We have Science homework due tomorrow and it's basically a "fill in the boxes" homework about energy in Microsoft Word. Well, my friends and I quickly realised that the teacher had put all of the answers in white font in the boxes. So, all we need to do is change the font to black and there's our homework.

I really don't know if this was an accident, intentional or a trap to test which of us are honest or not. So what do I do?

Do I just turn the font to black, read it over and laugh at how easy it was, or do I delete the boxes and actually try? I know which one I should do, of course, but if all the people in my class have done that and the answers are the same, what do I do?

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    Actually do the work yourself and don't get into the habit of exploiting carelessness on the instructor's part. – Sean Roberson May 22 '17 at 17:42
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    You want to learn or to get assessed? Well, assessment is important, but learning is more so. – Captain Emacs May 22 '17 at 18:09
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    If you want to get on your teacher's good side, you might even consider emailing them and letting them know what you accidentally found. They'll probably tell you to just do the work on your own, but they may also be grateful if it was an error on their part. Just be respectful if you do tell them. – tonysdg May 22 '17 at 18:47
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    Hard to believe it was an "error". More likely something the teacher thought they could do for simplicity and didn't expect to be found out. I agree, telling them is probably best. – Fred Douglis May 22 '17 at 19:44
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    @PålGD His advice is valid. This is essentially a "should I plagiarize my homework?" question. It doesn't matter how easy it is to do so. Google makes it easy to plagiarize almost any homework these days. It's academically dishonest and even if you don't care about honesty it's also a trivial case to spot... so even a dishonest person shouldn't do this, as they are almost guaranteed to be caught. – TemporalWolf May 22 '17 at 20:46

There are several reasons you should do the work yourself, ignoring the filled in answers:

  • It is the honest thing to do.
  • You will learn far more from the homework that way.
  • The filled-in answers may not be the right answers. For example, the teacher could have used a file from someone who had done the homework for calibration, and made some mistakes.
  • If the teacher sees a lot of 100% correct answers, with exactly the same wording and formatting, they may become suspicious and realize what was going on. In that case, it may be very important to be able to honestly say you did the work yourself.

In college, the textbook exercises have answers, in the back or as a separate book.

The point isn’t to do busywork, but to practice. Work it out, and then check to see if you’re right, and try again if necessary. You can have the answers up front if you are mature enough.


Be honest, let the professor know about their mistake, do the homework and show your results. When you let the professor know about their mistake, do it privately before class, don't call them out in front of the class. Remember your teacher is only human, too. I used to be a professor at a local community college and have made the same mistake, so this was from my experience with it.

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