As a student at St. Louis University, Demir Oral met students acing exams partly because they had access to a bank of previous tests from the same professor. Fraternities and sororities had compiled exams from prior years and made them available to students, providing an invaluable study tool during pressure-packed final exams.
So last November, Oral launched Postyourtest.com, starting a free online service that he hoped would democratize the sharing of college exams. And as the site has attracted attention from students nationwide, educators have become wary of the potential for academic dishonesty.
Experts say sites like Postyourtest.com could change the way professors assemble their tests, aware that previous versions of their questions might be available in cyberspace.
"I don’t think that should just be available to a few students," said Oral, 23, who operates the web site from San Diego. "That should be available to everyone."
Oral said there are more than 500 tests posted on his web site, with most of them coming from the San Diego area, where Postyourtest.com is advertised. Tests from schools such as the University of Houston, Rice University, Harvard, and Notre Dame are also posted on Oral’s site. Critics compare Postyourtest.com to web sites that sell term papers–charging students more than $10 per page in some cases–but Oral said that comparison is unfair. Exams on Postyourtest.com only give students a better idea of what might appear on their upcoming test, he said–they don’t supply students with a cheat sheet.
"There’s a certain difference there," he said. "I’m not giving a student answers to an exam that’s coming up."
Oral’s position notwithstanding, Clemson University’s Center for Academic Integrity has warned college officials of the cheating potential of Postyourtest.com.
Stephen Satris, the interim director of the Center for Academic Integrity, said many college professors distribute identical exams year after year, allowing students to simply memorize answers–for both multiple- choice and short-answer questions–instead of studying the class material and lecture notes. The proliferation of sites that post exams could shake longtime college faculty members from their malaise and force them to create brand-new tests every semester.
"Yes, [web sites like Postyourtest.com are] worrisome, partly because we can be pretty sure that not all instructors are changing their tests every semester, as they should," Satris said in an eMail message to eSchool News. "It should be something of a wake-up call. We should assume that if we’ve given a test, then the test is somewhere out there. These sorts of sites bring that message home to faculty."
He added: "With sites like these online, instructors will be more likely to change their tests more often; the unintended consequence is that if instructors change their tests more often, then sites like this will become less valuable."
Oral, who works as a web designer, said he hoped professors would change their tests often and review exams on the web site, examining other teachers’ testing strategies from across the country. But having tests from previous semesters would still show students what the professor has focused on in the past, making it easier to sift through the hundreds of pages of test-prep material piled on students’ desks.
"This site gives that professor more material to make new tests," said Oral, who added that professors at the University of California, San Diego, campus had given him advice on how to make Postyourtest.com palatable in education circles. "From that evolution, there can come newer and better questions. … It can really improve the quality of coursework for college students."
Oral included a message directed to professors on his home page: "Use our site to post and view exams from your college classes or from classes around the world to see how other professors administer exams, and create class groups to facilitate organizing your events, content, and classes."
Postyourtest.com has not gained popularity without its share of angry messages sent to Oral from educators nationwide. One college professor from Florida wrote: "If or when your unethical service manages to make its way to Florida or wherever I happen to be, I want to ban the use of my tests. I already change my tests regularly to avoid students passing them around, as do many other professors, so some of your users will have a nice surprise in store for them on test day. Have a nice day."
Postyourtest.com averages between 20,000 and 30,000 hits a month, which has steadily increased since its November launch, Oral said, adding that the site sees its heaviest traffic in May and December, traditionally final exam time at American universities.
Students can search Postyourtest.com by state, city, zip code, campus, class, university, department, or professor. Oral said that has made it easier for students to filter the hundreds of posted tests.
"It’s interesting that the site is searchable by school and instructor name," Satris said. "The site seems more focused on enabling users to get to the test that they might have to face with a given instructor than it is on providing learning guidelines about the things that are important enough in the course to appear on a test."