In this video, which I found via kottke.org, a class of 600 students is accused of widespread cheating. The results of their midterm were thrown away, and they were required to take a new midterm. Also, they attempted to identify the cheaters by name, some 200 students, but offered amnesty to those who admitted guilt. The “cheating” was discovered when someone placed a copy of the “complete set of test bank questions” for the exam in the professor’s mailbox, and was suspected based on the grade distribution.
Now, hold on. I no way is what they did cheating. Lets list the ways you can cheat on a test:
- Copy someone else’s answer(s)
- Use a written, electronic, or other method to view a copy of the answers or any other disallowed information during the test
- Use a tool, such as a calculator or cell phone, when use of that tool is not permitted
- Acquire or transmit information about the test from someone who has taken it prior to you, or while you are taking the test
Note, that use of a set of questions which may or may not appear on the test as a study guide prior to the test is not a method by which one can cheat on a test. It is a method by which one can study for the test. It does not matter where this list of questions comes from. It does not matter what the probability of appearing on the test any one, or the collective set of questions has, may have, or is expected to have. Unless you bring this material to the test, and use it during the test, it is not cheating. The fact that the entire class did not study via this method is not any indication of cheating; the entire class should study via this method. It is highly recommended to view a professor’s previous tests while studying for a test. This is a tried and true method; tests are passed down year to year for this purpose. However, a prior year’s test is nothing more than a list of questions. It is no different from a set of questions acquired from a test bank. This class did not cheat, and their scores have been thrown out in error. Those scores should stand. The students who did not study using a set of questions or prior year’s tests have learned a valuable lesson to do so in the future.
I would argue, that any student who wants a quality education should in fact use this method as it provides a free market incentive demanding a better education. Also, any student who wants a quality education should likely not attend the University of Central Florida, although; if you have to live in Florida, I do realize there are not a lot of options once you count out Florida and Miami as I would have you do ;-). The professor in this case is really the one at fault. He created a test which relied heavily on “Test Bank” questions. That is, the same test questions appear year in and year out, and maybe also on tests at other schools. A higher quality education would be provided by a professor who took the time to personalize both his course, and his tests. His tests should include a preponderance of questions which do not appear in their exact form at other schools, and in previous years. The class should be tailored to the students, and as such topics that have not been covered or tested in previous instances should occur. By studying from previous questions sets, if a professor fails to provide such a test/class then the grades in that class will be inflated, and the class will be considered easy. It is considered easy because it does not properly provide a quality education to the level of students taking the class. If the professor desires to avoid this sort of situation, and provide a quality education, he should make up his own, new tests every time. If he does this, then studying previous tests and using questions sets is still invaluable to the students, as it does prepare them for the kind of questions they will face, but it does not inflate grades, as the students are still required to understand the material in order to answer the different questions that appear on the test.
Anyone who argues that this is simply to difficult for high school teachers or professors to do, is forgetting that their job is provide a high quality education. If they were doing their job, this wouldn’t happen. The fact that they may not be paid highly enough to compensate them for the time that providing a quality education, and writing their own unique tests may take is another story entirely. None of this means that anyone who used the question set to study for that class cheated. Now, maybe someone in that class did copy answers from someone who studied using a question set; such a person would have indeed cheated.