Cramming and Cribbing at Yale.
"The annuals begin about June 1 and last for about 15 days. Some time before the first faculty reception takes place, a program of the different days, classes and subjects is arranged and published. It is not a pretentious document, but it is very interesting to its readers. They pore over the lists and make their arrangements for the cramming process which most students believe is essential to success. Recitations cease a day or two before the first annual, and the intervening days are devoted in most cases to hard study. Cramming, as this pre-examination study is almost universally called, takes a number of different forms. The lower classes, whose time has been almost entirely devoted to mathematics and the classics, have little option in the matter. To cram up successfully, the text of the works must be gone over in some form. In mathematics the propositions of geometry and the problems of algebra are reviewed with more or less care, according to the natural taste of the student for the subjects. Some men, good in every other branch, make wretched work of mathematics, and only gain a semi-mastery of the principles by hours of study. These men have a hard time during the cramming period, and, what is more, they receive little sympathy from their more fortunate classmates. The classics are frequently worked up by groups of men in the same class. Sometimes a "pony boy" is hired, who, with his translation in hand, drones out his task, while his hearers, with eyes glued upon their text-books, follow him line for line, interrupting occasionally to demand a repetition of some difficult passage.
In the upper classes the subjects do not permit cramming of the same kind as that practiced with the classics. Hundreds of pages of history, philosophy, and physics must be read, and the men usually work alone, or at most in pairs. It is believed by some that it is poor policy to cram on the day preceding an examination, and after two or three days' work the last 24 hours should be passed without any time being given to the subject of the next day's ordeal. Few have the coolness or self-confidence required to pursue this policy. There is always something that has been forgotten to be looked up, and one last look is apt to suggest another. Tutoring is also extensively resorted to, and the students who are willing, for a consideration, to give their time to aiding their backward companions are kept busy. Some men make a business of this tutoring, and, if successful, win a college reputation. The fact that tutoring exists is, of course, known to the faculty, and sometimes encouraged by that body. At any rate, these student instructors have saved many a man from being heavily conditioned or dropped from his class.
There is another process which aims at the same result as cramming. It strives to overcome the same ends, but adopts different means. Both seek to prepare men for the examinations: but cramming is at least half honest. "Cribbing," as the other process is styled, is almost utterly dishonest. It is simyly an attempt to carry into examination material with which the questions of the examiners may be answered without any regard to the student's knowledge of the subject. As all the men examined on a certain day in a certain branch of study are given printed papers bearing the same questions it would seem the most natural way for the men to get possession of the paper before the examination. This, unfortunately, is seldom if ever practicable. The printing is watched with the most jealous care, and as soon as the papers come from the press they are safely placed under lock and key, where the wicked student has no hope of effecting an entrance. Knowing that to obtain a copy of the paper is not practicable, the ingenious young man, whose conscience and knowledge are both at a low ebb, prepares himself for the battle. That is, he makes his "cribs." An old-fashioned "crib" is made by taking a strip of tough, thin paper, five or six inches in length and one in width, fastening at each end a match, writing the slip full of memoranda likely to prove useful, rolling up each end until the two cylinders meet, and then by a light elastic fastening them together. This crib is held in the palm of the hand and worked by the thumb, the thin paper being easily worked from one roll to the other as occasion demands. Cuffs are also marked with hieroglyphics, and the part of the shirt bosom covered by the vest is daintly inscribed with notes, of value only to the owner. Other paper cribs are worn in the sleeves, and, fastened by elastics, fly back at the approach of danger. Similar contrivances are tied by thin rubber bands to suspender straps, and, drawn down below the vest at will, can be sent back to that safe retreat in short order if a professor appears at all suspicious. Small cribs are pasted in watch covers. Highly polished shoes offer a fine surface for inscriptions.
Another plan, seemingly rash, is often used, and by its very daring is frequently successful. Writing paper, such as is used in the examinations, is procured, and two or three sheets are closely covered with formulae or whatever else is likely to prove useful. When the time comes for the "cribber" to enter the examination room he places the sheets under his tightly-but-toned coat, walks boldly into the lions' den, seats himself at his table, and hastens to write a page or two of something or other. Just what it is doesn't matter. The main object is to have some freshly written pages on the table. When this is accomplished the adventurer stealthily unbuttons his coat, and at a favorable moment draws his "cribbed" papers from his bosom and pushes them in among the mass of manuscript before him. When this is done the rest of his task is easy. He picks up the list of questions and with the aid of his cribs answers such of them as he can, and when the examination is ended hands in his answers to the waiting professors and coolly carries out of the hall all the evidence of his guile safely wrapped up in a mass of waste paper. In preparing elaborate cribs, more time is frequently consumed than would be necessary to master the subject. Some of the cribs are works of art, and could serve as text books, containing nearly every part, major and minor, touched upon by the class in the study of the subject. Others are mere outlines, and still others contain nothing but the most difficult portions of the branch on which they are to aid their concoctors and manipulators. Some men make "cribbing" a science, and pride themselves upon their success in eluding the vigilance of the faculty, while their friends look on and wonder and wish that they, too, could be successfully wicked."