So, I was taking my exam, and there were two questions I really had no clue on, and I was running out of time on. So I quickly went to a website and posted pictures of my exam questions and asked for answers. I immediately regretted doing so, and went to delete them, when I realized, it wasn’t possible. I then started freaking out, shaking, crying, etc. I know it was wrong, and I really don’t know why I did it. I just didn’t want to fail. They haven't seen it yet, and I hope they don’t ever, I didn’t even use it on the test, and was too frazzled to even fully finish the exam. I don’t know what to do, and my heart has been racing for 12 hours now, and I haven’t been able to sleep. The schools policy is essentially that the teacher will decide what happens, unless I already have a record, where the school will decide to expel me. I know I haven’t even been caught or anything, but I just want to do the right thing here, because I know it was wrong. But I also don’t want to possibly get expelled.
Interesting. You are actually not asking an ethics question here; that one you could answer yourself, and very quickly.
I think your question has two aspects:
- You are asking for psychological advice. You are suffering because your mighty superego just doesn't shut up. If that's any consolation, to me this means you are a good person. But you would like to come clear in order to have moral and mental closure.
- You are (that's the on-topic part) asking for academic advice: You are interested in the likely consequences because they play a role in whether you will decide to confess. If it's likely that you'd be expelled you'd rather try to sit it out. If the likely reaction is stern admonition and a grade reduction you are perfectly willing to trade that in exchange for moral and hence psychological relief.
I cannot really answer the academic question; it probably depends a lot on the country, the school and the teacher, none of which you can reasonably disclose.
But if there are clear guidelines — whatever they are — it may not make a great difference whether they find out or whether you confess. Or it may work to your disadvantage: Unless your name or a unique identifier is on the photos you posted (and if you were that stupid you don't deserve your degree anyway) they will have a hard time proving that it was your exam, and not somebody else's. Unless you go and confess! All jurisdictions accept the right for the accused to be silent. No jurisdiction requires you to indict yourself. This is the time to call on this privilege and observe the prime directive for all accused: Do not talk.
My advice: Take this as a lesson. You'll remember it for the rest of your life. Don't go and serve them your own head on a silver platter. We all have done things in the past we were not proud of; we all have probably hurt people emotionally by acting less nicely than we wish we had. If we could, we would go back and fix it. But here, no damage has been done; there is literally nothing to fix here except your future behavior.
Unless you can't bear being a "pragmatic coward", I'd simply live with having been an idiot, not do it again and hope not to get caught this one time.
First of all, I understand that you ultimately just posted your questions but did not look at the answers. So technically you may have committed some kind of an academic violation, but not as bad as you could have. This is, at least ethically, a good thing- you overcame the temptation of cheating!
There’s a small chance that you’ll get caught in the attempt and then it will be very difficult for you to prove that you didn’t look at the answers. If somehow your request is discovered by a TA/student who dislikes you/bad luck, and it’s not anonymized then you can get in trouble.
You can try and explain the situation to your professor. Tell them about your emotional state, that you did not cheat and just did something stupid which you immediately regretted.
What happens next is really up to your professor and how seriously they take cheating vs. how much they want to reward honesty. I personally would have checked your exam, asked for the website where you posted the questions (to check you didn’t ask anything else), and let you off the hook. However other professors could feel differently, especially if you cheated before.
If it’s highly unlikely that you’ll get caught then perhaps it’s not worthwhile to risk the above scenario. You seemed to have learned your lesson and hopefully won’t do this again.
Another alternative is to speak to a student councelor or ombudsperson in your institution. They're usually required to uphold student confidentiality, and won't tell anyone about what happened without your consent. If anything - they will be able to assure you and help you figure out what to do with the specific professor better than strangers on the Internet.
I would advise against reporting this to the school or the teacher. Not only because of the potential negative repercussions, but what is the use, if you'll do it again in the future? If you need to unburden your heart, confess to a priest, imam, a friend, etc.
If you regret it, remember good this experience. Maybe it will help you to fight the temptation to do it again in the future.
Footnote: Long time ago, at the end of an exam, I couldn't fill in an answer, and somehow I overheard another student whispered it to other student (not me). I promptly wrote it on my exam paper. Later I got almost perfect score, and I regret writing that just one answer I overheard. Even without it, my score would still be very good. Afterwards, I don't care if the students before or next to me cheat during exams. They should know better for themselves. I just don't do it anymore, except that once. My score whether perfect or not, is mine alone. I rather flunk an exam or even a course, but I know I pass it on my own, without cheating. Something that I can be proud of myself.
I recommend you report the incident to your course convenor as soon as possible. What you have done is a breach of exam conditions (the other answer is wrong: what you did is cheating), but if you self-report then it is likely that this will be taken into account in your favour, and will mitigate the punishment. It will also make it more likely that the university will accept your version of events (e.g., that you did not use any answers from your posted question) and aspects of this may also act in mitigation of the offence. If you decide not to self-report and the university finds out about this conduct then you will not receive mitigation for this, and you will miss out on the opportunity to develop good character.
As to how to stay calm, that is not terribly important right now. What is important is to act swiftly to ensure that you obtain the benefit of self-reporting your own wrongful conduct. Once you self-report, you may experience the calm that comes from the fact that any conseqeuences are now out of your hands. You will also enjoy the psychic benefits that come from starting down the road towards honesty and good character.
If I were you (and I’m not), here’s what I would do ...
First, keep quiet. It seems highly unlikely that your posting will be discovered. Teachers might search the internet for people posting their exam questions, but searching won’t find a photograph. Even if they do find the posting, there’s no way to know who it came from, is there?
If your school somehow gets proof (and I don’t know how this is possible) then you can admit to posting the questions. Your exam paper proves that you didn’t use the answers given on-line, so you can just say (truthfully) that you realized the posting was a mistake, and didn’t follow through. Maybe no answers were posted. Did you look?
If you confess now, then, if you’re unlucky, your school authorities might decide to make an example of you, and your life could be ruined. I don’t think you deserve that, so I wouldn’t take the risk.
You did a stupid thing, but you realized this, and you didn’t gain any unfair advantage from it, so no great harm done, in my view. Don’t do it again.
Of course, this plan is somewhat dishonest. I could live with the dishonesty, but maybe you can’t. No-one can make that decision for you.
What's done is done. You could go admit your guilt to the professor and be destroyed. That sounds like a really bad idea to me.
I recommend you:
- Vow to never attempt to cheat again. As you can see, cheating is bad for the soul.
- Improve your study skills so you're not tempted.
That the episode upset you so speaks well of your character. Everyone makes mistakes.