Let’s talk about something no one wants to bring up: test files.
Test files, or test banks, are archives of previous exams that members of groups or organizations can use to perform better on upcoming exams. They are commonly used by fraternities, sororities, and academic organizations.
It is commonly acknowledged that universities have groups with some form of a test bank. Several subreddits can be found by academic officers seeking advice on how to start or improve their test banks. Despite this, no one wants to step forward and talk about it, likely due to test files being considered as cheating.
However, even when we remove test files from the scenario, members of the Greek community are apprehensive with regards to their academics in general.
According to Lindsay Wright, assistant director of the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, Greek chapters have officers who oversee academics. In order to fulfill academic standards, “chapters are encouraged to have programs in place that support members who fall below their GPA requirements,” Wright said.
When the topic of test files was pressed, communication was cut off from Wright.
To gain some insight directly from a Greek chapter, Sigma Alpha Epsilon was contacted in order to plan a meeting with an academic officer. The house's response was that they had no individual for me to speak with.
Some university departments do provide public test banks to students for study material. At the UW, one can easily access the physics test archive, but this is ethical study material. Physics exams are not recycled and are rewritten for new exams. However, not all departments are organized like this, and many professors reuse their old questions for new exams.
Classes with these recycled exams creates an uneven playing field. Individuals with access to a test bank gain an academic advantage over others. In an opinion article published last fall by the Daily Bruin, a writer suggested that all professors release past exams to a university test bank.
While this suggestion was radical, it does help provide all students with the same academic opportunities. Not all students want to pay the fees for living on Greek Row or join a chapter.
The article was met with harsh comments in which a reader wrote, “Your professors are ‘lazy’ because they aren’t giving you their tests? You entitled little princess.”
But the truth is, some professors aren’t as motivated as others and reuse the same questions for new tests. Professors are aware of test files, yet don’t change their ways, propagating the use of test files in the Greek system, allowing 71 percent of the nation’s Greek members to graduate college compared to the 50 percent of non-Greeks that graduate.
There will always be faults in an academic system; some students will have duties such as work that affect studying and some students have better social skills to create study groups. However, the issue of test banks can be resolved and no longer has to be a fault in our academic system. This is a topic that should no longer be skirted around, and should instead be directly acknowledged in our academic community.
Reach writer Christine McManigal at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @clmcman