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You are not allowed to directly post material from a professor's lecture but any notes you take are considered your intellectual property. By the same token if you take an exam and remember a question can you post it online after taking the exam to know whether you did it correctly? The numbers and wording can be changed but the question will essentially be the same.

According to an answer to a related question (Is it ethical to post an exam question and answer to the internet?) this is acceptable but I find that questionable since although the wording is changed the idea is the same. But I think that it's not necessarily a disservice because although specifically those who take the same class in the future, if they come across the question, may encounter it on their exam if the professor reuses the question, most people who encounter it will learn from it.

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    How is this question any different from the one you linked? Asking it again just because you don't like the answers is not an appropriate use of the privilege to post.
    – Nij
    Dec 12, 2022 at 7:06
  • In my time at university, we (more or less) only had oral exams that counted toward the final grade. Of these, there were a metric ton of "memory protocols" available via the student council, most even typeset in LaTeX (yes, it was mathematics...) and with reworked solutions. These were used by most students as example problems for their own exams. Those being oral however made relatively sure that no two exams were exactly the same.
    – arne
    Dec 12, 2022 at 13:50

2 Answers 2

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Note that plagiarism is about ideas not specific wording. If you post it and cite it then it isn't plagiarism.

The professor (or the university) hold copyright on the material as they do on all other writings. So, you should, in principle, ask for permission. One can violate copyright with rephrasing, not just with quoting. Note that an important aspect of copyright law is whether a "copy" makes the original less valuable or not.

However, there is another question which is whether you do future students a service or a disservice by doing so. If your posting is used to increase grades at the expense of learning then it is, IMO, a disservice. Reuse of questions for exams is a fraught activity, of course. The world would probably be better if it weren't done, but in some fields that is difficult. If you want to be of service to learning, then I'd suggest that you don't do it.

In a field like mathematics, there is a vast difference between reading a solution and producing one. Taking "exams" knowing all the questions and answers in advance won't give a student the feedback they need to know whether they have the needed insights. I can imagine an "All A" student who knows nothing of the subject.

You haven't tagged this with . I hope you consider that an important issue.

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    I know the asker didn't mention this, but it seems like it might be relevant to bring up any honor codes or academic integrity codes that might be enforced on the asker. Even if it would not be plagiarism or a copyright violation, there still could be consequences for anyone posting exam questions. Unless they aren't a student at the time they post them. Dec 12, 2022 at 5:55
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    I don't understand how posting past exams could be a disservice to future students? Practice exams are typically the best way to learn.
    – Stef
    Dec 12, 2022 at 9:51
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    Copyright, at least under US law, does not extend to "any idea [...] concept, principle, or discovery". You can copyright the literal wording of the question, and that would also extend to close paraphrasing, but it would not cover the general idea or essential concept of the question. Nobody owns (e.g.) the concept of figuring out a building's height by measuring its shadow and doing trigonometry, or any similar question you could devise.
    – Kevin
    Dec 12, 2022 at 10:14
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Assuming that the exam questions are not intended for release, it is possible that the university would view this as an infraction against the general requirement of "academic honesty" or "academic integrity". Depending on additional context or actions that accompany this activity, they might even view it as being an inchoate attempt to cheat in a future exam (e.g., by making the question available to another student who uses this to gain advanced knowledge of questions for a future exam). It is also possible that the university would consider this to be a case of improper collusion in the conduct of assessable work, which is also generally regarded as an infraction against academic integrity.

Many universities have strict requirements on when a student can take possession of the exam questions after the exam (e.g., special coloured sheets for exams that cannot be retained) and the goal of this is to ensure that the questions on those exams do not become available to students, so that the same questions can safely be asked again in future exams. When students collect and share these questions it has the potential to undermine the integrity of future examinations that use those questions. This is generally considered to be an illegitimate form of cooperation in assessable work, so it may be viewed as collusion or as a general breach of academic integrity.

In the case where the exam questions are released by the university, the situation would be different. Universities publish some of their exams on repositories that are available to students, and if the exam falls in this category then there is no issue of collusion or academic integrity in posting a question yourself. The only issues to be aware of in this latter case are copyright law and appropriate conventions on citation of your sources.

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