  20. Am I the only one that saw this story and laughed? I thought it was a perfect display of dry English humour – The student thinks he’s done something naughty but the examiner gets the last laugh by awarding him a useless grade. I’m quite sure whoever marked the exam was doing so in an ironic spirit while wearing an evil grin.

  21. NDC,

    I agree and I’m just as appalled as you are. If my daughter were caught plagiarizing, I’d want her paper invalidated, at the very least. Do you remember this?


    Doubtless such things happen far more often than we hear about.

  22. I agree with Dawn – if the student was trying to get the examiners’ goat, awarding a token score is the way to demonstrate it didn’t work. Especially with the point for spelling. (And I suspect many students would not have earned that!)

  23. Ldy Aryn says:

    This article must be a joke. No examiner for an A or O Level I had ever taken would have allowed such an entry. The student would have been called into the Headmaster’s/Dean’s Office immediately. It was NOT that long ago that I have taken my exams either. And FYI, no Proper University would have allowed such an Entry to any exam of any type either.



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