German student uses the Freedom of Information (FOI) right to ask to see his question papers before exams

Exam preparation was taken to an unimaginative new level by a German student, Simon Schräder, aged 17, who used his FOI request to see his Abitur exam questions prior to the exam. However, on the other hand, this German student keeps revising his notes in the event his request is denied. His forthcoming Abitur tests is said to be equivalent of A-levels in the UK.

Simon Schräder, from Münster, used the internet website fragdenstaat.de (“ask the state”), to request the Education Ministry of North Rhine-Westphalia for “the tasks of the centrally-made Abitur examinations in the senior classes of high school in the current school year”. He was explicitly invoking his state’s freedom of information law.

Although Schrader’s first exam is on the 16th of April, he has set the Ministry the legally allowed one-month deadline to comply, which falls on 21st April.

“If they answer in time it might fit for one exam,” Schräder told the Guardian.

“I did think beforehand that they probably wouldn’t send me the exams,” he admitted. “I’m already revising, and I’m not relying on them to get back to me”.

“I thought it was worth a try; I just wanted to see what they would say.”

The Ministry has been receiving numerous phone calls from reporters regarding the request. However, they only chose to say that the request has been received. “The deadline will be kept,” the spokeswoman Sylvia Löhrmann told Die Welt. “The request is being processed.”

The internet platform was set up by the Open Knowledge Foundation in order to assist citizens gain access to public information. The said site includes details of all the requests submitted by the public, alongwith the answers from authorities and comments from other users.

In a blogpost, the foundation said success was unlikely. According to the freedom of information law, “requests will be turned down if they would ‘significantly impact the success of an upcoming administrative measure,’” it said.

Schräder is planning to study Applied Information Technology from the university. He is currently studying Maths, Physics and English, and simultaneously working as a web developer.

Schräder has already received an job offer from another transparency-related organisation, the research website Correctiv due to all the media attention he got from his FoI request.

“If I have time before university starts I’ll definitely do it,” he said.

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