Ethics & law
Is sharing past exam questions a form of cheating?
Marika Davies, a medicolegal adviser, gives advice on some common ethical dilemmas faced by medical students
- By: Marika Davies
Working together to revise for exams, learning from past students, and passing knowledge on to those coming after you is part of being a medical student. Sharing old exam papers is a natural part of this, but can become a problem if that information has been obtained illicitly.
In a case described in The BMJ students at an Australian medical school took screenshots of a multiple choice question exam and passed them on to students who had not yet sat the exam.1 Anne Tonkin, emeritus professor at the University of Adelaide School of Medicine, describes the rote learning of illicitly obtained exam questions as a form of cheating, and says that developments in technology—such as screenshots, file sharing, and mass email—have resulted in a highly efficient system for students to recall entire exams with great accuracy.
The proportion of students engaging in exam recall behaviour ranges from 25% to 89%,