Exams are serious business—just ask third graders preparing for their first Common Core test. High stakes testing is happening at every level of education and is adding significant stress to students’ lives. Fortunately humor can lighten the pressure of examinations and improve performance.

In high school, I could not pass a math test. I couldn’t pass a drug test, either. There may be a correlation.        —Lynda Montgomery

Students can be alerted that the test will conclude with a humorous question (that will not be graded).

The exam is over, and you
                       a. hope this was a bad dream
                        b. should have read the book
                        c. probably should have at least bought the book
                        d. wonder if it’s too late to drop the course

There also could be a final course item.

  This is the last exam question for the course. Let’s finish the course as a winner. What comes after “c”?
                        a. Nope.
                        b. Still wrong.
                        c. Getting warmer.
                        d. Bingo: You’re a winner.

One of the cardinal principles of instructional humor is “less is more.” Examinations are serious business, and students will appreciate the occasional use of whimsical, not strong, humor. If students are smirking during an exam, then the humor was appropriate. During a test, the only person who should be laughing is the teacher.

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