Is this cheating?

So, I’m in a class that had an open book exam a couple of weeks ago. It was a 15 question multiple choice exam on a specific topic, and it does not count for much of the grade.

The professor took 8 of 15 questions from an online study guide. A number of people in the class had access to the study guide and happened to have the guide with them for the exam.

A number of people complained that this happened. Today, we received an email: “It is possible, and perhaps even likely, that one or more students cheated” on the exam, and now the entire exam has been discarded with no credit for anyone. (The reasoning behind discarding the entire exam was that those with the answers had more time to dedicate to the other questions.)

So, did they “cheat” on the exam?


I think the professor should write his/her own exam. Be that as it may, unless it’s really a niche topic, it seems likely that the students were tipped off that many of the questions would come from that particular study guide. Is that cheating? It is if they saw the test in advance, but not if they just heard from previous students that this professor was likely to draw questions from that source.

If the professor specified that it was an “open book” exam, and did not specify that certain sources were forbidden, then it was not “cheating” to use those sources.

Under the circumstances, I think the professor was justified in throwing out the exam, but not in accusing anyone of “cheating.”

No sources were forbidden. People had books, notes, etc.

Definitely not cheating if the materials were allowed.

the professor was lazy, and trying to cover up his rather obvious laziness by rescinding the test.

Concur, with nothing but contempt for those who complained.

When I give open book or take home exams I specify what can and cannot be used. If the study guide was not excluded, it’s not cheating. Even if the prof didn’t intend the students to use the guide, it doesn’t matter. It might invalidate the test, but it isn’t cheating.

I disagree with laziness, though. A good question is a good question even if it comes from a test bank etc. However, if using it compromises the test, it’s time to find better choices.

I disagree with your disagreement. We’re not talking about essay questions here, we’re talking about an objective multiple choice quiz. If students aren’t allowed to plagiarize their work, what justification do professors have for doing the same? I mean, a good answer is a good answer right? Why does it matter if someone else formulated it, as long as the student understands the concepts?

Lazy professor blaming students for his own laziness. I probably wouldn’t make a fight of it, but I wouldn’t take any more courses from that prof if I could help it.

I’d day the professor should have been censured for plagiarizing – he took the questions without permission or attribution.

BTW, we are currently getting a lecture on how we don’t have any integrity and some of us took shortcuts.

Why did only some students have access to it?

That makes no sense. The purpose of answering the question is to demonstrate knowledge. If a student copies an answer then that does not demonstrate knowledge. In another context a student could very well quote an answer and cite it properly and be fine because of the specific nature of the assignment in question.

There are only so many ways to ask certain factual questions. If I can grab a question from a test bank that asks what the definition of a eukaryotic cell is there is no point to my writing it. I will spend my time writing in-depth knowledge questions and applied knowledge questions (yes, even in a multiple choice test) and use use the basic questions from the test bank.

I have no idea if this particular prof is lazy or not. I also said he is completely wrong to accuse the students of cheating. What I am saying is that using questions from other sources (such as test banks) is not automatically lazy.

That is unfortunate. Unless there is some missing info, he’s wrong.

You don’t know that. It could have been a textbook resource (like a chapter outline) that somehow got leaked. He could be borrowing materials from a colleague with permission. He could have written it for a previous class and a student posted it online.

OK, I’ve never heard of an open book test that was multiple choice. Every time I’ve had an open book test, it was for short essay-type questions that required you to share your thought processes. Which is why I used to hate open book tests. They were tough.

What he should going forward is simply stop copying questions from the study guide. Accusing people of cheating was unnnecessary.

I agree. Open-book MC tests sound unusual to me. I give open book weekly multiple choice “quizzes” which are really just homeworks, but calling them quizzes makes the students take them more seriously. My class is face-to-face but the quizzes are online. When it comes time for the exams, it’s closed book.

My take exams are a lot of fun (my students tell me), but challenging. In my genetics class, I send them home with ears of maize, with the kernels different colors, and they have to figure out inheritance patterns etc. They really get a kick out of it.

Wait, I’m a bit confused. Did some students print out the study guide beforehand? Or did they have access to the internet through a phone or computer? If they printed it out, and the number of those who did is high enough for a recall, then the professor shouldn’t have used test bank questions from such a popular source for an open test - although I still can’t really see how that many students would have the foresight to print out exactly the right questions. If the latter, and they just used the internet, then it sounds as though the professor didn’t want people online - if the students knew this and searched for questions with hidden devices, then I’d say that’s cheating (although the professor should have explicitly banned the web).

We were not allowed to use the internet during the test. The “cheating” students allegedly had printouts.

I do not know exactly what the study guide was, except that it was some sort of commercial product that I did not seek out or use.

For the record, I don’t think this was cheating, even though it impacted me negatively.

I’d say that if the students who used the printouts had some was of knowing for sure that the printout (by “commercial” do you mean they paid for it?) used the questions on the test, then it was a bit unethical, bordering on cheating. Then again, looked at in a different light, they could just be enterprising, and taking advantage of a poor test. But definitely not the brightest professor - and lecturing you on integrity is ridiculous.

So glad this wasn’t about a relationship. And, no, this wasn’t cheating, even if the students were tipped off about the study guide. Bringing in a printout of the study guide was not against the rules, and cheating requires doing something against the rules.

I have no problem with the teacher taking questions from the study guide, but she should also have made study guides off limits Yes, I know that tells the students to study them, but there are enough study guides out that such should not be a problem.

Unless this was the official study guide from the class website or something. In that case, what good student wouldn’t study that particular guide and print it off if allowed to bring material for the test? That’s what you do on open book tests that allow outside material. Heck, that’s why you allow outside material.

I’m not an academic, but my assumption from context here is that a “test bank” is a private collection of objective questions maintained by a Uni Dept. or wider group of professors within an academic field. This, I have have no problem with and please correct me if my assumption is wrong. It may be kind of lazy, but I find no fault with that kind of laziness.

It’s an entirely different thing from ripping objective questions verbatim from a published study guide that is meant to accompany a published textbook that is primary course material. I think it factually is plagiarism, but regardless of your opinion on that, are you really going to defend a fellow prof who does this, presents that test as “open book” and finally lectures students who used that material as lacking integrity?

I think there’s a giant disconnect here and if anyone is lacking integrity in this situation, the professor is the most likely candidate.