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The Dead Grandmother/Exam Syndrome (1999) [pdf] (improbable.com)
82 points by roymurdock on Apr 19, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 9 comments



My grandmother actually died just before my Econ 101 final exam as a freshman in college.

After class I approached the prof and asked if I could reschedule the final -- earlier -- and was somewhat shocked by his incredulous reaction. I think after a couple of beats he realized I wanted to take it earlier not later and therefore relented.


We have no information on how the data was collected. If a death wasn't right before an exam, likely students wouldn't bother telling the professor. My grandpa died last term and I didn't tell any professors.

The measured death rate before exams should be compared to the expected death rate. How old is the average student, how old is their average grandma, and how many women from that period are expected to die at that age, multiplied by the fraction of the year taken up by the exam period.


My mother was diagnosed with cancer in my final semester. I couldn't concentrate to study or do my projects. I asked three professors for extra time to complete projects or take exams. Two agreed immediately. One refused until I broke down crying in his office. I always thought he was an asshole. If the data in this joke paper is real and family members are 50x more likely to die before exams, that means that for every student with a real family death, there are 50 students lying about it. So I guess my prof was just jaded from so many students lying to him.


It's bad enough that my mother requires a death certificate within a certain amount of time. [1]

That said, I had a freak accident in grad school and had a professor who expected me to call into his class from pre-op! (i.e. There are some actual asshole professors!)

[1] Edited to add: She implemented this after the same student for the third time claimed a grandmother had died right before an exam!


Wouldn't a partial explanation for the correlation be that if a relative dies earlier in the semester or over the summer the student may not mention it because they don't need accommodation?


Professors often face choices that seem to straddle a thin line between "heartless jerk" and "naive pushover."

I think this is why a few professors end up with a "drop your worst x test scores, but no rescheduling" policy.


Seriously. Lots of students are a-holes and will pull any trick that maybe gets them a better grade, and professors can't just tolerate that. Source: I am a student, and I overhear things


As someone who had relatives die just before an exam and who proceeded to write (and fail) said exam, use the deferral if you need to.


I am another person who had a grandmother die just before exams (that is the short story, the long story is far messier).

I managed to push it aside and got good grades for the exams themselves, but I felt so guilty in the weeks and months that followed that I made a real mess of the next semester (to the point that I simply had to withdraw from all my papers and take a break).

Not sure what I would do if I met/knew someone faking a death for those sort of reasons...




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