How the Test Was Won

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"How The Test Was Won"
The Simpsons episode
Episode no. 431
Directed by Lance Kramer
Written by Michael Price
Showrunner(s) Al Jean
Production code LABF02
Original air date March 1, 2009
Chalkboard gag "March Madness is not an excuse for missing school"
Couch gag The Simpsons travel through iconic sitcoms from four different decades (The Honeymooners, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Brady Bunch, and Cheers) before finally returning to their own living room.

"How the Test Was Won" is the eleventh episode of the twentieth season of The Simpsons. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on March 1, 2009.[1] It was written by Michael Price and directed by Lance Kramer. The episode features cultural references to the television shows The Honeymooners, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Brady Bunch, and Cheers, and the film Footloose. Since airing, the episode received mostly mixed reviews from television critics.


The episode starts as Marge and Homer celebrate the start of the new year of school. (Even though the start of the episode depicts the start of a new year of school, Bart's class remains the same.)

Bart accidentally receives a perfect score on a practice test for the upcoming Vice President's Assessment Test, by writing "Slurp My Snot" across his page. This enables him to attend a pizza party by helicopter. However, it all proves to be a ship-of-fools ruse to purge the school of all bad test-takers. Bart actually failed the test and the helicopter is a disguised school bus. He, Nelson, Ralph, Kearney, Dolph, and Jimbo are driven to Capital City by Otto, along with Principal Skinner, who was pushed on board the bus by Superintendent Chalmers. On the way, Ralph stops for a bathroom break, and the bus is disassembled and stolen by vandals (while Otto is still sitting in it). The group attempts to walk the rest of the way, but they lose Ralph on a garbage barge. Skinner signals for a slingshot cargo ship to rescue Ralph with its crane, but he accidentally stuns the driver. Skinner rescues Ralph himself by jumping on board the Shipping Container hoisted by the crane and using the law of conservation of angular momentum. Eventually the container rotates into a position that allows Skinner, the boys, and Otto to run along its top and jump onto the barge. As it turns out, the barge is headed towards Springfield Elementary School. The boys now believe that education is impressive due to Skinner's saving the day, and so Skinner reads Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to the boys until they arrive, which they enjoy.

Meanwhile, Homer is late making an insurance payment, and will not be insured until 3:00 PM, so he cannot hurt himself until then. Images of injuries flood his mind when he gets home, envisioning Marge's book club being killed by a series of freak accidents (and Marge making out with Lindsey Naegle). He has to keep the entire book club safe while he is still uninsured, but ends up throwing a knife in Mr. Burns' head at 3:01 as he randomly walks onto the Simpsons' property. Marge, however, is pleased to know what Homer can and cannot do. At school, Lisa is unable to focus on the test, as the thought of Bart being smarter torments her. When the test ends, she has not answered a single question, along with the fact that the test is nearly impossible (the choices to a question's answer all mean the same thing, and there is a penalty for guessing). However, Skinner returns just in time to cancel the test and lift the school's "ban on dancing".


The clips where Homer remembers when he got hurt are flashbacks from 33 episodes: "Homer at the Bat", "Bart's Friend Falls in Love", "Homer's Triple Bypass", "Marge In Chains", "Deep Space Homer", "Bart Gets an Elephant", "Homer Badman", "King-Size Homer", "Two Bad Neighbors", "Homerpalooza", "A Milhouse Divided", "The Homer They Fall", "Homer to the Max", "Faith Off", "The Computer Wore Menace Shoes", "Tennis the Menace", "Bye Bye Nerdie", "Simpsons Safari", "Weekend at Burnsie's", "I Am Furious (Yellow)", "Helter Shelter", "Pray Anything", "Dude, Where's My Ranch", "Brake My Wife, Please", "Marge vs. Singles, Seniors, Childless Couples and Teens, and Gays", "Blame It on Lisa", "Lost Our Lisa", "Lard of the Dance", "Trilogy Of Error", "Million Dollar Abie", "He Loves to Fly and He D'ohs", "Dumbbell Indemnity" and "Treehouse of Horror XIII". When he has finished reminiscing, he says "what a week!"

Cultural references[edit]

The episode ends with the characters dancing in the same manner as the characters at the conclusion of the 1984 film Footloose; the scene is also set to Kenny Loggins' titular song from the film.[1][2] Ralph believes a rat is the character Elmo from PBS's Sesame Street, while Skinner reads the students Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.[2] The episode's couch gag includes the family recreating scenes from sitcoms from different decades: The Honeymooners from the 1950s, The Dick Van Dyke Show from the 1960s, The Brady Bunch from the 1970s and Cheers from the 1980s. As an in-joke, Sideshow Bob walks in on the Cheers segment of the gag dressed as Dr. Frasier Crane; both characters are played by Kelsey Grammer.[3][4]

Homer's premonition of the massive accident in his house is similar to the premonitions seen in the Final Destination franchise.

Otto hums Richard Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries while believing he is flying a helicopter, a reference to the helicopter attack sequence in the 1979 film Apocalypse Now.[2] The "Ode to Joy" segment of Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, Frédéric Chopin's "Fantasie Impromptu 66" and "Gonna Fly Now", the theme from the 1976 film Rocky are both played in the episode, while Ralph sings "Wannabe" by the Spice Girls.[2]


Since airing, the episode received mixed reviews from television critics. Steve Heisler of The A.V. Club wrote: "I'm sorry, but 'How The Test Was Won' was about as low as things get these days—the worst of the season by far, and quite possibly one of the worst episodes I've watched in this brave 'new' era of yellow people."[5] Erich Asperschlager of TV Verdict commented: "Despite three strong set-ups and a great first act, the episode barely got off the ground, crash landing long before its what-the-heck Footloose finale. There might have been enough time for Homer hilarity if they hadn’t dedicated so much time to the meandering and ultimately boring story of Skinner trying to keep his dull charges safe after they get stranded in Capital City."[1] Robert Canning of IGN gave the episode an 8.8/10, calling it "a smart, very funny half hour" and praising the couch gag and Homer's sub-plot but adding that the ending "didn't quite live up to what preceded it".[4] The episode was also named the best of the season by the website.[6]


  1. ^ a b c "The Simpsons 20.11: "How The Test Was Won" |". Archived from the original on 2009-03-05. Retrieved 2009-03-02.
  2. ^ a b c d Bates, James W.; Gimple, Scott M.; McCann, Jesse L.; Richmond, Ray; Seghers, Christine, eds. (2010). Simpsons World The Ultimate Episode Guide: Seasons 1–20 (1st ed.). Harper Collins Publishers. pp. 980–981. ISBN 978-0-00-738815-8.
  3. ^ Bates et al., pp. 1024-1025
  4. ^ a b Canning, Robert (2009-03-02). "The Simpsons: "How The Test Was Won" Review". IGN. Retrieved 2009-03-03.
  5. ^ Heisler, Steve. ""How The Test Was Won"/"Master Of Puppets"/"Live And Let Fry" | TV". A.V. Club. Retrieved 2009-03-02.
  6. ^ "The Simpsons: 20 Seasons, 20 Episodes - IGN - Page 3". IGN. Retrieved 2016-03-20.

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