It’s Not The Solution Except When It Is

, , , , , , | Learning | April 26, 2018

There’s a stereotype that the more academically intelligent or successful you are, the less likely that you have “common sense” intelligence. This was never truer than in my chemistry exam eight years ago. Despite being part of the “nerdy” group in my class, I wasn’t feeling confident with chemistry at all. In my anxiety, the weekend before the exam I managed to complete every single past exam that I could get my hands on, dating all the way back to the mid-90s. My head was whirling with about 15 years’ worth of formulas and equations, and I finally felt ready for the exam. All that practice did pay off, as I found most of the exam fairly straightforward, right up until the last question.

It was a long question divided into multiple parts, and it started off okay, asking me standard questions like writing out the correct formula, identifying the product of the reaction, naming the molecule in question, describing its structure, and so on. Everything was fine… until the very last question completely threw me off.

The question was, “Why wouldn’t you place this molecule atop a Bunsen burner?”

I stared at the question for several minutes, completely stumped. There hadn’t been any questions on the dozens of practice exams I’d completed that were in any way reminiscent of this one. It was only worth one point, but I couldn’t think of what to write. I ended up writing something ridiculous, like, “Because Bunsen burners are hot,” or something equally stupid.

After the exam, my nerdy group of friends gathered together outside the classroom and we all pondered over that last question. None of us had figured it out; we had all been equally baffled. Then, finally, one of my friends slapped her forehead in frustration.

“Oh, my God, you guys! It was alcohol!

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