How not to pass exams, and a life update

Yesterday evening I received a mail from a hotmail address which read as follows:

Dear Dr Nicholas Gibbins

Good afternoon. I am soton student doing some work on an extra course in computational complexity and Data and knowledge bases. I am finding some of the material difficult and was wondering if you might be able to help me or, if you might be able to direct me to a post graduate who could tutor me on the subject. To give you an idea of the content and difficulty level of the material, please find attached a few questions.

I will be examined soon, so it is really quite important that i find someone as soon as possible. The attachements P1 – P3 Are for computation Complexity. The P4 – P7 are Question for Theory of Data and Knowledge Bases.

Being a naturally suspicious sort, I did some checking. The student is not one of ours, and the courses that he’s asking about aren’t ours either (I should know – if anyone were to be teaching Theory of Data and Knowledge Bases, it would be me). A bit of Googling revealed that the courses were most likely from Oxford, and that at least one of the course leaders was well-known to me.

One quick email later:

Dear Nick,

thanks for letting me know.

Yes, indeed, the last part of the attached document forms the exam in my course “Theory of Data and Knowledge Bases”, and the student is participating in my course… I will immediately take all necessary action.

Do such students really think that we’re this stupid?

* * *

In other news, I aten’t dead, despite a case of pneumonia that arrived just after the end of my paternity leave, and which therefore coincided with exam-marking season. More fool me for thinking “this can’t be pneumonia – it isn’t serious enough” and developing a Stakhanovite work ethic when I’d been sleeping fitfully while propped-up on the sofa for over a month to reduce the coughing. Alas, there’s no such thing as post-illness sick leave.

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