# Should we answer exam or test questions?

This question presents two very specific questions about altimeter calculations. As currently written, there is (in my opinion) a very high probability that the questions come directly from a written test or sample test.

Should we answer such questions? Other SE sites generally have a low tolerance for people who ask 'give me the answer please' questions - especially ones that are obviously taken from a test - and show no interest in understanding the concepts. (This is not intended as a negative comment on the OP in this case; he may well be genuinely trying to understand the concept.)

As one commenter has already noted, answering this question will have little or no value for other visitors (unless they happen to be taking exactly the same test). That argues for closing the question as being too local/specific.

On the other hand, if someone is struggling to understand how these calculations work in general then I think that would be a very good question, although in this case the OP didn't explain what problem he had doing the calculation himself.

I suppose that ideally we could try to edit/comment these questions to make them about the general calculation method rather than answering just one specific example?

• We could also answer in a general way, without giving the final answer but instead show how it is done and explain the concepts. – Lnafziger Sep 22 '14 at 15:26
• Deleted my answer-- really not at all the same as answering an exam question copied essentially verbatim with no explanatory content as to the motive behind the question. – quiet flyer May 2 '20 at 6:05

## 4 Answers

Yes - if it's a valid question, then why not answer the question.

The whole thing is based on presumptions: you have to presume it's a test question, then presume the questioner's motivation is just seeking an answer the question rather than gain understanding.

And who are we to judge validity of a question based on the questioner's motivation anyways - what, we only answer questions now if it's mired in some esoteric thirst for knowledge? If somebody is trying to answer a test question, then I'd say that's quite arguably more valid of a question then somebody pondering the tao of contrails while they eat their waffles in the morning.

I think the real reason people don't like it is because they think they're somehow upholding academic integrity by not answering these questions. But unless the questioner is covertly on their iphone during a timed exam, they're probably looking to answer a take-home test of some sort. Maybe their instructor wanted them to shuffle through a text book looking for the answer, but this person instead came here looking for a more personal touch. +1 for innovative referencing and +1 for technological savvy. Your reward for asking a direct question should be a direct answer.

Generally I don't think we should be answering test questions - at least not in the "Plz tell me what to write in the box" sense. Like Lnafziger points out the best way to handle these questions is probably to explain the concepts involved, but I'd like to see the questions worded in a way that asks about the concept rather than just begging for answers (encouraging the latter by answering them just encourages the help vampire problem in the long run).

I zotted the question in question with a comment encouraging rewording it into one that seeks an explanation of the concepts rather than just a couple of numbers to stick in the blank boxes (either by the OP or someone interested in putting an answer on it). It's probably an easy one to salvage.

• I had to look up "zot". Apparently you fed the question to an anteater :-) – Pondlife Sep 22 '14 at 20:26
• @Pondlife http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_Oracle (I'm old :( ) – voretaq7 Sep 22 '14 at 23:36
• While I agree about not answering obvious "What is lift" definition questions that someone is plugging into their test paper, I think your answer comes across as "Generally not, but some are ok" when actually the opposite is usually held true across StackExchange. "Generally they're ok, but that doesn't mean we should keep the actually bad ones" – Jon Story Nov 21 '14 at 14:31
• @JonStory In terms of network-wide precedent Stack Overflow has a pretty strictly enforced "We will not do your homework for you" policy - I think an analogous "We won't take the knowledge test for you" policy makes sense here. Of course good questions will always be able to get good answers (and if someone wants us to pick apart & explain the concepts behind something out of the FAA test bank I'm all for it), but the "Should I write A, B, or C here?" sort of questions don't seem to have any real value, at least the way I look at them. – voretaq7 Nov 21 '14 at 14:39

Yes, we should for various reasons

1. We usually don't know it's a test question - unless the asker states such, we may be ignoring a valid question. Let's assume good faith and be nice about it.

2. It can be a valid question even while being on a test. The aim of SE is to become a high quality Q&A site: if the question could be useful to others, it's a valid question. We need to focus on what is asked, not why it is asked

3. We are not academics, we shouldn't be wasting our time judging academic standards. These organisations have their own ways to detect cheating and plagiarism, and we start introducing all sorts of grey areas, disputes, debates etc

4. Why is it even a bad thing? The point of education is to educate. The point of a test is to check the knowledge of the person being educated. If they ask us and we tell them the answer, they now know the answer... education complete. Fantastic

We're not helping them get a grade on the exam by changing their grade, we're helping them understand the course material so that they can do better on the exam. If it helps, think of them as education questions, rather than test questions or the more usual general information/"I'm curious" questions we see.

That's not to say there's no such thing as a bad test question - but ignore the concept of whether it's a test question or not and decide whether it's a good or bad question solely on the merits of the question. If the question shows original research or thought, or is something that someone couldn't be expected to easily know/find out, it's a valid question. If they're just using Aviation.SE as a replacement for half an hour on Wikipedia, then yes delete it.

Note that this has been discussed extensively on other larger SE sites such as StackOverflow, with the consensus/conclusion being that test questions are ok as long as the question itself is of good quality. ie the question is as detailed as necessary to be answerable, and that it is asking for knowledge from those who know more, not just someone to do the legwork for them because they're lazy.

In addition to the many points that others have already made, it's worth mentioning that in some cases there may be a language issue: someone who doesn't speak good English might prefer to just copy and paste a question rather than try to rephrase it. Many people can read a second language well enough to understand it - perhaps with help from a dictionary - but can't write it without a lot of effort and a lot of obvious mistakes.

For some people who aren't confident in English, copy and paste may be the simplest way to express their question. They might even want to avoid 'embarrassment' about their limited English.

Clearly this isn't always the case, but for me it's another reason to focus on what people ask, not how they ask it.