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Finals Frenzy: Timing is Everything

Badger Insider readers shared their final-exam horror stories with us, and we heard everything — from studying the wrong material to misreading the exam location. Here are all of the memories we received.

March 29, 2019

Photo courtesy of UW Archives S07442

Finals Frenzy

One time during freshman year, I confidently made my way to what was my only exam that day which I was absolutely ready to crush on, having done very well in the class and even studied all day for … only to find out I had completely misread the exam time (probably all week), and missed the exam by about three hours. Of course, I immediately send the professor an email and rushed to their office to try to explain myself. I sat in complete anxiety for almost 24 hours, as the professor was busy and didn't get a chance to respond until the next morning. Ultimately, she just let me come in and take it right away the next day by myself, but I suppose she certainly didn't have to!
Jeffrey Pugh ’13, JD’16
Milwaukee, WI

As a night owl, I often studied through the wee hours in the university library study hall on the ground floor reading room on the west end of the building. One night I stayed up very late and went home to sleep a little before my final. I woke up to my phone (this was in the ’90s so it was a landline) and my friend calling to meet for breakfast. I quickly said yes and discussed where we should go. I suddenly remembered I had a final exam so I got off the phone and literally threw on some clothes. I ran from an apartment near the southeast dorms to my classroom on the first floor of Van Hise Hall in the center of campus. I realized as I rushed into my classroom that tests weren't administered in the same place! The room was EMPTY! I panicked and imagined failing my class for missing the final. I remembered that the last class I took there (Roman Civilization with classics professor Jeffrey Wills) administered its final exam on the first floor of Science Hall. In my fear induced state I ran down Bascom Hill from Van Hise to Science Hall. I entered the room as my Professor Barry Powell for my Egyptian Civilization class was beginning the slideshow portion of the blue book exam. I had time to see the slides and to write a response and thus began my final exam "just in time."
Greg Oppel ’95
Edmond, Oklahoma

I missed an economics final exam. My roommate slept with the blinds closed and missed a lot of classes. We both lived in a dorm sharing a room. I used to joke that the plants we had in the room would not make it due to lack of sunlight. I stayed up most of the night cramming for the exam and I was tired. I went to bed about 3 a.m. The exam was at 8 a.m. I woke up at 12 p.m. I walked up Bascom Hill to see if I could take the exam. The classroom was empty. I went to see the professor in his office. He was grading the exams. I was not expecting the best. I spoke to the professor and told him what happened and he laughed and said he understood. He gave me a clean copy of the exam and told me to take it in the empty classroom and told me to slip it under his office door when I was done. I was relieved. I passed the exam. It helped that I attended all of the classes and the honors breakout classes which were taught by the professor. I was honest about what happened and the professor treated me with respect. I have used that life lesson in the future. My first job after law school was as a prosecutor in Cook County, Illinois. I missed an oral argument on appeal before the First District Appellate Court in Chicago. I told my boss about what happened and why I missed the court date. I expected to get fired. My boss understood and called the chief judge at the appellate court and explained the circumstances. I was not fired and won the appeal on its merits. A life lesson from my experience as an undergraduate as a Badger has helped me throughout my career.
Adam Dabek ’76
Vernon Hills, Illinois

I was a junior living in Liz Waters in 1960. My roommate and I were both taking an economics course taught by Robert Lampman ’42, PhD’50. The night before the final exam, we studied together for a while but the evening deteriorated. Somehow we found ourselves laughing a lot and playing a card game we had invented that we called “two-handed hearts.”

In the morning, imagine our horror when we discovered our formerly trusted alarm clock told us the time allotted for the final exam was half gone. We both made a mad dash to our assigned building for the final. Even almost 60 years later, I still get a little chill when I vividly recall the embarrassment of walking past all those other students to the front of the large auditorium.

They handed me my exam and I began. Of course, when the time ended I was not even close to being finished. I was soon to discover that not only was Dr. Lampman a distinguished professor, but also a very kind man. He and his graduate assistant conferred and collected my test. Then they told me I could walk with them back to the economics department office. They handed me back my exam paper and I was able to finish.

My roommate was in another that section that did not allow her any extra time. We both got Cs.
Sally Harford Rudolph ’61
Bloomington, Illinois

I was studying for a final for an econ class and I got to the building about 8:30 in the morning. Studied all day long. Didn't even stop for lunch. At 3:00, I went to the test room and no one was there. In those days, exams schedules were posted on department bulletin boards so I went to check if I had the room wrong. Exam was scheduled that morning at 9!

I got the prof's phone number from the office and called him and explained what had happened. And that I been in an empty room studying for six-plus hours and hadn't seen or talked to anyone. For some reason, he relented, gave me his home address and said if I could come right then, he'd give me the exam at his house. So I took the exam in his living room while his family ate dinner around the corner from me. And it smelled GOOD. When he finished eating, he stood over my shoulder and read my answers while I wrote the test. Didn't say a word but his non-verbal communication made me crazy. Passed the exam and changed my major.
James Hendrickson ’68, MS’73
Wheaton, Illinois

In the spring semester of 1967, I shared an apartment with Jerry North PhD’ 66 at Thousand Apartments on the curve of Langdon. Jerry had a Monday final scheduled. We had been partying pretty hard that weekend, and it continued into Sunday morning and afternoon, and Jerry decided to hit the rack early in order to be fresh for his final and asked me to be sure to wake him up for it. I let him sleep of an hour or two and then woke him up and told him it was Monday morning and he was running late for his exam. He jumped up and looked in the mirror and said he had to shave and picked up both our razors and shaved two handed and with blood still flowing from the multiple nicks on his face he raced off to Bascom Hall for his exam. Upon arrival at Bascom Hall he couldn't understand why the door was locked and kept asking everyone he saw why it was locked on a Monday and it took several people informing him that it was actually Sunday evening before it sunk in that he had been pranked. Needless to say, I was long gone and he returned to the apartment to vent his wrath on me.
Peter Fowler ’68
Vancouver, Washington

It was in the spring of 1961 and my roommate came up with yet another creative way to study for finals. We rented a canoe at the Union and paddled out to the center of Lake Mendota to begin our studies. It was a glorious day, warm and sunny! We wore shorts and removed our shirts to soak in the sunshine. But alas, we both dozed off in deep slumbers and awoke on the far side of Mendota with a bright red lobster-like glow on our faces and chests. We made it through finals wearing the largest, softest shirts we could find!
Steven Tews ’63
Bonita Springs, Florida

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