Student creates an incredibly detailed "cheat sheet" for final exam

Originally published at: Student creates an incredibly detailed "cheat sheet" for final exam | Boing Boing


That is… strangely beautiful and captivating. Reminiscent of some of the things we did for biochem classes.


Teacher here. Allowing students to bring in a “cheat sheet” is one of the dirtiest tricks that we pull. If we said, “review the material and take detailed notes,” we’d be widely ignored, but if we say they can bring in a cheat sheet, students produce masterpieces like this.


I had cheat sheets like this for all my classes that allowed it. I wish I’d keep some of them. I had classmates wanting to make photocopies for themselves but because I wrote them in pencil (fine pencil lead let me write smaller than with ink) they didn’t copy very well.

As noted, creating them is actually quite helpful in learning the material. The downside of course is that finding things during the exam is less than efficient.


I had a teacher who gave us the final exam the week before, and said “if you can memorize the answers, I will accep that.” So we all studied for a week, and figured out the right answers, and probably only realized that we had learned the stuff After the exam. Crafty teachers…


I am reminded of this urban legend (Cal Tech lore) where the physics professor allowed the students to create a cheat sheet. The student met up with the the professor’s colleague, Richard Feynman, and shared with him his thought and plan for exam day where the student would bring in a blank piece of paper, place it on the floor, and have Feynman stand on that piece of paper and coach the student through the exam. Feynman agreed to the plan.


I once saw a classmate bring in a cheat sheet he’d written in blue pen, then overwritten with more notes written in red pen. He brought two pieces of cellophane into the exam; one red, one blue. He put the blue cellophane on the paper to read the red ink, and vice-versa. Clever.


Two problems, the size of the magnifying glass I would need would be huge and I can’t read my own writing at normal size.

I know that’s legitimate cheating but the only real cheating I ever did was maybe witting a fromula down. To this day I still have to look up ohm’s law, not that I need it much but it was an entire electronic course. I couldn’t even remember the stupid triangle helper for ohm’s law. Probably why I never amounted to much, that and the weed. Wait a minute…


Ditto. Once they’ve prepared their cheat sheets, most of my students could probably ace the exam without ever looking at the cheat sheet. But they don’t realize that.


I let the students bring in an index card with F=ma written on it. This is why physics is cooler than chemistry, and also why I was extremely popular.


For one AP Physics exam long ago, I kept muttering the relevant equations to myself up until the test began, then quickly scribbled them on the margins. Short term memory FTW! Alternately, in a study group friends and I started turning equations into silly jingles. The jingles stuck better than the dry as dust straight equations, to this day I still remember Avocado Pie! and nert - gert - dirt.


I recently found an algebra cheat sheet that i stuck in the lid of my calculator in the early 90s. not as complicated but same idea. ha.


This student’s handiwork doubles as a refutation to the Flynn + MyPillow guy’s crazy whiteboard.


I remember doing something like this for university exams, but rather than doing it by hand, I used OpenOffice and LaTeX, squeezed everything onto IIRC eight sides of A4 and then shrank the whole lot down to print it out as four ‘pages’ per side. It was incredibly useful not to have to remember formulae and methods - exams are supposed to test ability to use what we have learned, not be a stupid memory test.


For Avogadro’s number, we were taught it as 6.022 x 10^23 but as a teen I thought it was more memorable as “602 sextillion”.


My first cheat sheets were done with dot-matrix printers and a small font. With the introduction of laser printers I was able to bring down the font size significantly while still being legible, allowing for letters that were much smaller than any handwriting.


I was a computer science major, not an engineer, but we did use Ohm’s law a lot in one class where we got deep into generalized architecture. For the duration of the class, and probably a few weeks afterwards, I knew it really well, but haven’t needed it since, so it’s been removed from my cache to make that memory space available for things I am using. :slight_smile:


My PhD advisor would do this for his classes. We would collect them along with the exams (so everyone would have to prepare their own, which as others have mentioned is the subtle trick instructors play). Next class session we’d show off some of the exceptional cards and give out prizes (usually leftover halloween candy) for things like “best use of color”, “most compact writing”, “most organized”. Good fun.


I used a similar method for my engineering exams. I would regularly build a proper cheat sheet, prioritizing difficult to remember constants and formulae. Right up until I was handed the test, I’d review the notes to keep them in my head.

The moment I was given the exam to start, I’d clearly put away the sheet and then flip over the exam and re-write the relevant material so that I didn’t have to keep referencing it.

Speaking from my experience, the problem with these really big cheat sheets is that it can really encourage you to focus on the rote reference of things, where the distillation and recontextualization of the notes is a really valuable part. I’ve had many colleagues and students bring in really detailed cheat sheets like this and… they spend so much of the exam struggling to read and recreate the point, rather than just going down to their quick reference. I’ve never had a student who took that path who actually really outperfomed because of it; there’s something more valuable in being able to summarize the class material by hopping on one foot.


OH… That is why I failed this organic chemistry test! I had brought my QAnon cheatsheet by accident!