Submitted by Ivan Palmblad, Biology Dept.

he simple exercise below is designed to improve the written responses to exam questions. Perhaps because of the widespread use of multiple choice exams, many students lack the simple skill of answering the question that is asked.

The students will be given the sheet that follows and be asked to evaluate the answers. (Their sheet would not include my comments as below.) After 10 minutes the sheets could be collected and rated or an overhead could be used to criticize as a group each of the 6 answers.

How did the skull and pelvis of fossil "Lucy" revolutionize our thinking about human evolution?


1. Pelvis can show if the organism is four legged or two legged. The skull showed the size of the brain.

(Comments are true but fail to address the question.)

2. The skull was smaller and the pelvis was tipped so that upright walking was possible.

(This answer is also true and provides more information but still does not address the question of how "Lucy" reversed our thinking.)

3. It showed that Lucy walked erect millions of years before we thought it was possible.

(What does "it" refer to? I assume the pelvis. Therefore the skull portion of the question is ignored.)

4. Because they were so close to what the human skull looked like from that period of time.

(In addition to not answering the question, this statement is incredibly inaccurate! The answer suggests that Homo sapiens and "Lucy" Australopithecus afarensis co-existed.)

5. Lucy walked upright and yet she had a small brain which contradicted the thinking that the large brain came before walking man.

(very satisfactory)

6. Before Lucy it was common belief that a large brain led to tool use and then upright bipedalism. "Lucy" showed that in fact bipedalism occurred before brain expansion.

(very satisfactory)

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