I have had quite a few take home exams, mostly because they required you to be online and were a lot longer than 2 hour exams.

When taking these exams and answering questions (all essay questions) I've typed in the question into Google and bam. I find the same questions used from some PDF associated with, often, a different university and the PDF has either the answer or guidelines as to whether or not the student gave a close enough answer.

This has happened in 3 courses so far and I brought it up to a professor a year ago and she had no idea that the PDF she got test questions for had the answers on the same PDF online.

I assume it isn't students putting these PDF's up because the PDF's often have more questions than are on the exam and will have pages with a university name, class, and symbol which are not given on the exams handed out.

So, why would a university use questions from another university when a simple copy and paste reveals the answers or at least guides as to how to answer?

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    Your question assumes that the instructor copied the question from another university when it could have been supplied by the publisher of the course textbook or taken from some other textbook. It's quite common for publishers to provide test question banks to instructors who adopt their textbooks. Of course, it's unwise for an instructor to use questions in this way because there might be solutions readily available. On the other hand, any student caught using such answers would be guilty of plagiarism. Jul 12, 2015 at 3:29
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    @BrianBorchers Can you please turn this into an answer so that I can vote it up?
    – jakebeal
    Jul 12, 2015 at 4:22
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    I suggest an edit to the title of your question to remove the assumption that universities share test questions. For example, "Do universities share test questions? If so, why would they?" or something along those lines.
    – J W
    Jul 12, 2015 at 6:01

1 Answer 1


I am not aware of any university having agreements with other universities about exchanging exam questions and i doubt that such agreements would exist in many places. I would wager a bet that the same is pretty much true on departmental level.

On the level of individual teachers there might be many reasons why exam questions pop up in different places. One has been mentioned by Brian Borchers in a comment (questions taken from textbooks). Secondly, many first- and second-year courses teach pretty standard material which often has not changed for quite a while (e.g. basic linear algebra in many disciplines). For such courses (and even some higher-level courses) the set of questions that are useful as exam questions tends to be limited and so i would not find it surprising to find that most if not all questions have been asked somewhere and have been discussed on the web. Thirdly, it is not unheard of that teachers re-use exam questions from previous years. Fourth: sometimes teachers talk to each other and exchange experiences and material.

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