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Old Exams

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  • Thread starter Null_
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  • #1
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Main Question or Discussion Point

1)I have been only using the old exams that the professors post on their websites, if they even post any. However, in my physics class the professor posts no previous exams or practice tests. I overheard a group of about 10 people (class of 60) after the last exam talk about how the exam was exactly like last semester's exam. It bugs me that I studied the book and homeworks for days, while they just studied last semester's exam for a few hours at most...they ended up getting a much higher grade than I did, when I'm sure that I knew the material more thoroughly. And as a result, there was no curve to the exam, when it was pretty intensive.

What is the consensus on getting old exams? It seems like cheating to me, especially if they are the same problems with just different numbers. I feel that if the professor wanted us to be able to practice, he would make the old exams available to everyone.

Edit-
2)
Also, I felt pretty confident about my score on this exam, but I only scored a B- on it. I walked into the exam confident about my knowledge and walked out confident of my work. In the last semester, the class was graded on a curve, so perhaps I subconsciously expected this would be as well. A B- would have been an A. How can I compete with the rest of the class when they have a much better idea of what is going to be tested.
If anyone knows any links to publicly available E&M exams, that would be great. I just found MIT's OCW for E&M.
 
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
AlephZero
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I guess you just learned two things:

1. Life isn't fair
2. However smart you think you are, you will always find people who are smarter.

(Note, I said "smarter", not "knowing more physics than you").

In the long run, those two lessons will probably be worth more than getting a B- when you expected an A.

How can I compete with the rest of the class when they have a much better idea of what is going to be tested.
Can't you figure out the answer to that question for yourself? All the information you need to answer it is in your post.
 
  • #3
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Are you suggesting that one should use old exams to study?
 
  • #4
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Are you suggesting that one should use old exams to study?
Yes, absolutely!! Old exams is a great way to test your knowledge and it is a great way to know what will be asked. I always found old exams to be useful, even if the real exam questions are completely different from the old exam questions.
 
  • #5
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I know no one who previously had the professor I have now. Would it be outrageous to go to his office hours and ask if he would release one?
 
  • #6
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I know no one who previously had the professor I have now. Would it be outrageous to go to his office hours and ask if he would release one?
A lot of people in your class had the exam why didn't get it from them.Also asking the prof for the exam is not 'outrageous'.He will either release one or he will refuse to release it.Either way no outrage.(whatever that is)
 
  • #7
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I didn't know that others had a copy until after the test, and it seems that they all know each other and do homework together.. I don't know any of them, and my homework group doesn't have access to previous exams. I think I'll ask the professor.
 
  • #8
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I've actually just found a lot of exams from another university that uses the same book as mine. Google is great.
 
  • #9
eri
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My college used to keep all previous exams from a class and make them available to everyone in the library. I got an A in a religion class I hardly ever attended and never bought the books for by realizing he had given the same exam every semester for the last 7 semesters, and just borrowed the books from a friend the night before so I could BS something on the same topics.

I'd suggest asking going to the prof's office hours and asking if she/he would consider giving the previous year's exam out as a study guide since some students already have access to it. Don't necessarily make it sound like you can to rat them out, but make it sound like you though that was OK (since it usually is) and perhaps he'll consider writing a new exam as a result.
 
  • #10
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I've actually just found a lot of exams from another university that uses the same book as mine. Google is great.
Risky, I think it is better to use the material you got from your professor. He does give you problems?
 
  • #11
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^ yes, we have 3 problem sets a week. I would still do those, but then I would do the other exams the week before the exam. The first one looked very similar to the questions we had.
 
  • #12
mathwonk
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you might tell the professor your thoughts on this. maybe he will work harder and write new tests.

I once missed a single class in probability where the professor worked out the hardest homework problem that no one had got right. Then he put it on the final for 30 points!

My brother once went to the mens room during the final, and the professor then came in and announced that he had made a mistake on one of the problems and corrected it orally, leaving before my brother came back. It was worth 1/4 the exam, and by missing it my brother got the only B of his career, dropped from #1 to #2 in his class, and lost out on getting the founders medal on graduation.

Both of us are successful in our careers however.

In the long run, (and it isn't so long really), knowing the material will pay off more than getting A rather than B by taking shortcuts.
 
  • #13
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What is the consensus on getting old exams?
It's great thing to do. However, the problem that you mention of the professor copying old exams so that people with old exams have an unfair advantage is valid, and I'd complain to the department.
 
  • #14
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Two-fish, I would feel really awkward about approaching my professor or the department. Upon paroosing the physics department's website, I found that they DO have a test bank for those who get tutored by the physics tutors. Since this is included in tuition, I will definitely take advantage of it.

I got my exam back this morning, and the mistakes I made were incredibly careless errors, which in the essay questions, threw my entire test off. I actually knew how to do everything and did the process correctly, but made little math mistakes. I feel really bad now, especially since I absolutely cannot afford to do this on the harder tests in the near future.
 
  • #15
fluidistic
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Null, here's my short story. Last summer I had to pass a final exam of Complex Analysis (a course given only to physics major, so not as rigorous as a math course although it was still full of demonstrations) which is worth 100% of my grade for the course. I had made almost all the assigned problems but I felt I'd like to see near-past exams. I went to the professor office and she didn't have any problem in giving me the 2 last final exams. I realized they had the same number of exercises and that they were closely related. The final I passed was also very similar so I got no bad surprise. It really helped me.
I went several times to professor's office and I can assure you you have nothing to lose. It's true that sometimes they aren't in a mood to help you but they won't keep a bad eye on your name and punish you in future exams for that!
Just go to the office of your professor and ask him if he has any past exam to give you.
 
  • #16
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Doing old exam papers is my sole method of revising. By doing this I am practising answering almost exact replicas of the questions I'll do on exam day (in fact sometimes it is even the exact same questions with the exact same numbers that come up!) and thus the formulas and processes used to answer them are temporarily stored in my head, so when I sit the real exam, I don't really have to think.

Sometimes I don't even know why I bother getting out of bed to go to lectures.
 

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