by Matt Gates
WHS has gone to great lengths to limit the most flagrant forms of cheating: copying off another student’s test, bringing secret flashcards and calculators into a testing room and plagiarizing essays. However, more attention needs to be paid to a subtler but just as dangerous form of cheating: the use of old tests to “study.”
Some students at WHS have access to completed and corrected tests and essays from older students in their homes. Especially in courses that can be taken by several different grade levels, the use of old tests in order to cheat is prevalent. Students that took a course the year before are able to give their completed and corrected tests to their friends to use. Students with older siblings also can likely access old tests, quizzes, essays and projects.
Because it can be extremely difficult for teachers teaching the same course from year to year to significantly alter their test questions, many times these old tests are identical to or extremely similar to the current tests. This allows students with old tests to have a significant advantage over their peers.
All teachers at WHS should do their best to prevent cheating through use of old tests by changing the questions as much as possible or at the very least re-collecting tests once students have reviewed their errors. However, teachers are put in an extremely difficult situation, having to decide between limiting students to only reviewing tests at school or sending them home with students that could photocopy or photograph content.
Therefore, students are ultimately responsible for putting an end to this form of academic dishonesty. Just as students who copy answers from a neighbor or plagiarize essays ultimately face the consequences, students who use old tests will also find that their behavior catches up with them.
Midterm and final exams are kept secure in the main office for just this reason. Students that have taken every test for the first half of the year after having already seen the question are in for an unpleasant surprise when the midterm has all new questions. Likewise, the College Board does everything possible to ensure that students taking AP exams are seeing the material for the first time. Therefore, students that use old tests to cheat in AP courses will be at a disadvantage in trying to earn an AP score for which they can receive college credit.
Moreover, students will not be able to get by using this method in most college courses.Will students that use this unfair advantage in high school and get into highly competitive colleges find themselves unable to keep up with students who gained admission through honorable means?
Ultimately, being prepared for exams in high school or college is not the most important reason to avoid this cheating. According to the WHS mission statement, “The heart of our purpose is to reinforce ethical responsibility, promote personal integrity, and instill a life-long passion for learning.” In order to achieve this ideal for the WHS community, teachers must do their best to change assessments from year to year while students must put away their friends’ corrected tests and their siblings’ old essays.