Who was cheating and who is at fault?

Discussion in 'Debate & Marathon Threads Archive' started by eddygirl, Mar 17, 2012.

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  1. eddygirl

    eddygirl Companion

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    Mar 17, 2012

    I'd love your feedback on this:

    High schooler Student A keeps all his papers and tests from the previous year. He gives them to Student B, who is a year behind him. Student B is caught cheating on a test (he has a picture of Student A's test on his phone). Both are punished, but Student A actually receives a harsher punishment.

    Questions that came up regarding the situation:
    1. Should Student A have been punished more severely?
    2. Should teacher be keeping all tests so kids can't "pass them on"? (is the test the property of Student A or his teacher?)
    3. One teacher argued that in college, students give their notes, tests, etc. to others; is that a punishable offense?
    4. Should teacher(s) be expected to make completely new tests each year to avoid this? It was also argued that certain material in certain classes must be covered, so how much can you change the test(s) to avoid this situation?

    This did not happen in my class, but was brought to my attention for my opinion. Your insight is appreciated.
     
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  3. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    I don't believe Student A should be in any way, shape or form, held responsible for the actions of Student B. The teacher gave the tests back to the students. Those then became the students' property to do as they wish. It is very common for students to study for upcoming exams by reviewing previous versions of the same exam. Heck, we do this all the time when reviewing for state tests and other standardized tests such as the teacher certification exams.

    Student B, however, decided to go a step further and take pictures of the exams and bring those pictures into the testing environment. He is 100% responsible for his actions. If I were the parent of Student A, I would certainly make a huge scene, working my way up to the superintendent of schools if necessary.
     
  4. TeachOn

    TeachOn Habitué

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    Under our "Academic Integrity Policy," students are punished for "Aiding or Abetting." This is defined as "helping another student to cheat, plagiarize, misrepresent or otherwise engage in academic dishonesty." This was devised by a body comprised mostly of students and was subsequently adopted by the school board. You would likely have no luck here going to the superintendent in a matter like this.
     
  5. 3Sons

    3Sons Enthusiast

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    I think it's a bit ludicrous that student A was punished at all. What are they supposed to do in the case of siblings?

    The test is unquestionably the property of Student A.

    The teacher should make up new tests every year. You can cover the same material while changing certain details. It sounds as thought it was quite well known that this teacher used exactly the same test from year to year.

    In my opinion, Student B and the teacher should be punished (or the teacher at least reprimanded, spoken to, or something).
     
  6. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    There's no "aiding and abetting". The teacher gave the tests back to the previous years' students. Those students were free to do with the tests as they pleased. If they wanted to post them on Youtube, they could have, and still wouldn't have done anything wrong. Student A is not responsible, and you'd better belive that I would get my way on this.
     
  7. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    I can't see how Student A has any fault.

    Our elementary school students prepare for provincial testing by, among other things, using released past test questions. Students review for tests and exams by reviewing previous assessments. If the teacher is going to use exactly the same test every year, they shouldn't be returned to the students (however, I strongly believe that different tests should be used every year--even, gasp, for every section of the same class).
     
  8. 1st-yr-teacher

    1st-yr-teacher Comrade

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    So, if student A gave the test to student b for the sole purpose of student b using that to cheat on the test, student a is not at all guilty? I don't think I agree with that. If student A gave him the test for that purpose then I think that is wrong, also.

    I do think that Student A should not be punished more than Student B.
     
  9. TeachOn

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    Mar 17, 2012

    mmswm,

    It is possible that you might: I said "unlikely," not impossible. That would be at the end of a long process, though, one involving for example a mostly-student Judiciary Committee to which any student can appeal a principal's decision in this and in many other matters. I am assuming that the principal might find Student A culpable, based on some past decisions, but here too it is possible he might not.

    As to the notion, though, that a determined and voluble parent can sidetrack this process or shorten it by going to the superintendent, which I took to be implicit in your post: that is not possible here, thankfully.

    The issue of teachers handing back tests is a live one here: there is quite a brouhaha going on about it. A substantial minority of students feel that teachers should be required to do so. A substantial minority of teachers (mostly in science, for whatever reason) feel that they should not. It's a lively little controversy. Such is life at a democratic school. I am at this point only an interested bystander, having as I do multiple versions of any of my tests where handing them back might be an issue. (Most of my tests are mostly essay tests.)
     
  10. Cerek

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    If the teacher just changed their test each year, it wouldn't matter what Student A did with the returned tests. If the teacher doesn't want to change his/her tests each year, (s)he should take the tests back up after reviewing them with the students.

    Student B is solely responsible for his/her cheating. The teacher is responsible for being lazy enough to make it possible.
     
  11. Mrs. K.

    Mrs. K. Enthusiast

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    The answer to this is to not give the test questions back to the students! I make a class set of my tests; each is numbered so that I am certain that all of them have been returned (my kids have been trained to put them in numerical order). They use notebook paper for an answer sheet. If I give a test back, and they want to go over it, I put the test up on the screen.

    But in my school, sharing information for the purpose of helping another cheat would have ramifications.
     
  12. Cerek

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    Seems to me it would hard to prove that Student A shared the materials with the express intent of helping Student B cheat. Student A could always claim (s)he just gave the material to Student B to help him/her study for the test.

    As several other posters have pointed out, studying released test questions is a standard practice among students and teachers alike.
     
  13. 1st-yr-teacher

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    Could this have been avoided if the teacher made a new test or took the tests back up? Yes. Is it the teachers fault because Student A gave the test to Student B? No. I don't agree.

    This is probably a bad analogy but it is like blaming someone for leaving their car unlocked and a thief coming and taking something. Should the car owner be blamed for not locking their car? No. Should they have locked their car? Yes, but the thief is still wrong.

    I don't know the whole background of the situation but if it is a case of student a giving the test to student b to help him cheat...then I believe student a is just as guilty.
     
  14. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Mar 17, 2012

    It's very simple in my mind. As has been pointed out by others, once the teacher gave the tests to the students, they became unquestionably the students' property, to do with as they wished. The students can give them to other students, post them on the internet, print them in the local paper, hire a skywriter to reproduce them in the clouds, turn them into a one act play, or anything else. The only person responsible for the actions of Student B is Student B himself.

    The teacher in this case didn't make a wise choice. Why on earth would he/she use the same tests that had been given back to previous students? The teacher blew the integrety of the tests through her own actions as well. That doesn't excuse Student B's actions, but the whole scenario could have been avoided had the teacher put a little thought into her actions.
     
  15. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Mar 17, 2012

    Here's what I think:

    We have a responsibility to ensure that each class gets a test different enough from the others that a kid needs to know the material in order to pass.

    So if a kid comes into my class knowing that the answers are "a,b,b,c,d,a..." then I haven't done my job.

    But if a kid comes into my class knowing that he'll have to be able to solve a big circle problem, and know the difference between an inscribed and a central angle, then that's fine. In fact, before I give a test I tell my kids exactly what to expect. That way, 9th period has no great advantage over 1st-- they both know the format, and they're getting different questions.

    I realize that math lends itself more easily to this than many other disciplines. But if a kid knows the foundation behind the Monroe Doctorine, does it matter whether he knows it from studying an old test or from studying his notes?? As long as he doesn't come in knowing that it's the answer to question # 3--- as long as he has to know how to correclty phrase the answer to the question as it's phrased for his class, then I see nothing wrong.

    Of course, a kid looking at a cell phone to get answers is cheating-- all he's proving is that he's good at technology, not History or English.

    For what it's worth, Peter teaches English. He has at least 5 or 6 different versions of every quiz he gives. If a kid can memorize all those vocab words, then he knows his vocabulary.
     
  16. Sarge

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    Mar 17, 2012

    I recall a local business when I was in college that sold copies of old tests.
     
  17. Sarge

    Sarge Enthusiast

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    The cheating occurred when student B had the copy of the test on his phone. Had he simply used the test he got from Student A in order to memorize the answers, then in my opinion, no cheating would have taken place. After all, neither Student A or Student B could be assured that the test would be the same.
     
  18. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Also, student B should have KNOWN he would be zapped for cheating the minute that phone came out of his backpack.
     
  19. 2ndTimeAround

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    @@

    I'd go after that under copyright laws, lol
     
  20. waterfall

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    I don't think student A should be punished. Saying that student A gave the tests to student B so that he/she could cheat is mere speculation. Student A probably had no idea student B planned to be looking at the test on his phone during the test. The tests were the property of student A. The teacher should change some answers and such on the test, but I don't think knowing what's going to be on it is a big deal. As others have mentioned, teachers do this all of the time. In college, there were sororities that kept files of all old tests so that their members could look at them and study for their upcoming tests. Knowing this was a common practice, many professors published their old tests online for students to study from so that someone wouldn't have an unfair advantage simply because they were in a sorority.
     
  21. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I agree wholeheartedly.

    How are kids supposed to learn from their mistakes if they're not allowed to see those mistakes????

    My trimester exam is 2 weeks from Monday. You had better believe that we'll be going over last year's exam in class. That gives my kids a good idea of what's important, how we phrase things on a test, and how well they're likely to do. There's no question of anyone "aiding and abetting"-- the old tests have already been run off-- with the phrase "GEOMETRY REVIEW 2012" on both sides so no teacher has a heart attack, thinking this year's exam has been comprimised.

    Sorry, but I think that reusing an old test as anything but a review sheet is the epitome of laziness and unprofessionalism in a teacher.

    As to the argument that you can only phrase a question so many ways: are the proponents of this line of thought implying that EVERY SINGLE TEST IN THE COUNTRY on that material is identical? Or do you think that perhaps another teacher somewhere in your district or county or state or another state has perhaps come up with a slightly different test?
     
  22. queenie

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    I can't believe what I'm reading here!! Some of you really think that Student A has NO responsibility at all in this? You really believe that a high schooler who gives a test to a friend, knowing the purpose was for the friend to be able to cheat on the test, doesn't have enough brains to know that is wrong?? AND you think the teacher is at fault as well?

    Wow. SMH.

    Teachers give tests. They grade them. They give them back so that students and teachers know why the kids got the scores they got. The teachers could just show the students their tests and then take them back up and keep them in case there's a question about their grades, but even during those few moments the kids have their tests, what is to keep them from taking a snapshot of the test or writing down specific q's and answers? At worst, the teacher is guilty of naivety.

    Student A should have NO good reason to be giving a test to a friend. Kids know this. Come on, people.

    Student B is obviously guilty as well.
     
  23. a2z

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    Mar 17, 2012

    I also believe that teachers that use this phrase may have trouble coming up with alternate ways of asking the same question which may be why they are hesitant to come up with new tests. It is hard for them so it is avoided. So, it may not be laziness but difficulty or inability. This problem sometimes arises when trying to explain information to a student in a different manner. Same problem, different application. Some do it well, others don't.

    I'm not justifying the practice of keeping the same test. I think new tests should be made every year.
     
  24. Myrisophilist

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    As the OP mentioned, the situation would be different in college. Some of my professors have provided past year's copies of exams. The material emphasized is the same, even if the questions are slightly different. I think student B is entirely at fault; he/she was the one who cheated with the answers. Student A did not have a hand in the wrong-doing. If this has become an issue, then the teacher needs to create new tests. Otherwise, it is not reasonable to expect students never to trade information about those tests.
     
  25. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    My son kept most of his notes, assignments and returned tests from high school. My daughter has made use of these, as an additional resource, when studying for tests and exams. For her Advanced Functions exam last semester, she copied out every question from every test he had been given (4 years previously), solved them and checked her answers against his marked papers (she did the same with all of her own tests). I can't consider this cheating. I fail to see how Student A was at fault (unless they said, "Here's my test from last year; take a picture of it and use it when you're writing.")
     
  26. Cerek

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    This is the core of the issue for me. Students trade information between classes, so that would be even more true when it deals with material they covered last year. My college fraternity also kept a filing cabinet filled with tests from all the different subjects previous members had taken, so newer members could study for tests in the same subject (especially if they had the same professor).

    As for the "locked car" analogy, I DO accept some responsibility for any items stolen from my car IF I leave my car unlocked. At home in my rural town, I don't always lock my car, but if I'm parking in downtown Atlanta, it would simply be foolish not to lock it. I live in an apartment complex full of college students at the district where I work. Even though that is also a relatively rural area and my car is literally parked right outside my apartment, I still make sure the doors are locked at all times. If I leave it unlocked and something get stolen, then I DO share some of the blame for that happening.

    If the teacher simply made multiple versions of their tests, this would not be an issue. Student B would still get busted for using a cell phone during a test to TRY cheating, but even if he hadn't been caught, his efforts would have been futile.
     
  27. 2ndTimeAround

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    I don't give students tests back because I do use them year after year, with very little, if any modification. I do not consider myself lazy at all and yes, I do think it is a lot easier to make changes on a math test than a science test. When I made a new batch of remedial tests last semester, each chapter test took me at least an hour to simply modify, not even create from scratch. When I started from scratch for every test a few years before, each test would take me at least two hours to create. So 25%-50% of my planning periods were dedicated to test creation. Throw in special tests for ESL students and EC students and you have even more time invested.

    I don't consider the tests the property of the student by any means so mine would never go out. In fact, there is an issue brewing at my school about the EC teachers continually "losing" the tests that we use.
     
  28. 1st-yr-teacher

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    Okay. Since you take part of the responsibility does that mean you wouldn't want the thief punished? It doesn't mean the person who committed the act is less guilty of the wrong-doing.

    Like I said before, I don't know what Student A's purpose behind sharing the test. If it was to simply give Student B an extra study guide, fine. If it was to help him cheat, not fine.
     
  29. TeacherGroupie

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    Writing really good test questions is darned hard work, no doubt about it. It's much less clear to me, however, that that constitutes an adequate reason not to write new questions, or at least to tweak existing questions in ways that make it harder to cheat.

    (It's not that hard to change the order of multiple-choice possible answers, for instance. If you have them formatted as bullets, you simply move them around. Even if you have them as text (which I do, because Word keeps reformatting my bullets), you open both your question doc and your answer doc, you re-letter the possible answers (say, b, c, a, d), you select the four and alphabetize them using your word processor's Sort function, you copy and paste the new answer letter into your key, you go on to the next question.)

    The student who doesn't consult prior years' tests, when they're legitimately available - and handing 'em back to everyone amounts to making 'em legitimately available, in my view - is missing a fine chance to learn what I call the "smell and feel" of a test, by which I mean what the questions look like plus points about the kinds of answers that make the scorer particularly happy or particularly unhappy. The latter points feed directly into the issue of writing for an audience...
     
  30. Cerek

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    I did not say the thief should not be punished, just as I've never said Student B was innocent of wrong-doing.

    Your original question was "Is the car owner to blame if they don't lock the car?" You say "No". I say "Yes, the car owner does share some of the blame for not locking the car." I feel the same way about the teacher; (s)he shares some blame for not using different tests each year. When you give tests back to students, then use the exact same test the following year, you are enabling them to cheat using the tests you returned.

    The other question is if Student A is as guilty as Student B. I (and most others) have said "No". Once the test (or any classwork) is returned to the student and the student is allowed to keep it, that schoolwork becomes the property of the student; not the school, not the teacher, but the student. If (s)he gives that test to a friend or sibling to help them prepare for the same test next year, that is well within their rights.
     
  31. Mathemagician

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    I had a college professor who used to never get out practice tests, but then he started to just give out his old exams so that everyone would have the same chance to do well. This is why I would give practice tests/copies of old tests to students and change the tests around as well---so that everyone has a good sample, not just the students who have siblings or friends in upper grades.
     
  32. JustMe

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    I'll just say that when I was a student, I would NOT have given younger friends and siblings my scored and returned work. No way. I find that to be unethical.
     
  33. Linguist92021

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    I think the teacher should change the tests just in case. But it doesn't have to be a lot of added work: you can mix up the questions, for example questions 1, 2, 3 and 4 are now questions 9, 20, 15, and 2. And / or mix up the answers, if they're multiple choice: question 1 , correct answer was A, now make it D.
    The easiest way to cheat is to memorize the answers to the questions, (1B, 2C, etc) the students most likely don't memorize the actual questions and the actual answers.

    Even if the student manages to 'smuggle' in the actual test, they'd have a hard time looking things up, if they're all scrambled.
     
  34. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Even if the teacher was partially at fault for not changing up the exam, the student was still cheating. He had a copy of a previous exam on his phone. That's cheating. If he had meant to use the previous exam as a study tool, then that studying would have been completed before he entered the classroom to take the exam. As for whether the student who handed over the old exam was facilitating cheating, I guess that depends on that student's intention. If he was legitimately intending to provide study materials for a friend, that's one thing. If he knew that the exam was going to be used to cheat, then it was cheating.

    I have a lot of students in ROTC, and one of the things we talk about is the Cadet Honor Code: A cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those who do.

    Cheating is not the right thing to do simply because someone made it easy to cheat. It's still cheating, and it's the wrong thing to do. Cheating has zero to do with outside factors and everything to do with the individual who makes (or doesn't make) the choice to cheat.
     
  35. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    Personally, I don't think it's right to give old tests to siblings or friends. This is why I collect all tests. I wish I didn't have to, but I do. I do make new tests and different forms, but the tests still turn out to be pretty similar. Should student A be punished? No. But I still don't think it's right. Just like when students talk about a test between periods. The students shouldn't be punished, but I personally don't think it's right. Of course, teachers should make different forms. However, if I want to test one concept, I might put a specific word problem on the test. And then, students might tell each other that the question is on the test, which it will be, with part of it slightly changed. I don't think it's morally right for students to do that, but it shouldn't be punished.
    I teach math, but I think getting a test in any other subject is gives a huge advantage to the test taker. Even if the teacher decides to change the order of the multiple choice answers, the student still has a copy of the same question, which is not okay. The student will learn what type of essay questions the teacher asks or possible multiple choice/passage analysis questions.
     
  36. Cerek

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    There is no question Student B was cheating and should be punished for doing so. Nobody has disputed that.

    I don't see anything wrong with giving old tests to friends or family to study. As pointed out on the first page, most teachers studying for certification tests do so by studying OLD test questions that have been released by the company.

    Even if there is a specific question that can't really be changed around very much, that is still just one question on the test and, as also mentioned, most cheaters aren't going to memorize the context of the questions and answers, they are just going to memorize the order of the answers. Cell phones make it both easier to cheat AND have access to the actual question and answer, but the student still has to pull the phone out, cue up the pic and look at it during the test. If the teacher is monitoring the students and walking around the classroom, it is going to be very hard for the student to do this without getting caught - as Student B found out.

    I see nothing "morally wrong" with students discussing the questions on the test with students from another class. That is just the reality of the school setting - it IS going to happen. Which is even more reason for the teacher to have multiple copies of the test so 5th period gets a test that is slightly different from 2nd period.
     
  37. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    How are standardized tests and proficiencies different from everyday tests in terms of students sharing questions/content? Every standardized test I've ever taken or given has included instructions that no test questions are to be shared, discussed, or republished in any way. There may be differing opinions about whether it is morally wrong to do so, but it seems certainly to be illegal and could land a sharer in a world of hurt.
     
  38. teacherintexas

    teacherintexas Maven

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    My district requires me to give benchmarks that they "design" (usually they are just released state tests) two or three times a year. At least TWICE, the benchmark will be exactly the SAME as the test the kids were given earlier that SAME year.

    Ugh.

    The first time the kids see the questions, it gauges what they know. The second time, it just measures their memories as we go over the tests together either whole group, small group, or in individual conferences.

    It amazes me that someone's full time job is to make up assessments for us to take, and that is what we get.
     
  39. Cerek

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    Mar 18, 2012

    Every standardized test I've taken, I've studied for using a study guide that has "practice tests", many of which contain questions from previous tests. These questions have been released by the testing company, so it is legal to use them. When the teacher returns a test to the student, they have effectively "released" those questions as well - unless they take the tests back up and keep them. If they don't take the tests back up, then they should assume at least some of those tests will be used for study by other students.
     
  40. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Mar 18, 2012

    That doesn't address the issue of students sharing test questions during the school day between class periods, when presumably the test has not been "released". It also doesn't address the issue of students absconding with copies of the test that the teacher didn't "release".
     
  41. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    Mar 18, 2012

    Technically speaking, yes. This is why I, like most teachers in my school, collect tests. But most teachers who give tests back d it so the students can look over their mistakes.
    If a teacher wanted students to use an old test, he or she will give them that material. It is an unfair advantage to get an old test from a friend or a sibling. I don't think it would be a big advantage in math, but I think it's an advantage in other subjects. However, if the teacher returned the test, it shouldn't be punished at all. I just don't consider it to be right because it probably wasn't the intention of the teacher.
     
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