A student prepares for a college test in this January 2016 photo.
Crystal Bonvillian, Cox Media Group National Content Desk
A Maryland college student has become an unwitting internet hero after he found a loophole in his professor’s exam instructions that allowed him to bring a note card the size of a human being to class.
Reb Beatty, an assistant professor at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, wrote on Facebook last week that, each year, he allows his accounting students to bring a 3x5 note card filled with notes to class for their first exam. Unfortunately, Beatty was not specific enough about those dimensions.
One student, Elijah Bowen, showed up for the test with a note card measuring 3x5 feet. A photo taken by Beatty shows Bowen’s note card, filled with pages’ worth of both typed and neatly handwritten notes.
“As precise as I am, apparently I never specified inches, and therefore, yes, it was allowed,” Beatty wrote. “Well played, and lesson learned for me.”
Beatty’s post received more than 33,000 reactions and, as of Tuesday morning, had been shared close to 30,000 times.
A few days after he initially posted the photo, the professor clarified some issues, particularly whether his method should be considered cheating.
“Using a 3x5 inch (or foot) card/poster in an accounting course is just as much -- if not more -- a preparatory tool than a test aid,” Beatty wrote on Facebook. “The approach is that the process itself will force the student to organize his/her thoughts, put material into terminology that he/she understands, et cetera. It is NOT cheating, or going easy on students, or however you want to reference it. An accounting exam, designed effectively, requires application of concepts and proficiency in the material, not just regurgitating facts.”
Many of Beatty’s Facebook commenters praised Bowen’s initiative, with at least one person saying that he was “going places” in life.
“Love this! And the explanations from the teacher,” another woman wrote. “As an educator, and the wife of an accounting student, I agree that organization & meticulous review of concepts prepares students for application. THAT is real life.”
Bowen also reiterated some of Beatty’s points in an interview with the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, saying that he “figured it would be a win-win either way” because preparing the giant note card would be a good way to study for the exam.
“I had to refer to the card only a couple of times,” Bowen said. “It was very big. It was more comical than anything.”
The freshman told the Gazette that he wasn’t sure if Beatty would allow the giant note card, so he had a backup 3x5 inch index card, just in case. What he did know, he said, is that he was right about the professor not specifying the exact dimensions of what was allowed.
He credited Beatty with teaching him to notice tiny details such as that one.
“The professor is always telling us not to miss details or specifics, since that will throw off entire calculations,” Bowen told the newspaper.
He said he just applied that principle to Beatty’s syllabus and notes.
Beatty allowed the giant note card, but made Bowen sit in the back row so other students could not see his notes, the Gazette reported. Bowen told the newspaper that he passed the test with either a low A or a high B.
The professor told Buzzfeed News that he’s since updated his syllabus and course instructions with the correct size of the note card allowed during the exam.