provides science exam database

The tutoring service Premed411 has raised eyebrows at the University of Miami. The service shares graded exams, but whether or not students should be using it is not a new dilemma.

Rich Hochstim began the tutoring service in 1984, and he hasn’t worked another job since. His accumulation of old exams for the pre-med science courses offered at UM is widely used by students, but at the same time, the ethics of the service have been questioned by some professors.

When Hochstim graduated in 1983 with a degree in chemistry, he was already tutoring other students because he says there was no one else doing it. The Academic Resource Center wasn’t created until 1997, meaning the school offered no official tutoring services.

Hochstim charges $80 per hour for one-on-one sessions. Groups of two and three are charged rates of $40 and $30 respectively per person, while groups of four or more pay a rate of $25 per hour.

Matthew Ishahak was tutored by Hochstim in the fall semester of 2013. He is now in his fifth year of the Bachelor of Science and Master of Science program offered in the College of Engineering. He says that he used the service with a friend to prepare for the MCAT and that he went twice a month for tutoring.

“It wasn’t worth the cost and it wasn’t too effective … the sessions did very little to motivate me,” Ishahak said via text message. “We would show up to our session and he would ask us what topic we wanted to cover, then he would just tell us the basics about that topic.”

Hochstim began accumulating old exams that were released to students before he graduated because some students reap the benefits of knowing older members in student organizations who provide study materials.

“I took a history course, and I was making all As in science, but I got a C in that course, and the reason I did was because I didn’t realize everyone had the old tests and I didn’t,” he said. “And when the next semester I took the test again and got an A, it occurred to me that if people had the tests and other people don’t, it’s grossly unfair.”

He says he brought the exams he had collected to the students he tutored and let them photocopy them free of charge. It became easier for him to accumulate the exams when he could get the graded exams of students he tutored.

The popularity of the Internet brought about the creation of Hochstim started to scan his tests onto the website where the exams are protected by passwords that can be received by signing up for a mailing list. He started producing video tutorials on the website in 2010.

Jen Rodriguez, who studied biomedical engineering and is now a student at the Miller School of Medicine, said she used the exams because they’re the best way to prepare for tests. But she also recalls knowing professors who were mad that their exams were leaked online.

Barbara Colonna, a senior lecturer of organic chemistry, is one of them. Exams from her classes have been published on the website, and her name can be found on the site for video reviews that Hochstim sells. One video tutorial for her class is titled “150 Shades of Colonna.”

“He should not have any access to those [exams] because it’s material that is not distributed,” she said. “I go over the tests during review time, but I never release the tests, so there are actually no legal copies that I distribute … I don’t know really know the legality of it, but it for sure isn’t ethical.”

It also creates additional work for Colonna, who says she has to write new tests every semester so that students using the website don’t have an advantage. She also says she feels sorry for those students who use the website.

“I usually tell them at the beginning of the year that I don’t think it’s a good way to get a good grade in the class. It’s like looking for shortcuts, where there is a lot of support that is given from me and also from peer-led workshops,” she said.

Hochstim, who plans on calling it quits in eight or nine years, said the tests he posts on his website are ones that have been released to the student population and that students aren’t getting access to anything they shouldn’t have.


Featured image courtesy Flickr user Alberto G.