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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “It’s OK to read old exams, faculty say”

    Greek Life members who have access to old exams for a course don’t have an advantage over other students, according to UA professors.

    Greek houses have test banks, files of old exams from various classes, so members can use the materials to study if they have the same professor or course.

    While some view this as a legitimate way to study, other chapters have stopped keeping banks for ethical reasons.

    Lauren Baldi, a member and former president of Sigma Kappa and vice president of membership for the Panhellenic Council, said test banks are a thing of the past for her sorority.

    “”If other (organizations) are using test banks, they could have an unfair advantage, and that might present an ethical dilemma,”” said Baldi, a marketing senior.

    However, Darren Haskett, a member of professional engineering fraternity Theta Tau, said his fraternity’s study room contains old exams and other materials dating back about 20 years.

    “”It’s nice to have them for study materials, of course, but in the end it doesn’t really make a difference. You either know (the material) or you don’t,”” said Haskett, an agricultural and biosystems engineering junior.

    Corinne Cox, an ecology and evolutionary biology senior who is not in a sorority, said Greek Life members don’t have an advantage over other students.

    “”People will get their hands on old tests one way or another,”” Cox said.

    Professors don’t turn a blind eye to the fact that test banks exist, either.

    “”I know there are copies of my tests floating around out there – I’m not ignorant of that. But I also have copies,”” said John Pollard, a chemistry lecturer.

    Richard Hallick, a biology professor, said professors do not see using old tests as reference material for new exams as cheating, not even when some problems are repeated verbatim.

    “”We have done studies regarding students’ performance on repeated exams versus completely rewritten exams, and we haven’t found any significant difference,”” Hallick said.

    Hallick said he uses old tests to create tutorials for students who will use them as practice problems.

    “”Besides, after 22 years of writing tests, you could imagine it’s difficult to come up with completely original material,”” said Hallick, who has been teaching at the UA since 1986.

    Hallick, along with other professors in the biology department, posts prior years’ exams on his course Web site for students to use as a study aid.

    Anne Padias, a chemistry instructor and director of academic services for the department, said Greek Life students with access to her old exams will not have an advantage over other students because she posts all the old exams online along with answer keys.

    Other professors remained unsure of the recycled test method.

    “”I question whether or not it’s useful for learning, but I can see how studying old tests can make a student more comfortable in anticipating what will be on the exam,”” Pollard said.

    Pollard compared test repeating to practicing for a half-time competition at a basketball game.

    “”If you know you’re going to have to make a half-court shot, you’ll just practice that shot over and over,”” Pollard said. “”But if you’re going to be actually playing in the game, you practice all the shots and become a well-rounded shooter.””

    Pollard said conceptual learning is key because class content changes slightly, so older tests would not always be relevant anyway.

    Whatever you use to study, said Cox, “”the main point is to just study hard and do well on the test.””

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