CHEATING IN COLLEGE
One of the worst courses I took in College was Freshman Biology. It wasn’t because I did not like the course; in fact it was a subject which I enjoyed. The problem with Freshman Biology was in its competitiveness.
About half of the students taking biology were or wanted to be, pre-med graduates. In order to get into Med School after graduation you needed to be in the top of your class. Biology was graded on a curve; ten percent of the class would get an “A” and ten percent would fail. If a student could gain an advantage over the rest of the class…he would.
It wasn’t enough for some students to study their butts off to get in the first ten percent; if they could make the next guy do poorly it would enhance their position on the curve. It did not bother me so much if someone cheated to enhance their own grade, and in fact that was not particularly easy under the professor’s watchful eyes, but when they cheated to make me fail…
How, you ask, could someone cheat to give other students a bad score?
Every two weeks we had a test which involved identifying cells under a microscope. There were ten microscopes and students had thirty seconds to identify the contents of a slide and then would have to move on to the next slide. I did miserably in these tests. It wasn’t because I didn’t study; the problem was I was terrible at adjusting the focus on the microscope. I usually identified the first slide but on the others it took me the whole time limit to focus the scope and no time for actual identification. It wasn’t until the end of the semester that I learned that the competitive pre-med hopefuls were responsible for my inability to focus on a slide. These competitive bastards after making their own identification would slam the scope all the way onto the slide so the person behind them would have difficulty focusing and identifying and be at a disadvantage on “The Curve.”
Going into the final exam, these bi-weekly quizzes had driven my average to barely passing. The final exam would account for one half of our grade. I needed a 70 to pass, and a 95 to make a “B.” A 70 was possible, a 95 was not in the cards…except…
The fraternity I was pledging had a library. The library had copies of previous final exams to help the fraternity brothers prepare. I found copies of the three previous biology final exams. Each one had the same essay question, “Ralph ate steak for dinner, explain how his body processed his dinner.”
I gambled that this year’s test would offer the same essay question and memorized every possible step of the digestion process. I memorized every enzyme, every organ and every process in the digestion system. On the day of the test I was a digestion encyclopedia.
The first essay question on the final exam…for 50% of the grade… “Ralph ate steak for dinner; explain how his body processed his dinner.”
I scored 95 on the final exam and pushed my final grade to a “B.”
Did I have an unfair advantage on the test? Did my high score disadvantage others on the class curve?