Humor can reduce test anxiety. As described in previous posts, humor in examinations may include using culture references in application-based questions, adding a funny choice “e” alternative, or finishing a test with a humorous “final” item.

Another option is to add silly or whimsical instructions to test directions.

The use of a #2 pencil is recommended because a #3 could cause carpal tunnel syndrome.

Keep your eyes on your own paper—it makes your writing more legible for classmates to peek and copy.

If you don’t have a # 2 pencil, you may use two #1 pencils.

A potential drawback to using funny test instructions is that students often take directions literally. Forewarning that humor appears in the exam should make it less likely that students without a #2 pencil will ask the teacher for a Valium.

An alternative to humorous instructions is the inclusion of a lighthearted quote about test-taking.

A burp is not an answer. —Bart Simpson

The instructional humor principle of “less is more” applies to humor in exams. The safest time to add humor to assessment is when performance isn’t recorded, like practice quizzes or classroom activities. It’s never fun to get a bad grade because of funny.




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