Stressed student sitting in a classroom at a table while doing a test

I Guess Students Aren’t in the Mood for Humor During a Test

Today I gave my fifth test in my Management Accounting course, and like I have done for several years, I usually try to use the last multiple choice question as an attempt at humor.

Here is the question:

After completing this course, I have decided to

A) Sell my textbook back to the bookstore AND get in an argument with the sales clerk that the original purchase price IS a relevant cost
B) Quit attending Villanova because the opportunity cost of going to college is too high to justify my tuition and housing expenses
D) Recommend dropping the football program because it is unprofitable, even at the segment margin level

OK, so I know it’s not as funny as a Sebastian Maniscalco routine, but you think accounting humor is easy?

Sunk costs, opportunity costs, and segment reporting/analysis are all part of the course. I mention to the class on day one of the semester that I am a vegan, and that’s usually the last time I mention it while teaching.

There is no wrong answer to the question; any answer the student selects is given full credit. When I made up the question, to me it was obvious that it was a nonsensical question.

However, there are usually a few students who aren’t quite sure, and come up to me during the test and ask me if the question is a serious one. And I get the sense that there are other students who aren’t quite sure, but are too hesitant to ask. I can tell when I grade the tests, particularly when I notice that students have changed their answer to the question.

I understand that students get stressed when taking a test, and while that may increase their ability to focus, I think it can also lead to some poor decision making. So I try to relieve that stress level a bit with my feeble attempt at humor.

In a previous post I shared my other attempt at humor during test time. While the students are taking their first test of the semester, when there is still about 25 minutes left, I make an announcement that there is only 10 minutes left. Oftentimes there is an audible gasp, as the students realize they are not going to finish the test in time. I wait a couple of seconds and say, “Just kidding.” At that point, there are many audible sighs of relief, and usually lots of grinning faces around the room. I think it helps break the tension that is in the room, and allows the students to perhaps see things with a fresh perspective.

Of course, all of the above is conjecture.

Perhaps there’s nothing funny about what I do; but that’s not going to stop me from using the same jokes every semester…

P.S. By the way, as another sign that students aren’t quite sure if the multiple choice question from above is a serious one, the most popular answer is usually “C”. Nothing like trying to get on the teacher’s good side…

P.S.S. A little Sebastian:

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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