Suppose a college professor doesn't change tests from semester to semester...

Which of these scenarios, if any, would you consider cheating:

  1. Suppose the professor gives the same test from semester to semester and returns the tests to the students. Is it wrong for students to actively seek the tests from past semesters to study?

  2. Suppose the professor gives the same test from semester to semester and does not return the tests to the students. Is it wrong for students to actively seek the tests from past semesters to study? For example, if a teacher posts the solutions outside his door, would it be wrong for a student to go and copy the solutions from his door if he knows he will be taking the test in a future semester?

As you may guess, I am involved in a sticky situation regarding number 2. The thing is a friend of mine got the solutions from last year. Now he has offered to give them to me, but if I get them there are like 6 other people who would feel really betrayed if I didn’t give it to them (we are all really good friends and they already know about the old test I could get from the friend.) If I gave them out to these people, pretty soon almost everyone in the class would have them and then word would get back to the teacher.

I haven’t actually got the test and am having second thoughts about getting it. I was kind of wanting to see how other people morally thought about the situations as I am pretty darned sure it’s against school rules anyway.

I guess I already know the right thing to do is not to get the test, but I guess I want to hear it from other people.

Rule of Thumb: If you think what you’re doing may be entirely ethical, then tell the prof what you’re doing.

In your case, I think you know exactly what your prof would say, which gives the answer you already suspect.

I am a Prof: If the Prof uses the same exams from one year to the other, he/she should expect that the students to have access to the old test. It is just laziness on the part of the Prof to use the same tests two years in a row.

I personally give out my older test questions to my students to even the playing field between those that know upper classmen and have access to my old exams and those that do not.

If the Prof actually posts the solutions then they are consisdered to be in the public domain. I would not fault you for getting the solutions and passing them on to all the rest of your buds. But that is MHO. Feel free to discuss.

I’d say no. Studying old tests is a good way to figure out what the professor wants you to learn – most professors are going to test on the same basic information and word the questions differently from year to year. If they give back the tests, they are yours to keep, and you can do what you want with them. It’s common knowledge that most fraternities/sororities keep an old test file cabinet specifically so students can better prepare for exams.

The onus is on the professor to change the test.


I can’t imagine WHY a professor would post the answers outside the door.

Hmm, I don’t know. The professor, by posting the answers to the world, doesn’t really have any right to expect people to NOT look at them. If they don’t want students to cheat they’re doing a pretty bad job of showing it. Is it wrong? I don’t know – but with the way universities are set up, the only person whose ass is going to get bit is the student’s, not Professor Tenure.

I think your professor is an idiot, but I would strongly, strongly suggest that you turn down the test. This is a good way to get kicked out of college permanently and end up working at Taco Bell the rest of your life.

We called an old exam a gouge.

I don’t see these scenarios as cheating.

As a general rule, if you have to ask “Is this cheating?”, the answer is probably “yes”. Don’t do it.

OK, another prof here. I don’t consider either scenario as cheating on the student’s part. You should use whatever resources are available to prepare for a test as long as it does not violate any stated policy by the instructor or the school. I always return midterms and provide full solutions post-exam, and I assume that that information is public domain. For that reason, I work hard at varying my midterm exams from semester to semester. I do not return final exams mainly because there is no easy way to do so when a school term is over. And because of that I don’t feel the need to vary my final exams as much, although I do not recycle the same questions over and over. I try my best to tell my students exactly what are the types of questions that will appear on the exams, even providing many sample questions from past tests. Contrary to what students may think, profs (the ones I know) do want their tests to fairly evaluate the students’ comprehension of the course material and want them to succeed.

In my opinion, looking at old exams is a perfectly acceptable way for students to study. They are considered to be publically available here at my school, in fact the library even keeps old exams on file for a period of five years for students to look at.

There’s nothing wrong with students looking for old exams, and if they happen upon one that has material from a current exam, then that’s the fault of the professor who is letting the entire class down for their laziness in failing to make up new exams.

This semester when I need to prepare for my Senior Exam (so I could get my degree) my professors happily gave me old exams.

If he doesn’t make a new test from semester to semester, it’s his problem, not yours. Of course, that’s a great thing to tell yourself, but he may not agree…and if you’re caught somehow, I doubt that’ll excuse will stand. So even though I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, I’d elect to err on the side of caution and just study the test and forgo getting a copy of the exam.

Thanks for everyone’s advice. I decided it was just too big of a risk and elected to not take the test.

Think of it this way…if you know someone who has the test…doesn’t everyone else in the class? You are handicapping yourself by not looking at the old test. The professor posting the old exam knows that he/she uses the same exams every year and that students know older students. Professors I have known that reuse exams expect that the students have seen the old exams and just don’t care. Most level the playing field by distributing old exams.

Certainly the professor is not protecting his exams and is neglegent but that does not mean its right for you to take advantage of that. If I were a student in the same class as yours and you come into the test with the answers memorized and just fill out the answer sheet I would be pissed. In fact this is the situation you now find yourself in. There is already one copy of the test out there who knows if there are more. If I were you I would go to the professor as soon as possible and inform him that there is a test with the answers filled in floating around. Hopefully he will change it and you won’t be cheated out of the grade you deserve.

I disagree. Although this professor is probably just lazy, there are some professors that choose to make the material which will be on their exams perfectly clear. I had a chemistry prof that told us straight out:

-You’ll need to show me how to do a Michaelis-Menten derivation
-Show and explain a Linweaver-Burke plot, etc.

Just because we knew the material ahead of time didn’t make the test super easy. There was still a large body of information to know for it. Rather than making a smaller test where the material tested upon was chosen at random so that we would have to know the entire body of material to score well, he chose to test on everything. Think of it in terms of a census rather than a sampling of our course knowledge. Not necessarily a bad way to teach. In some ways you were a lot more motivated to learn certain material thuroughly rather than trying to guess, “will this be on the test or not?”

'Course, the big question is;
"How do you know for sure what test the Prof is going to give?"
What if he throws you a curve ball and actually writes a new test. You’ve just studied and memorized the old one and now you’re hung out to dry.

The difference is that supposedly this is the exact same test. Its not a matter of which material is on it its a mater of knowing the exact questions and the exact answers.

No, that chem prof gave us the exact test. I’m just saying that it is possible that the prof intends to give all of the students a test that covers everything the class has covered.

I am fairly certain the teacher would give the exact same test as our first test still had last semster’s date on it. I had him for another class and this was the same case there as well.

If I would have taken the test, then that would have been only one thing I used to study. The book and notes would have been useed as well.

If your prof is using the exact same test and not even changing the date from last semester :wally then I think you have every right to study/memorize that test if it is available to you through someone who took the test last semester/year. You do not have the right to steal the test from the prof, but if it is readily available from students who have previousely taken the test, what’s the problem?

The only problem I see is a prof who is not taking the time to change the test. Or maybe he is just playing a trick on you. I have been known to pass out old tests to students as study guides and then observe the students toss the old tests away. I have subsequently actually given the same test to said students. One actually complained that this was “unfair” because “everyone knows that you wouldn’t ask the same questions two semesters in a row.” :eek:

The problem is that it isn’t like he is directly passing the test back to students. He takes the tests up and does not return them. He posts the solutions outside his door for students to look at afterwards. Someone who has not even taken the class yet took those solutions to a copy machine and made a copy of them. It’s not like he returned the test to the students.

You also need to figure out if you’re asking a practical question (to which the answer is “Screw it, go for it, you’ll probably get away with it”) or an ethical question (to which my initial answer, I believe, applies).