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17th Jul 2015

This Exam Question is Driving the Internet Crazy

What would you do?!

Life is not fair. 

That seems to be the over-riding lesson from one University Professor, who is currently responsible for driving the Internet absolutely mad.

The reason? This question, offered for extra credit to students at University of Maryland.

The passage reads: “Here you have the opportunity to earn some extra credit on your final paper grade. Select whether you want 2 points or 6 points added onto your final paper grade. But there’s a small catch: if more than 10% of the class selects 6 points, then no one gets any points. Your responses will be anonymous to the rest of the class, only I will see the responses.”

Since it was shared on Twitter at the beginning of July, the question has ignited countless debates about human nature… and speculation on the kind of cruel character who would foist this choice onto his/her students. That Professor is Dylan Selterman, and he has been making students of his class face this dilemma every year since 2008. Only one class has ever opted in favour of the common good and gained the extra credit. Every other year, greed triumphs.



It’s been described as The Tragedy of the Commons and an example of a Prisoner’s Dilemma.

Speaking to Seventeen, Selterman said he chose 10 percent of the class because it seems like a reasonable cutoff. He said the question is just for fun, and he doesn’t monitor and save the results for research.