The F-word test: first class or feeble?

Link: Take the F-word test that can sort out the first-class from the feeble – Newspaper Edition – Times Online.

According to today’s Times, the following question is "doing the rounds of the e-mail universe, often seemingly targeted at aspirational workers and would-be intellectuals". (The preceding quote is a typical Times quote, meaningless, uncheckable, and lazy, i.e. copied out from somewhere. And, Frank and Bryan, they don’t even say "failed" intellectuals, tut tut, I ask you.)

Whinging aside, here’s the question. Please follow the instructions honestly and look in the comments to see if you got it right at first read.

"Read the following sentence — just once, at normal speed, with no looking back — and say how many times the letter F occurs: “Finished files are the result of years of scientific study combined with the experience of years.”  "

9 thoughts on “The F-word test: first class or feeble?

  1. The answer is 6. If you got it right at first read, you are a genius, according to the Times. Most people find 3, apparently.

  2. Okay, I must be losing my mind, but I only see 3 Fs in that sentence, the ones in “finished,” “files,” and “scientific.” Where are the others?
    Oh, damn. Now I see them. The other three are in the three iterations of the word “of.” Doubtless the message is that we tend to skip over the little words, the articles and prepositions. I always fail these kinds of tests because I read too fast (too many years as a book reviewer). Even when I try to read slow (as I just did), it’s very hard for me to break text down into its basic units (letters).

  3. Clare, you can apply for a job as a subeditor!
    I am not sure why it is necessary for those of us who aren’t professional grammarians or proofreaders to get this kind of quiz right. People don’t read by their eyes and brain processing every word, as is well-known, so possibly one could say that the most intelligent readers get a lower number 😉 (not that Clare shouldn’t get full credit for her magnificent achievement).

  4. I found all 6 on the first try, but I kind of cheated. Years ago, I read a similar article about ef words and already knew that they’d show up not sounding like efs. Does that mean I’m a self-taught genius?

  5. It certainly means you have a learning curve, Marydell, and hence are an intelligent, self-aware person. I have found that many people refuse to have learning curves once they leave full-time education (and some before that, even), which can be very wearing, eg in a work context. So yes, you can have a job as a CEO of a top publishing company any time so far as I am concerned!

  6. I once gave this “test” to all my sub editors, professionals who make their living proof-reading copy — not one of the 9 got it right first go.

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