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When she calls to ask why he sent her the essay, he feigns shock, “Oh My God, I’m dead.” Grandma then persuades the professor to accept her grandson’s essay.Blue books tend to fade from the minds of college grads until something triggers old memories--like Barnard College fund-raisers.To be sure, computerized testing has long been forecast as the wave of the future.
A few years back, the school mass-mailed blue books to alumni, heavily marked up with red ink.
Whether this awakened a dormant twinge of anxiety or more rosy memories of college days, the blue books brought in more donations from Barnard graduates than the usual appeal letter.
For last semester’s finals, Exam Soft provided disks for 50,000 essay exams around the country. All this seems to mark the beginning of the end of the blue book, the long-standing emblem of the much feared essay exam. Blue paper was the cheap stuff, used for the covers of throwaway books.
Harvard Introduced Booklets in 1857It was 1857 when Harvard’s faculty and Board of Overseers approved the first use of blue books in the New World. Indeed, blue books remain cheap, costing between 20 cents and 40 cents depending on the number of pages. “It’s the cheapest way to construct a writing book,” said Jim Lucey, manufacturing director of Roaring Springs Blank Book Co.
And, as Lucey notes, “They still have blue covers on 99% of them.”Blue books have inspired angst, jitters and even campus lore, which isn’t surprising given what it takes to fill them: a semester’s worth of knowledge that will probably determine a final grade.
There’s the story of the tough classics professor at Brown who had a soft spot for intercollegiate hockey.
But in 1995 he slammed into the rules of the California bar exam. Wasserman passed the bar, but he never forgot the traumatic episode. The company has lined up customers at law schools from Harvard, Stanford and Georgetown to Pepperdine, Loyola and UC Davis.
So, as an attorney for a software company in San Francisco, he hatched a plan with a neighbor--who happened to be a computer security expert--to develop software that would make cheating impossible on a laptop. Bar exams in a half-dozen states are now offering the option of using laptops.
“I’m a bad typist but my handwriting is worse,” said Jennifer Hughes, a student at USC School of Law.
“If I had to write exams by hand, it would make me look like a 13-year-old.