"idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

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"idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby skullturf » Fri Jun 27, 2008 4:13 pm UTC

Hi everyone,

Most of you have probably come across something that might have been called a "reading comprehension test" or "idiot test" or something like that. As a newbie, I'm not supposed to post links here, so I've copied and pasted an example of the kind of test I mean. Maybe some of you actually did a test like this in school at one time.

-------

Test
You have only three minutes to answer these questions.

1. Read everything before doing anything.
2. Put your name on the upper right hand corner of this paper.
3. Circle the word "name" in sentence two.
4. Draw five small squares in the upper left-hand corner of this paper.
5. Put an "x" In each square.
6. Put a circle around each square.
7. Sign your name under the title.
8. After the title write "yes, yes, yes".
9. Put a circle around each word In sentence no. 7.
10. Put an "x" in the lower left hand corner of this paper.
11. Draw a triangle around the "x" you just put down.
12. On the reverse side of this paper multiply 703 by 9805.
13. Draw a rectangle around the word "paper" in sentence number 4.
14. Call out your first name when you get to this point in your paper.
15. If you think you have followed directions up to this point In the test, call out "I have".
16. On the reverse side of the paper add 8950 and 9850.
17. Put a circle around your answer.
18. Count out loud In normal speaking voice backwards from ten to one.
19. Now that you have finished reading, do only steps one and two.

-------

You're all bright people and I'm sure you all "get" the idea of the test. Nevertheless, it was pointed out recently to me that one can argue that the directions are ambiguous or even contradictory.

Instruction 1 says "Read everything before doing anything", the implication being that you should first READ instructions 2 through 19 and then PERFORM instructions 2 through 19. The intended "smart" response is, when you read instruction 19, to immediately decide not to perform any of instructions 3 through 18. However, the very decision not to perform instructions 3 through 18 is the result of PERFORMING instruction 19. Why should you PERFORM instruction 19 as soon as you read it?

What do you folks think?
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby Rippy » Fri Jun 27, 2008 4:28 pm UTC

I remember reading something that was supposed to be a true story, that was very similar to this. A professor gave his students this really hard exam, with explicit instructions to read through the entire exam before starting it. At the very end of the exam there was a message along the lines of "There is no exam. Upon reading this, you may quietly exit the room." And, to the students' bewilderment, one student just got up and left right at the start of the exam. They realized why several hours later.

I've probably mangled how it actually goes, but that's close enough. What a way to get the point across, though.
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby Toeofdoom » Fri Jun 27, 2008 4:30 pm UTC

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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby SecondTalon » Fri Jun 27, 2008 4:32 pm UTC

I always hated this shit whenever an educator would do it in some idiotic attempt to have students consider everything before drawing a conclusion, then never actually following up on the lesson taught by this exam.

So the only thing I learned is "People in power will dick you around for no apparent reason every now and again simply because they can. Enjoy!"
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby Ramses IV » Fri Jun 27, 2008 4:33 pm UTC

My brother's math teacher did this. But the last instruction was "Now that you have finished reading, do only steps one and two, and turn your paper over." My bro turned it over and sat quietly as everyone called out their names and everything.

EDIT: Also, I agree with toe and Talon. It's a stupid thing to do.
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby 22/7 » Fri Jun 27, 2008 4:48 pm UTC

Toeofdoom wrote:What do I think? I think we've learned something today.

This. It's not witty, it's not complicated, it's just poorly worded.
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby Nyssa » Fri Jun 27, 2008 5:26 pm UTC

I've always enjoyed this little test. I first took it in fourth grade, and me being who I am... didn't read it in advance, just rushed through it to finish it as soon as possible. When I went to turn it in, the teacher stamped it with a huge red stamp, reading "RONG!"

It really made me slow down more, look over things I was doing before attempting them (well, most of the time). I am one of those people who rushes through every task in life, and it really was a valuable lesson (for me).
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby Azrael001 » Fri Jun 27, 2008 5:34 pm UTC

I got almost that exact test. Luckily my dad told me the story of when he had a similar test and I recognized the format. I read the thing and did it correctly.
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby skullturf » Fri Jun 27, 2008 5:45 pm UTC

To an extent I agree with those of you who cited xkcd comic #169. At the same time, though, I can see how being faced with a test like this in elementary school or junior high can be a neat little lesson. My suspicion is that when many people write the test, the first instruction (read everything before doing anything) doesn't even register at all (maybe because it's not asking for something "concrete"?) and so they essentially ignore that first instruction, which isn't a great habit to have.

I guess the main reason I started this thread, though, is that I was really interested in the quasi-contradiction inherent in the test, that I hadn't really noticed before. Even if you go through the test paying close attention, following everything carefully and literally, one could argue that the instructions are ambiguous or contradictory, that it's not clear that the "correct" hyper-literal interpretation would indeed consist of only doing steps 1 and 2.
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby asanisimasa » Fri Jun 27, 2008 5:48 pm UTC

I remember doing this in elementary school. I was one of the only people who actually read it all and didn't do everything it said.
I agree that it's silly and just "communicating badly and then acting smug when you're misunderstood." But I guess I've always enjoyed things like that.

You're right that in the example you gave 19 is technically a step, so it instructs you to not do it, which contradicts itself. You could solve that by just not labeling 19 as one of the 'steps,' but afterward as part of the overall instructions.
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby Sartorius » Fri Jun 27, 2008 5:51 pm UTC

I had a similar experience in elementary school. We were given a sheet to color according to guidelines that the teacher would tell us. The first step was to color something next to the blue pot. I remember being thoroughly confused since there was no color, assuming that we were supposed to color the pot blue, and then I proceeded to color as the teacher read the steps aloud.

In the end we weren't supposed to color anything, since there wasn't originally a blue pot.
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby silent man » Fri Jun 27, 2008 6:04 pm UTC

I may have missed something, but I don't see a contradiction. Instruction 1 says: "Read everything before doing ANYTHING.", meaning you should read all futher intstructions before following any of them.
If it said: "Read everything before doing EVERYTHING." then, yes there would be a contradiction, but as it is, instruction 1 leaves it open which, if any, of the instructions you should follow.

Or you can be annoying and argue that since step 19 does not tell you to follow step 19 itself, you should ommit it, too but I think we all know where that leads.
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby benjhuey » Fri Jun 27, 2008 6:20 pm UTC

So basically it's telling you to put your name on the paper and follow directions which you should be doing anyway.

I know high school kids who still have trouble writing their own names despite years of teachers reminding them to do it.
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby Roland Lockheart » Fri Jun 27, 2008 6:29 pm UTC

I'll agree here, these are not clever and more or less amount to playing lame practical jokes.
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby KevorkianKat » Fri Jun 27, 2008 6:57 pm UTC

My version of the test I got back in high school or junior high said "Read everything first". I sorta cheated though because the person next to me handed theirs in right away before I even got to reading it, it also didn't have that part as a step and the end of the test just said "hand this in with your name and nothing else and you will receive 100".
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby Sir_Elderberry » Fri Jun 27, 2008 7:08 pm UTC

My teacher gave us this test, then several months later gave us a test that had, as what would here be #18 "Ignore the instruction below and do all of the tasks as usual." Everyone was looking at me like I was an idiot because I anticipated this kind of thing while they all just read the last one. Who's laughing now, 7th grade science class?
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby Mmmm, Pi » Fri Jun 27, 2008 7:09 pm UTC

Sir_Elderberry wrote:My teacher gave us this test, then several months later gave us a test that had, as what would here be #18 "Ignore the instruction below and do all of the tasks as usual." Everyone was looking at me like I was an idiot because I anticipated this kind of thing while they all just read the last one. Who's laughing now, 7th grade science class?

Now that's a clever idea. I'll have to remember that if I ever become a teacher.
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby 4=5 » Fri Jun 27, 2008 7:14 pm UTC

this one is slightly easier to obey
the problem with the other one is it converted step one into a suggestions instead of a command by removing the number.

This test has a poorly designed user interface.
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby Ansible » Fri Jun 27, 2008 8:13 pm UTC

I had a similar test in middle school. At the end of a small instructional paragraph it said, "the answer is A for all of the even questions and B for all of the odds." I counted around 7 out of 25 students who caught this and finished early.
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby Rat » Fri Jun 27, 2008 8:43 pm UTC

my biology teacher pulled some shit like that once... she gave us a test and said something along the lines of "you should all get A's except for a few of you.."

but what she was TRYING to say was that all the answers were 'a' except for a few of them...

i did kind of bad on that test...
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby Outchanter » Fri Jun 27, 2008 8:55 pm UTC

Sartorius wrote:I had a similar experience in elementary school. We were given a sheet to color according to guidelines that the teacher would tell us. The first step was to color something next to the blue pot. I remember being thoroughly confused since there was no color, assuming that we were supposed to color the pot blue, and then I proceeded to color as the teacher read the steps aloud.

In the end we weren't supposed to color anything, since there wasn't originally a blue pot.

Your interpretation sounds reasonable to me. What's more probable, that the teacher made a silly mistake, or that the teacher is testing the ability of kindergarten students to follow a precise algorithm which depends on that fact that "A implies B" is true if A is false?

Sir_Elderberry wrote:My teacher gave us this test, then several months later gave us a test that had, as what would here be #18 "Ignore the instruction below and do all of the tasks as usual." Everyone was looking at me like I was an idiot because I anticipated this kind of thing while they all just read the last one. Who's laughing now, 7th grade science class?

Except then the instruction below tells you to ignore the instruction telling you to ignore the instruction below. Which one do you believe?

11. Ignore the instruction below. Follow only instructions 3, 7 and 10.
12. No, ignore the instruction above! Carry out instructions 2 and 5, except where 5 contradicts with 2.
13. Don't trust any of the instructions. It's a conspiracy, man! Don't follow this instruction either!
14. If your name begins with a D, K, or L, follow the instructions in column 2 of the attached blue table. Otherwise, look up the instructions in row 5 of the yellow table and do the opposite.
...
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby wing » Fri Jun 27, 2008 9:19 pm UTC

I had an instructor who did something similar to this (except it was less ambiguous. The "Don't do anything" step was AFTER the instructions list, not a part of it, and the initial prompt read "Read the entire test before performing any action. Consider the following instructions: )

The same guy also had a habit of throwing several all-answers-are-C scantron tests in. In comical fashion, most students would second guess the hell out of themselves and choose bizzarre answers to the simplest things just to avoid having all-C.
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby Spoffin » Sat Jun 28, 2008 3:46 am UTC

skullturf wrote:Hi everyone,

Most of you have probably come across something that might have been called a "reading comprehension test" or "idiot test" or something like that. As a newbie, I'm not supposed to post links here, so I've copied and pasted an example of the kind of test I mean. Maybe some of you actually did a test like this in school at one time.

-------

Test
You have only three minutes to answer these questions.

1. Read everything before doing anything.
2. Put your name on the upper right hand corner of this paper.
3. Circle the word "name" in sentence two.
4. Draw five small squares in the upper left-hand corner of this paper.
5. Put an "x" In each square.
6. Put a circle around each square.
7. Sign your name under the title.
8. After the title write "yes, yes, yes".
9. Put a circle around each word In sentence no. 7.
10. Put an "x" in the lower left hand corner of this paper.
11. Draw a triangle around the "x" you just put down.
12. On the reverse side of this paper multiply 703 by 9805.
13. Draw a rectangle around the word "paper" in sentence number 4.
14. Call out your first name when you get to this point in your paper.
15. If you think you have followed directions up to this point In the test, call out "I have".
16. On the reverse side of the paper add 8950 and 9850.
17. Put a circle around your answer.
18. Count out loud In normal speaking voice backwards from ten to one.
19. Now that you have finished reading, do only steps one and two.

-------

You're all bright people and I'm sure you all "get" the idea of the test. Nevertheless, it was pointed out recently to me that one can argue that the directions are ambiguous or even contradictory.

Instruction 1 says "Read everything before doing anything", the implication being that you should first READ instructions 2 through 19 and then PERFORM instructions 2 through 19. The intended "smart" response is, when you read instruction 19, to immediately decide not to perform any of instructions 3 through 18. However, the very decision not to perform instructions 3 through 18 is the result of PERFORMING instruction 19. Why should you PERFORM instruction 19 as soon as you read it?

What do you folks think?

I think that for that test, by answering all the questions, you should get 18/19, or 17/19 if you did them in order without reading them first. You certainly shouldn't get zero, because as you point out, there's nothing special about number 19. Whether you get 3/19 or 19/19 for answering them the way the teacher wanted depends on how good your logic is. Kobayashi maru.
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby Mo6eB » Sat Jun 28, 2008 7:59 am UTC

Spoffin wrote:
skullturf wrote:*Post body removed to keep thread more compact. See first post.*

I think that for that test, by answering all the questions, you should get 18/19, or 17/19 if you did them in order without reading them first. You certainly shouldn't get zero, because as you point out, there's nothing special about number 19. Whether you get 3/19 or 19/19 for answering them the way the teacher wanted depends on how good your logic is. Kobayashi maru.


I would first ask if all problems have the same weight. If they do, then doing 1 through 18 should get you a higher score than doing 1, 2 and 19. Of course, this test being what it is, problems 3 through 18 should have a weight of 0.

P.S. Thinking some more about it, giving a test with lots of contradicting instructions and assigning the same weight to all of them would be interesting - you'd have to figure out the largest set of non-contradicting instructions. I'm not sure whether you should fail people who solve two or more contradicting problems, or just give no points for those.
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby Insignificant Deifaction » Sat Jun 28, 2008 8:32 am UTC

I received this test once. . .

I wrote a sentence in the blank space at the bottom:

"Why should I follow [instruction #19], and not [instructions #3-18]?"

I did not get perfect marks, or even very good marks. Failing.

Which leads me to Second Talon's conclusion: Sometimes people dick around with you because they can.
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby Ubercomrade » Sun Jun 29, 2008 4:54 am UTC

skullturf wrote: 18. Count out loud In normal speaking voice backwards from ten to one.
19. Now that you have finished reading, do only steps one and two.


I like it how this particular test is designed to make the 'idiot' sound right before finishing:
"Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Five. Four. Three. Two. One. ... AAAAAAAGGGHHHHHHH!!!"
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby Outchanter » Mon Jun 30, 2008 12:33 am UTC

Mo6eB wrote:P.S. Thinking some more about it, giving a test with lots of contradicting instructions and assigning the same weight to all of them would be interesting - you'd have to figure out the largest set of non-contradicting instructions. I'm not sure whether you should fail people who solve two or more contradicting problems, or just give no points for those.

That sounds like the Maximum Satisfiability problem, which is NP-hard.

Would it be fair to gives students a problem that can't be solved before the death of the universe? Although there are probably faster approximate algorithms if you just want a decent grade.
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby The Hyphenator » Mon Jun 30, 2008 1:54 am UTC

Outchanter, is it bad that I took the time to thoroughly analyze the inkblot in your avatar? To me, it's two demons, each having two tails, a short, stubby one and a beaver-like one. They are holding their arms out in a sort of shrug. You can tell they're demons because of the horn-like things coming out of the backs of their heads.

Anyway... :oops:

My teacher gave us this problem in 7th grade, and I failed it, along with >90% of the class. Good thing she didn't take it for a grade. :)
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby Jadestone » Mon Jun 30, 2008 2:13 am UTC

We got this in 7th grade, I took one look at the first instruction and skipped down to 19. I don't know if I'd heard about it, taken it in an earlier grade, or if I'd figured out all my teachers at that point (a week into school or so, or maybe it was a substitute around the third week).

My bio teacher last year would have stuff in the instructions like "draw a fish by your name for an extra point" or "the answer to number 7 is C," it was nice because you didn't get points off for missing them but could get them back. I don't know how some people could forget to read the directions every time we took a test/quiz knowing something like this was hidden in it.

Outchanter wrote:[wordswordswords]
11. Ignore the instruction below. Follow only instructions 3, 7 and 10.
12. No, ignore the instruction above! Carry out instructions 2 and 5, except where 5 contradicts with 2.
13. Don't trust any of the instructions. It's a conspiracy, man! Don't follow this instruction either!
14. If your name begins with a D, K, or L, follow the instructions in column 2 of the attached blue table. Otherwise, look up the instructions in row 5 of the yellow table and do the opposite.
...


I... I would so do this if I ever taught (if I do ever end up teaching... oh those poor children). They would know better than to annoy me by the end of the year...
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby Rat » Mon Jun 30, 2008 2:19 am UTC

The Hyphenator wrote:Outchanter, is it bad that I took the time to thoroughly analyze the inkblot in your avatar? To me, it's two demons, each having two tails, a short, stubby one and a beaver-like one. They are holding their arms out in a sort of shrug. You can tell they're demons because of the horn-like things coming out of the backs of their heads.


it's all just boobs, penises and vaginae
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby muffin of doom » Mon Jun 30, 2008 2:36 am UTC

Jadestone wrote:My bio teacher last year would have stuff in the instructions like "draw a fish by your name for an extra point" or "the answer to number 7 is C," it was nice because you didn't get points off for missing them but could get them back. I don't know how some people could forget to read the directions every time we took a test/quiz knowing something like this was hidden in it.


As a teacher whose students show an amazing ability to not read directions, I like this idea. Maybe I will try it next time I have to give a test.

Regarding the original post, I agree that number 19 creates a contradiction. I think it would be better to change the format so that the "don't follow steps 3-18" bit is not part of the list at all.
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby Insignificant Deifaction » Mon Jun 30, 2008 2:46 am UTC

@The Hyphenator:

It's just Cee Lo's face doubled and moving at a diagonal down-out, making room for the next inkblot in the sequence, from Gnarls Barkley's Crazy. . .
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby Megatriorchis » Mon Jun 30, 2008 4:22 am UTC

I like tests like this, because I always just skipped to the bottom. And then my teachers gave me prizes for thinking ahead.

Haha.
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby '; DROP DATABASE;-- » Mon Jun 30, 2008 5:30 am UTC

I had this once, but it was poorly worded, and failed to point out that we weren't supposed to actually do the other steps. >_> The last step was simply something like "Turn the paper over and wait" and the instructions said to read them all before doing anything, so of course the impression was we were to turn the paper over once we'd finished.
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby ian » Mon Jun 30, 2008 2:07 pm UTC

Sir_Elderberry wrote:My teacher gave us this test, then several months later gave us a test that had, as what would here be #18 "Ignore the instruction below and do all of the tasks as usual." Everyone was looking at me like I was an idiot because I anticipated this kind of thing while they all just read the last one. Who's laughing now, 7th grade science class?


If you aren't doing the steps in order number, why should you do step 18 before step 19?
(Note, I'd say you were right, as once you have read through the test you should then proceed through the steps, it's more a point that in the first test the teacher expects you to perform step 19 before steps 3 to 18, and on that basis you should be able to do the same again. The first test is just ridiculous.)
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby TizzyFoe » Mon Jun 30, 2008 4:22 pm UTC

i was always good at these types of test, but they are kind of silly/stupid

also this one is logically flawed. if you do step 14 or 15 (the ones that tell you to do something now) you fail step 19. If you do step 19 you fail 15 and 14. Step one only tells you to read everything before doing anything. It does not tell you to ignore steps 14 or 15 in favor of future steps nor does it tell you that step 1, itself, is more important then future steps.

Actually i would argue that steps 14 and 15 should be carried out. In (almost) all real world situations, if an authority figure tells you to do A, then later tells you to do B, which conflicts with A, you do B anyway. for example, if a cop tells you not to move, then tells you to put your hands on you head, It is assumed that you can now move you hands but only onto you head.
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby LE4dGOLEM » Mon Jun 30, 2008 4:26 pm UTC

I had something like this, but still finished long before anybody else and erased all my previous answers still before anyone else finished.
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby mstrzerg » Mon Jun 30, 2008 5:44 pm UTC

My biology teacher used to do something like this to catch "cheaters" One of the things he always stressed before tests was that he considered it cheating to talk to anyone about the test if they had that class later in the day. He was very suspicous when the morning period class did very poorly on a test and the afternoon period did significantly better. So he wrote in the instructions to the test that one of the answers was marked wrong in the key and everyone should just mark A and he'd give the class a free point. Then at the front of the class he made a point that everyone should read the instructions. For the afternoon period he changed the instructions so it said to mark B instead. Needless to say he was very mad when the afternoon class had numerous people who had selected A. Personally, I thought he was just being an ass considering the various flaws of this type of test and I definetly didn't think it was clever.
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby Random832 » Mon Jun 30, 2008 5:49 pm UTC

The correct response: Read steps 1 through 19. Do steps 2 through 18 (step 1 having been the reading). Read steps 1 through 19 again, as step one as part of step 19. Do step 2 again (but not the rest of the steps). Explain what you have done so you do not fail.
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Re: "idiot test" aka "read everything before doing anything"

Postby The Hyphenator » Mon Jun 30, 2008 6:40 pm UTC

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