- Ethics of using past exams to study for tests
- Whether it is ethical to use past exams not given by the instructor to study for tests
Various ethical issues have been ignored in academic institutions without considering their implications on results. In fact, use of past papers to studying for tests has been rampant in most academic institutions. However, little consideration has been taken on its ethical consequences. Situations have occurred where instructors provide the exact copy of past papers as tests in institutions. In this regard, students with knowledge in past papers have had advantage over their colleagues who have no knowledge of past papers. While some students have continuously ignored this situation, others have taken it seriously to help them earn best grades. This paper will consider the ethics of using old examination to study. Specifically, the paper will provide an argumentative research on the ethical issue. Additionally, the paper will give a verdict on the ethical issue using evidences from research (Bufton 208).
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Most theorists have postulated that ethics shape the way people live. Theorists like Aristotle called it ‘a life well-lived’. Essentially, ethics focus on what people do, make or create through their choices. In this regard, ethics is considered as the core of everyday life. Ethical questions usually arise when one wants to act. Being rational, thinking and choosing makes one to utilize ethics. Some ethical problems are usually simple while others are complex. Complexity of every ethical problem can result in different choices for a given group of individuals. Therefore, ethics offer a framework for decision-making. Philosophers such as Thomas Aquinas referred to people who apply ethics as those with ‘well-informed conscience’. Ethics allows people to be consistent in their judgments. In addition, it allows people to examine their opinions critically. Moreover, ethics enables individuals to provide reasons for their beliefs. To sum it up, ethics enables a person to act in accordance with the set of core principles and values in a given system (Velasquez, Andre, Shanks, and Mayer 1).
In academic institutions, the set of core principles and values include academic integrity. Academic integrity refers to academic honesty. Integrity comes with ability to reflect responsible behavior. In essence, examination is considered successfully completed if the results reflect honesty and integrity. It should be noted that honesty is the underpinning of an excellent academic work. Various acts are considered ethical in an examination set-up. In fact, students are warned to uphold honesty and integrity in their work. These include plagiarism, unauthorized collaboration, facilitation of academic dishonesty and cheating (Ginger 1). Therefore, in considering the fact that studying past papers is unethical, it has to fall among the acts of dishonesty (Petress 624).
Ethics of using past exams to study for tests
Most institutions have encouraged their students to utilize past papers to help prepare them for examinations especially in pre-college institutions. The fact that students have traditionally been encouraged to use past papers points to the fact that their use is considered ethical as far as the institutions are concerned. Using past papers has numerous advantages to the student. However, it also has disadvantages, especially if the students realize that the instructors tend to copy paste past papers when setting new exams. In this sense, it is worth noting that ethical considerations arise when utilizing past papers. To begin with, past papers help students to be familiar with the kinds of questions to expect in examination setting. This helps students to understand how questions are structured in exams. Additionally, past papers help students to get conversant with the kind of answers required of them in examinations settings (PLOTR 1).
Past papers also enable students to recognize useful areas for revision. Moreover, it helps students to know their weaknesses in specific topics. Besides, past papers help students to practice how to allocate time for each of the questions; this can be helpful in ensuring the exams are completed in time. Additionally, past papers help students to stay focused on their exams. Once students realize their weaknesses, they can take initiative to read the areas of weaknesses for better understanding. On the other hand, past papers have been found to drill students rather than help in their understanding of the topic. In fact, overreliance on past papers can lead to diversion of students from reading course content. Moreover, students’ attitude can also differ when their aim is only to pass exams. It should be noted that the aim of every study is to gain knowledge and expertise in an area (PLOTR 1).
Whether it is ethical to use past exams not given by the instructor to study for tests
Proponents of the fact that it is ethical to use past papers not given by the instructor to study for tests would give various reasons to support their arguments. For instance, they believe that there is no harm in revising past papers as far as ethical considerations are concerned. In fact, they argue that studying past papers would help prepare the candidate for examination settings. Moreover, it would help the candidates manage time (Bufton 208). To ensure that ethical considerations are tackled, it should be noted that all students are allowed to access past papers in the institution’s archives for revision purpose. These past papers may be given by the instructor or not. However, they are availed in the archives for use by all students who feel that they are helpful. In this regard, it is ethical to use past papers not given by the instructor to study for exams (PLOTR 1).
Past papers give students an understanding of what is required of them when they face the tests. In essence, past papers give students insight on how to prepare for exams. Moreover, instructors are required to uphold integrity and honesty in the exams that they set. Instructors should not copy paste questions for new tests from past examinations. Copying and pasting questions would be unethical on the part of the instructor and not on the part of the student who accidentally meets the same paper while revising. Moreover, unless prior mistakes have been done before, most students study past papers with little expectation of meeting the same questions in the test. That is, studying past papers for tests hold academic integrity if there is no collaboration between the instructor and the students to abet examination cheating. Therefore, whether the past papers are given by the instructor or not, it is ethical to use them to prepare for tests (Petress 624).
It is unethical to use past examination papers not given by the instructor to study for tests. According to this group, students accessing past papers not given by the instructor have an unfair advantage over the rest of the students when they face tests. This incident is particularly devastating if the instructor cycle papers. Students who have studied past papers tend to pass highly thereby giving a dishonest opinion of them because when new exams are set they fail to meet expectations. According to Arlington, use of past examination papers to study for tests is unethical. In fact, he believes that changes should be made to either block access of past papers to all students or give access to all. However, in each case, he believes that instructors should work to archive normal distribution of results (Arlington 1).
Exam banks have been found to influence examination results. This occurrence inherently disadvantages some students. In the process, academic integrity is compromised. Moreover, validity of grades also becomes questionable. Therefore, Institutions should find ways of managing exam archives as well as encourage instructors to uphold academic integrity in their exams. From the above description, it is quite clear that studying past papers for tests give rise to complex ethical issues. In fact, whether the instructor should be blamed for setting cycle exams or not does not change the fact that some students would have undue advantage over others in the exam. Moreover, results from the test would not reflect the true abilities of the students. In essence, validity of grades is still questionable and hence the credibility of exams. Therefore, use of past papers without knowledge of the lecturer amounts to unethical behavior irrespective of the person at fault (Bouville 70).
From the above arguments, it can be observed that the ethical problem in question is the integrity of exams. It can also be observed that the validity of grades is affected when some or all students get undue advantage on tests. Moreover, impartiality in examination setting is also affected when some students accept old examination papers while others do not. In essence, to achieve academic integrity, it is necessary that all the aspects mentioned be covered. For instance, the University of Missouri encourages instructors to set new exams (University of Missouri 1). However, in case the instructors want to utilize past exams, they are advised by the University to make copies of past papers available to all students for fairness. In such cases, the instructors are advised to change the basic elements of the test to avoid copying and pasting past papers. This shows clearly that despite the many arguments for the use of past papers, their use can led to academic dishonesty if not managed effectively. Therefore, use of past papers that are not given by the instructor to study for tests is unethical.
Past papers are useful to students in many ways. These ways include practice on management of time, understanding the type of answers required and knowing weakness areas, among others. However, academic integrity is also important because it ensures validity of grades and fairness in an examination setting. Based on the arguments for and against use of past papers to study for tests, it should be noted that it is unethical to use the papers. Despite the fact that the instructor could cycle test, the outcome is devastating because fairness is not upheld and validity of grades becomes questionable.
Arlington, Shane. On the Ethics of Exam Archives. Web.
Bouville, Mathieu. “Why is Cheating Wrong?” Studies in Philosophy & Education 29.1 (2010): 67-76.
Bufton, Serena. “The Lifeworld of the University Student: Habitus and Social Class.” Journal of Phenomenological Psychology 34. 2 (2003): 207-234.
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Ginger, Graumann. Using Past Exams As Study Aids: Cheating or Acceptable Practice? 2012. Web.
Petress, Kenneth. “Academic Dishonesty: A plague on Our Profession.” Education 123.3 (2003): 624.
PLOTR. How Important are Past Papers When Revising for Exams? 2016. Web.
University of Missouri. Academic Integrity: Preventing Academic Dishonesty. Web.
Velasquez, Manuel, Claire Andre, Thomas Shanks, and Michael Mayer. What is Ethics?. 2015. Web.