The 3 Awful Types of Science Lab Questions

ScienceLabFunnyOf all of your school classes, science is perhaps the most unusual. And when I say unusual, I’m not talking about the fact that your science teacher lives in an environmentally conscious aluminum foil teepee and bikes to work, nor the fact that it’s the only class where you don’t fail if your lab sheet “burned up in a fire.”

No, what’s most unusual about science class is the fact that half of the class consists of “Labs.”

Now, maybe you don’t think that labs are all that unusual. But think about it for a second.

I mean, what if you had a lab in history class? “Okay, guys, we’re gonna go to the back of the room and drop a bunch of multi-ethnic nationalistic mice in the plexiglass box to simulate the Serbian ‘powder-keg’ of Europe. Make sure you keep your safety goggles on the whole time.”

Or, how about a lab in English class? Step 1: add five metaphors or similes to your first paragraph. Step 2: Add a personification to the best metaphor or simile. Step 3: Analyze the result; what does it mean if the clouds were “like angry opossums instagramming pictures of gas prices and breakfast foods?”

Now do you think labs are pretty unusual? At least they just expect you to memorize the already-proven laws in math class. With labs, you’re expected to prove theories that have already been formulated and then memorize them.

But the worst part of labs is not that they might be pointless, because if you’re burning and exploding things at least you’re not falling asleep in class (hopefully). No, the worst part of labs is their somewhat awkward procedures and their unfocused, predictable questions.

And these analysis questions can seem unanswerable.

The Simple Questions

Some lab questions are incredibly obvious. For example, “What happened when you held the ice cube over the Bunsen burner?”

Well, I know what you’re thinking: it melted. Duh. Which is close enough to what your average teenager might think, at first.

But in class, the thought process looks more like this: it melted. Duh…duh, right? Uhhh, hello? Duh? Uh…that’s too obvious “Hey, guys, look at #1. You put that it melted, right?” “Well, yeah, I think so, but no duh. We could have done that without doing the lab. There must be something else that missed.” “Yeah, okay, I figured.” Hmmm…well, I’ll just say that it melted in a blue flash and then some purple smoke appeared…in the shape of the ice cube…yeah. That’s probably what the right answer is.

Sure, you laugh now, but why would anybody ask—on a science lab sheet that is intended for teenagers who may not be smart, but certainly aren’t clueless—what happens when you put AN ICE CUBE ABOVE A FLAME? You’d only ask it if the answer wasn’t obvious, right?

Well, that rule applies for most classes, but not in science class. Recall the purpose of science labs: to demonstrate things we already know. Thus, the simple questions are really that simple. Unfortunately, it takes most of us two years to figure that out, leading to some hilarious, albeit incorrect, answers.

The Difficult Questions

When a question isn’t obvious, and doesn’t become apparent in the lab, that’s probably because it is a poorly written question. After all, many science teachers focused on science, and not English, in high school. Of course, scrawling out, “This is a poorly written question and I’m not going to answer it because I don’t know ‘What happened when you brought the copper rod near the beaker and the solution and the beaker rod react solution to bubbles rod the?’” is not usually an acceptable answer, even if it is the correct one.

So, again, this ties into the idea that labs are to demonstrate, not to discover, scientific properties. If you can figure out the property being demonstrated, you can usually write something that makes a bit of sense.

But since that involves thinking, I suggest that you simply repeat as much as the question as possible, while throwing in a yes/no answer. For instance, you might end up with: “Yes, the rod, when brought near the beaker and the solution and the beaker rod, react solution to bubbles rod the.”

The Worst Question

It’s on every lab. The answer constantly changes. It’s perhaps the most difficult question on the entire lab. Most other people won’t have any idea. What is it? Simply: “What is the date?”

Actually, just kidding. While figuring out the date is usually pretty tough, you can always just guess, as most teachers won’t grade you down for putting the “54th of June, 1410.”

No, the actual worst question is: “What are some possible sources of error in this lab?”

This question can only end badly. You can blame yourself, and make it look like you’re incompetent: “Well, I dropped some of the uranium and it made a small, smoking crater in the wire, but at least the ammeter was unharmed.” If your teacher sees that, you’ll definitely be marked down for not being careful.

At the same time, you can’t blame your teacher or school: “The major problems came from the equipment, which was made in 1922. After the measuring needle on the voltmeter crumbled into dust, we sort of had to guesstimate the position it would have been on the dial.” Your teacher’s response will be that money is tight and that you should be grateful you even get to do labs. Also, you’ll lose points for being ungrateful and for “guesstimating” incorrectly.

If you’re a true teenager, you’ve probably already figured out that the correct way to answer this question is to blame your lab partner. “My lab partner dropped the uranium on the voltmeter and completely ruined the entire lab process. The few and slightly erroneous results were only recorded after I made a valiant, heroic, and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to save the lab while also administering light first-aid to my partner, who’d been injured in the blast.” That’s an A+ answer.

So, when it comes to answering those science lab questions, you should now be able to “infer” the correct answers. You know what they always say: “Fake your way to an A!” And if you can’t quite manage that, then at least be gracious when you take the blame for totally ruining the labs of all six chemistry classes.

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  1. Haya Izhar says:

    Oh my god! This is hilarious.. You guys have an awesome sense of humor!

  2. Good read.

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