The old ones are the best

An apocryphal story was doing the rounds of the chemistry discussion groups on the internet a while ago. You can substitute your own alma mater and personal weekend hobby for greater comic effect when relating the tale.

Two undergraduate chemists at Newcastle University did very well in their mid-term exams, their practical results were squeaky clean – both were headed for a first. In fact, the two friends were so certain of their chances they spent the weekend before the crucial final fell walking and partying at a hill-top youth hostel.

Either suffering from all the fresh air or one or two more beers than they should have had on the Sunday night they didn’t make it back to Newcastle until early Monday morning. Rather than taking the crucial final they spoke to Professor Bunsen after the exam and explained that their car got a flat tyre on the way back to University and the spare was dud.


Bunsen was a lenient chap and agreed they could take the exam the following day. The friends were so relieved and studied hard that night. For the exam they were put in separate rooms and given the question booklet. Question One was a simple test of chemical reactions (5 points) and each thought the exam was going to be easy. They were unprepared, however, for what they saw on the next page. It said: “Which tyre? (95 points)”.