Test banks in their current form give an unfair advantage to a select group of students

Rachel Osterloh

Inscribed on the Tower’s main facade are the words, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” 

The sentiment behind this quotation is supposed to drive the philosophy behind UT’s core values, as well as the University’s recently rewritten honor code. But it’s not clear that the University consistently upholds this view in all its values. Consider test banks — do the principles of academic integrity align with the usage of test banks?

Organizational test banks are compiled amounts of old tests, assignments and quizzes that are held by academic or social organizations for their members to review.

The University’s rules state that “divulging the contents of a test for the purpose of preserving questions for future use” is academic dishonesty, but only if “the instructor has designated that the test is not to be removed [from the classroom].” The rules appear to imply studying from test banks does not qualify as prohibited conduct unless specified by the professor overseeing the exams.

Still, college students who do not have access to organizational test banks tend to frown upon their use. Nick Gatz, a Spanish and liberal arts honors junior, said he finds that test banks promote a sense of privilege among students who should have an equal footing in the classroom. He also said that they are against the spirit of academic integrity and create additional work for the professors who will have to continuously modify tests to prevent unfairness in the classroom.

On the other hand, one could argue that it is the professor’s responsibility to frequently create new examinations if they give out the old tests. Moreover, if an examination truly tests a student’s knowledge, it will be comprehension-based, and therefore not purely based on memorization. In such a case, access to test banks would not guarantee an “A.” 

Test banks can inflate grades without increasing understanding. Regardless of the murky nature of institutional rules, students with access to test banks have an unfair advantage. Unequal access to test banks not only affects the overall quality of their individual education, but it also affects the classroom on the whole. Curves may be reduced or eliminated due to an isolated performance that was influenced by access to a test bank. 

UT’s institutional rules may not condemn the use of test banks, but if the University wants to promote its core values, it must either expand access to test banks or modify the institutional rules to prohibit their use.

The UT School of Law has implemented the former solution successfully, as it places all former exams in the library, where all UT law students have access to them. 

A high GPA is important to the majority of students, but if students truly wish to embrace the core tenets of the University and expand their knowledge, they will refrain from using test banks and attempt to learn for the sake of learning. UT has two choices to create academic equality in the test room: clearly ban test banks in the institutional rules, or embrace test banks and facilitate their use in a public library or an online portal.

Osterloh is a government sophomore from Austin. Follow Osterloh on Twitter @ranneoster.