Online Test Bank Levels Academic Playing Field

    STUDENT LIFE — With UCSD’s growing awareness of PostYourTest.com, gone is the demand for teen-sex-comedy stunts in which coveted test booklets must be snatched from moving university vehicles, in which brown-nosing TAs must be roofied into handing over multiple-choice answers. Once again, the age of at-your-service Internet has stepped in to stamp out all those classic college joys (hell, even campus gossip has been relegated to a web of invisible torrents) by saving us the dirty work in shortcutting our way through finals.

    The Web site, created one year ago by St. Louis University graduate student and UCSD alumnus Demir Oral and now operating almost solely on contributions from UCSD, takes us one more step of the way to complete digital resourcing (foreshadowing a day when the entire contents of Geisel Library will be backed up on WebCT and discussion sessions merely broadcasted by video over the Internet, so that a four-year college career can essentially be spent in a La-Z-Boy with a laptop). For a small reward, students and professors post past exams as a study tool for students currently enrolled in those tests’ courses, providing an equal, if morally questionable, study opportunity for all crammers come finals week.

    “Animal House” nostalgia and millenium boo-hoos aside, the projection of our every human and academic facet to the Web is not something we have the option to avoid. Almost 200 UCSD professors demanded their tests be banned from Oral’s Web site. But no matter how we wear ourselves out fighting the universal availability of copyrighted resources — and every artistically crafted test question included on PostYourTest.com does technically belong to the professor behind the paintbrush — such widely relevant and coveted material will always weasel its way back into the hands of the people. Especially in the case of acquiring, say, one’s o-chem midterm, which somehow fails to inspire the already minute pang of guilt one might feel when illegally acquiring, say, her favorite indie band’s entire discography. The informational age is too far progressed for us to resist small endeavors like PostYourTest.com. There will always be spring-ups just like it, and since there is no way to entirely shut out the logical desire to peruse old examples in studying for new exams, it is in all of our best interests to accept this inevitability and work around it.

    Though the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 requires the removal of any material at the request of its author — much like television- or DVD-ripped videos on YouTube — any professor that uses these “rights” to his advantage is selfishly, fruitlessly and rather ignorantly beating back an era in which, for better or for worse, no one’s art is truly his own; by now, the hunger for information is too great and the network too strong. Instead of treading water in an idealistic pool of cronies, our professors’ efforts would be better applied to preparing more extensive and dynamic exams that change with each quarter (even, God forbid, reflect fluctuations a class could take in accordance with the times — and even if it means the dear old sour-pusses finally have to part with that sweet reputation of throwing left-field curve-balls at unsuspecting victims). After all, a well-prepared test will evaluate the knowledge of its taker, regardless of his preparation methods; access to previous tests could only streamline the acquisition of knowledge crucial to a course.

    It’s not like students didn’t get a hold of controversial study materials before the creation of PostYourTest.com; Oral’s initial reason for putting up the site was the inequality in acquisition of these resources. Sororities and fraternities keep rumored boxes of old tests as a side-perk for members (as if the nightly blackouts weren’t enough), and luck or social connections deliver an additional few the same. In essence, the digitalization of all academic resources — though in this case, some may see it as a means of dishonesty — is somewhat of a purifier to the system, in the end only morally leveling the playing field.

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