I thought that it will be huge achievement to get diploma from well ranked university. However, at the end of my studies, as a foreign student I realized that the questions in exams I passed were repeating from past exams. Those past exams were not available in the database, but finding the screenshots from many students led me to believe that many exams are not credential. I'm afraid that this information will diminish the achievement I did by obtaining diploma from this university and hinder the opportunities for finding the job in the market if this information is publicised. I thought to raise this question with the Ethics committee but afraid that it will be David contra Goliath knowing that this practice is accepted as general for so many years. There are so few reusable exam question that actually the same exams are repeating every second year. There is no systematical way offered by the university to access the old exam. So the students communicate them via screenshots.

There is wonderful answer by @ Dan Romik below, how it is possible that he understood the question and you put on hold as unclear?!

  • 3
    What's your question?
    – ff524
    Dec 24, 2015 at 22:21
  • Can the Ethics commity of the university do something to prevent this practice to happen in the future? "I thought to raise this question with the Ethics commity but affraid that it will be David contra Golliath knowing that this practice is accepted as general for so many years."
    – mak_ec
    Dec 24, 2015 at 22:24
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    The practice of reusing exam questions is so widely accepted that I don't understand why you think it is an ethical violation. Dec 24, 2015 at 23:06
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    @mak_ec: Are there so few reusable exam questions from previous years that actually memorizing them along with their answers is a viable tactic? Also, please elaborate on what you mean by "It is clear that the intention is to make sure that some students" - whose intention? Are you saying someone is intentionally giving an intentionally chosen subset of students advance knowledge that has an actual, positive effect on their exam results? Also, is passing on information on the questions among students explicitly forbidden (which is what I personally would find a very questionable move by ... Dec 25, 2015 at 0:01
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    @mak_ec: You forgot to answer O.R. Mapper’s most important question: “ Is passing on information on the questions among students explicitly forbidden?” — Also: How do students obtain screenshots of exam questions? Are exams held on your own computer?
    – Wrzlprmft
    Dec 25, 2015 at 8:14

1 Answer 1


No, because reusing exam questions is not unethical. If the exam questions are not publicly available, then getting unauthorized access to them (or distributing them without authorization) is likely to be a violation of academic integrity policies.

There are good reasons for recycling exam questions. In some cases, it's quite difficult to develop an exam that gets a good distribution of scores, tests all the important parts of the curriculum, and is worded clearly. Standardized testing companies have entire teams that validate questions, but individual professors have to get there on their own. If one has an exam that works particularly well, then it may be tempting to reuse it with only minor changes (or even no changes at all).

There is always going to be some cheating, no matter the precautions. As long as it's not systemic (and going well beyond this particular class), it will not affect the reputation of your degree.

If you do want to take some action, you could contact the professor teaching the class. He may well be interested in learning that his questions are being circulated, so he can design a new exam for the next iteration of the class. You should, however, be prepared to explain how you came across the questions (screenshots from other students?).

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    Reusing exam questions may be unethical, or at least highly inappropriate and unprofessional, depending on how it is done. As an example, in my institution's Code of Academic Conduct, under "Responsibility of the Faculty" we find listed the requirement that the faculty "Use examination formats that discourage academic misconduct." Moreover, as a member of my university's judicial board I saw cases where an instructor's practice of giving the same exam every year led to a major cheating scandal, so the instructor was clearly very negligent.
    – Dan Romik
    Dec 25, 2015 at 2:46
  • Thank you for your comment, it is really at the point that I raised in the question. I don't know why I'm criticized for not being clear in my question above, but your opinion is really what I expected and probably a direction to follow. Thank you.
    – mak_ec
    Dec 25, 2015 at 10:26

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