Are Test Banks Cheating?

There have been numerous debates about using test banks and whether they’re an ethical way for students to prepare for exams. Some regard them as a form of cheating since they utilize questions that may appear during the actual test. On the other hand, test banks are powerful tools for students who want to be prepared.

Let’s explore this ethical debate to determine if assessment databases (question banks)  really offer their users an unfair advantage. But before we dive into the nitty-gritty, let’s recap what these collections of exam questions are.

A laptop on a library table with a test bank login page, surrounded by books

What Are Test Banks?

Test banks are a compilation of a professor’s test questions from past semesters. These are usually compiled and published as books by professors of a particular field for students to buy and refer to.

These questions are customized based on the lessons they cover, so every question is tailor-made to the contents of the textbook.

image of scale depicting the debate over test banks

Are Test Banks A Form of Cheating?

Today, there are no university-driven policies against the use of question banks. After all, they’re made for students. However, there are two scenarios where these banks are considered unethical:

  • If a professor forbids using past question sheets for practice, but students still refer to them
  • If a student hacks into a professor’s system to retrieve information

Are Test Banks Unethical?

No, they remain an ethical method of preparation. Many schools of thought defend the use of test banks for students. In fact, some professors encourage students to use them and even suggest material to facilitate learning.A group of students studying around a large smartphone displaying TEST BANKWhy Test Banks Shouldn’t Be Considered Unethical

Here are some reasons why question banks shouldn’t be considered unethical:

They’re An Effective Way To Study

Self-assessments and quizzes have been proven to be effective methods for retaining information. The option to refer to older tests lets students prepare better for what’s to come. Since they help students, test banks should be encouraged, not frowned upon.

Students Don’t Have Access To Them During Exams

Quiz Banks are used to prepare for exams. Students can use them to understand what kind of questions will be asked, how many marks each question represents, and how to strategically answer test questions within given time limits.

As long as test banks are not used inside an examination hall during a test as a cheat sheet, using them to prepare cannot be considered cheating.

Test Banks Were Acquired Through Ethical Means

When we say that question banks are a legitimate way to prepare for an exam, we’re referring to test banks that were acquired through ethical means. This means that they weren’t stolen, no computers were hacked into, and they’re available for other students too.

Additionally, if the professor doesn’t collect the sheets that the exam questions were written on, then it’s fair for future students to study them or for existing learners to refer to them, especially if they will take more exams that cover the same topics.


Exams operate on a fundamental principle. The teacher lists questions and students answer them. Test banks make sense because they allow the student to prepare in the most straightforward way possible—tackling questions that have a high probability of appearing in the exam.

As long as universities permit the use of question banks, they are sourced ethically by students, or the professor fails to collect exams, there are no reasons to consider it cheating or unethical.

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