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buying old tests

Discussion in 'Pre-Podiatry Students' started by luvbug, May 16, 2007.

  1. luvbug

    luvbug New Member
    2+ Year Member

    Apr 20, 2006
    Likes Received:
    Pre-Health (Field Undecided)
    Any comments about buying old tests? Are tests readily available from other students/teachers? I found a classified ad that had all the tests from first year for sale and was wondering if it would be a waste of money because the tests would be available for free some other way.

    Do schools or classes provide copies of old tests or is it worth paying for them from a 2nd year student that may not need them anymore?

  2. Feli

    Feli ACFAS Member
    5+ Year Member

    Feb 1, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Attending Physician
    Man, do I hate this issue. Old tests are a touchy issue, but accessing them is, unfortunately, very important for "success" in many programs.

    Any challenging graduate program will have old tests, and it will also probably have groups of students who leave the exam room and quickly write down every question they can remember when they finish an exam that will not be given back to them. You might think that's cheating (and it certainly walks the fine line), but how do you think MCAT or other prep books get put together? Any time the stakes are high for an exam and that exam leads to something valuable (anywhere from passing a class to gaining admission or board certification), some people will do everything possible to gain an advantage.

    Access to old tests varies from pod school to pod school and from class to class. Some professors freely pass back the exams, post their old exams online, or place some on university library reserve. Their goal by doing that is typically to help out students a bit on upcoming exams or to at least let the class get familiar with how they ask exam questions. However, other professors try to guard their "test bank" like it's a national security issue. Regardless, determined students will get those questions, or at least a significant amount of them. Whether they memorize them while taking the test, memorize them while reviewing the test, type them into a laptop while the teacher is discussing the recent exam, or flat out steal an exam form from the exam room, some students go to great lengths to get those old tests and questions.

    You might be thinking that whoever gets the old tests will just share with the rest of the class, but that's not always the case. At Barry, I am very thankful that we have the old tests largely centralized. I feel that levels the playing field, and I'd implore the leaders of other pod schools to do the same. I won't go into specifics, but everyone basically gets the same old exams here. Some old tests are on paper, but most are now scanned into PDF format to save printing costs (you don't really need to print out the 1993 final exam for neuro to study it for the 2007 class lol). Will certain students get a unique test or a few extra recent questions from time to time and not share? Probably, but for the most part, everyone has the same old exams. If a fee is charged to students for access to the centralized old exams, it is generally only to cover the cost of printing them - or maintaining electronic storage for the files.

    At some pod schools, I have heard that you are given no old exams, and it is up to you to find them. Students must seek out upperclassmen, classmates, etc in search of old tests. As you can imagine, that situation results in a lot of students having exams which some classmates may or may not, and that can cause much frustration and what I feel is an unfair advantage. You will see that situations such as that can cause a lot of student frustration. You can probably find a lot of threads on old tests if you run a search, but here are some high(low?)lights:



    Another thought might be "why don't the professors just make up new exams every year?" Well, it's often due to simple laziness. Even if a professor wants to ask a question about the same critical enzyme/drug/bacteria/disease every year, there are ways of rephrasing it instead of cut-n-pasting the same question over and over. Another factor might also be that the faculty drastically underestimates the extreme measures that some students will go to in order to steal the questions from past exams. If a teacher does not know the students stole his midterm exam the previous year and distributed it, he may give the same or a very similar exam the next year. If the class average is a 90%, that's a slight tip-off. :D

    One thing to keep in mind is that old tests are not, by themself, a good way to learn the subject. For some classes, the old exams may help you get better exam grades with less effort, but you have to consider your knowledge base and long term goals. You will never go wrong by listening in lecture and reading the book or notes for the class. Some exams may really frustrate you because they do not reflect the current course book/notes/lectures very well, and those are, unfortunately, probably old exam questions that are years old. A student who read the whole book and went to all lectures may score an 80% on the test while a student who memorized all old exams scored a 90%, but who do you think is better in the long run?

    What is the best strategy? That may be up for debate. Personally, I adopt a strategy of going to nearly all lectures and studying the book and notes for each course. Do I look at old tests? Of course... it'd be stupid not to since most/all of my classmates do. However, there is a huge difference between reviewing only old tests as opposed to studying the book/notes hard for a long time and then using old tests as review the night before a term exam.

    If it seems like I'm "busting" students, I'm not. Professors who hold PhDs and various medical degrees are not as dumb as some students think. They were students at one time too, and the tradition of old tests is not new. If a teacher hands his exams back or has in the past, he knows the students probably have them and plans his new exams accordingly. As I said, some professors probably underestimate the lengths some students go to in order to get old exam materials, but there is a simple way to thwart that (uh... make original exams every year :) ).

    I guess I'll leave it at that. Maybe students from other pod schools can comment on what study strategies have worked for them or what they think of old tests and how they affect grades and study habits. Like I said, it's a touchy issue. In a perfect world, all teachers would just make new tests every year and students would share all old tests. However, that's just not how it works at most competitive graduate schools, and it's important that students are aware of this.

    If you are at Barry, you will realize that everyone gets mostly the same old tests to the best of the class leaders' abilities. At some other schools, you may be left on your own to acquire whichever old tests you can. Whether the way to do that is by being resourceful, charming, gregarious, or just by paying plain old cash (as you suggest), I don't really know. I wish I could tell you more, but I'm just thankful I'm not in that situation. If you don't get any more replies, you could try PM-ing someone who has recently been through the basic sciences at the school you will be attending.
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  3. krabmas

    krabmas Senior Member
    Moderator Emeritus 5+ Year Member

    May 15, 2004
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    Fellow [Any Field]
    At NYCPM old tests are illegal unless handed back by the prof. If you are caught with them on campus you could face charges by the honor council.

    That being said, people have them, people use them, some as a study aid and some to memorize. some classes share better than others. I would not pay for them.

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