Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Investigation of test banks is a necessity

Geo Casillas

UT is a top-tier university, and hypercompetitive students will do whatever it takes to get ahead.  By investigating the use of test banks, popular study tools among exclusive student organizations, the University will have a hand in leveling the educational playing field.

Test banks are collections of tests that professors have administered in the past and then redistributed back to students after grading. Students review the material of past tests so that they can better anticipate future exam questions.

“We have a filing cabinet arranged by course. There’s a good amount of tests; we routinely take them out because there are too many,” a sorority member at UT, who wished to remain anonymous, described.

But equal access doesn’t exist: Test banks are typically concentrated amongst members of exclusive organizations such as Greek life and spirit groups. Admission into these organizations often requires social clout and lots of money, which not all students possess.

In March 2016, UT Senate of College Councils proposed that the University create an online database of past tests that all students could access and use as a study resource. But implementation fell through.

“The big argument came from some of the science (professors) because they said there’s only so many ways to test knowledge of biology, chemistry, etc. So rewriting tests yearly wouldn’t be practical for them” Sergio Cavazos, past president of Senate, said.

This is valid — it’s an unnecessary burden to force professors to rewrite tests annually. Nevertheless, the legal aspect of test banks deserves to be looked at again.

According to University rules, “capturing or divulging the contents of a test or other assignment” is academic dishonesty, but only if “the instructor has not given permission for students to keep or distribute such information.”

But who is assuring that every one of those tests in the overflowing file cabinets of test banks actually follows this guideline? Sometimes students cheat. Sometimes they’re dishonest. It’s very possible some tests accessed by students were not designated to leave the classroom in the first place. And even if they were, is this the way UT wants to encourage its students to study?

While students across the country have discussed this issue on online forums, no data detailing the scope of this issue exists. This must change. 

An incident report form exists where students can make academic dishonesty referrals, but this resource is not widely promoted. This resource should be publicized on UT’s social media platforms in the context of a test bank investigation announcement.

If UT inquired to see if all test banks are actually following university guidelines, UT could crack down on potential cheating and be a catalyst of change, inspiring other colleges across the nation to file their own investigations and act accordingly on their findings.

Sims is an international relations and global studies sophomore from Houston.

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Investigation of test banks is a necessity