A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from April 18, 2015
“The exam questions are the same every year—only the answers change” (joke)

One popular economics joke has an old graduate return to college after many years. He sees his old economics professor, looks at a recent test, and is shocked that the questions are still the same. The economics professor acknowledges that fact, but states that, in economics, they are constantly hanging the answers.

The joke has been cited in print since at least 1954 and has been told about other academic subjects as well.


4 March 1954, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “In Lighter Vein,” pt. 3, pg. 2, col. 7:
Questions and Answers. A successful businessman, visiting his alma mater, dropped in on the economics professor.

Recalling that he used to have trouble with economics exams, he asked to see some of the current papers. Noting them casually, he observed, “These are the same old questions!”

‘Yes, agreed the prof, “we never change the questions”

“But,” objected the visitor, “don’t you know the students will pass the questions on from class to class?”

“Certainly,” was the bland response. “But in economics we are constantly changing the answers.”—House of Williams.

Google Books
Proceedings of ... Annual Meeting, Volume 7
Industrial Relations Research Association,
Champaign, IL: The Association
1955
Pg. 153:
A visitor to one of our great university campuses, located not far beyond the Willow Run Airport (Ypsilanti, Michigan—ed.), was being shown about the premises.  He saw the superb buildings, including the famed Lawyers’ Club, and after being duly impressed, was finally returned to the office of his guide, who was a professor of economics. At that point the economics professor handed the visitor a sheaf of paper and said, “And now I want you to see the examination in economics that I give every year.” The incredulous visitor asked, “You mean you give the same exam every year?” “That’s right,” was the reply. “But,” pursued the visitor, “don’t the boys Catch on to this and pass the information along from year to year?” “Oh, we don ‘t worry about that,” said the economies professor, “The questions are the same, but the answers change every year.”

Google Books
Toward Scientific Marketing:
Proceedings of the Winter Conference, December 27-28, 1963

Edited by Stephen A. Greyser
Chicago, IL: American Marketing Association
1964
Pg. 164:
The study of consumer behavior in marketing offers many illustrations of that old academic joke— the repeated final examination where, to the dismay of students, the questions remain the same, but the answers change.

Google News Archive
10 May 1967, Milwaukee (WI) Journal, “Writer Says That Economics Is Anything but a Dull Science” by J. A. Livingston, pt. 2, pg. 31, col. 1:
Surely, you’ve heard the story of the alumnus who returns to the campus after 25 years, meets his economics professor, and asks: “What are the examination questions you’re asking today?”

Only the Answers Change
The professor shows him a mimeographed sheet. The old grad exclaims: “But those are the same questions you asked when I was in school!”

‘Of course. The questions don’t change, only the answers.”

Google News Archive
2 November 1982, St. Petersburg (FL) Times, “Knowledge is one key to good health” by Wilma O’Neil, Largo-Seminole Edition, pg. 2, col. 2:
Here are some gems to give you a taste of Patients’ Guide to Medicine:

1. The questions remain the same; only ‘the answers change.

Google Books
Farm Management:
Decisions, Operation, Control

By John E. Kadlec
Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall
1985
Pg. 19:
If this professor is teaching a farm management course, he may be doing a good job: In farm management, the questions remain the same but the answers change.

Google Books
How to Understand Your Parents and Maybe Like the Ones You Love
By Robert Baden
St. Louis, MO: Corcordia Publishing House
1987
Pg. 32:
The same may be true in psychology or sociology in which, as the joke goes, “the questions stay the same but the answers change.”

Google Books
Incentives, Information, and Organizational Design
By Joseph E. Stiglitz
Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research
1989
Pg. 23:
The answer to this question reflects the old joke about economics exams: the questions stay the same, only the answers change.

Google Books
Income Distribution and High-quality Growth
By Vito Tanzi and Ke-young Chu
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press
1998
Pg. 45:
There is an old joke about economics: The questions stay the same; only the answers change.

Google Books
On the One Hand:
The Economist Joke Book

By Jeff Thredgold
Salt Lake City, UT: Thredgold Economic Associates
2001
Pg. 50:
To her surprise, they are exactly the same ones that she had answered 10 years ago! When she asked the professor about this, the professor answered, “The questions are always the same. Only the answers change!”

Twitter
Aparna Giridhar
‏@aparnagiri
In economics, the questions always remain the same, the answers change.
11:30 AM - 9 Dec 2010

Twitter
Jⓐn Velterop
‏@Villavelius
Questions on tests are changed each year; except for economics, where the questions are the same but the answers change http://bit.ly/xtTUyZ
2:28 AM - 7 Feb 2012

Twitter
Kevin
‏@Flyin_Kevin
Economics: The only discipline where the exam questions are always the same year after year. Only the answers change! #humour
12:11 PM - 11 Apr 2015

Gulf News (UAE)
Retail banking landscape in the UAE: Looking ahead
In 2013 and 2014 retail financing/loans grew at more than 15% a year

PUBLISHED: 10:00 APRIL 19, 2015
(...)
As the old joke goes, the questions in economics exams are the same every year; only the answers change.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityEducation/Schools • Saturday, April 18, 2015 • Permalink