By Ben Knight
German students sit the Abitur exam. Photograph: Patrick Seeger/EPA
Simon Schräder, 17, uses freedom of information law to ask to see Abitur exam questions, but keeps revising in likelihood request is denied.
A German schoolboy has taken exam preparation to ingenious new levels by making a freedom of information request to see the questions in his forthcoming Abiturtests, the equivalent of A-levels in the UK.
Simon Schräder, 17, from Münster, used the internet platform fragdenstaat.de (“ask the state”), to ask the education ministry of North Rhine-Westphalia for “the tasks of the centrally-made Abitur examinations in the senior classes of highschool in the current school year”. He was specifically invoking his state’s freedom of information law.
Schräder set the ministry the legally allowed one-month deadline – falling on 21 April – to comply, though his first exam is on 16 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.”
So far, the ministry, in the face of numerous phone calls from reporters, has only acknowledged that the request has been received. “The deadline will be kept,” the spokeswoman Sylvia Löhrmann told Die Welt. “The request is being processed.”
The Open Knowledge Foundation set up the internet platform to help citizens gain access to public information. The site includes details of other requests submitted by the public, plus 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, who is studying maths, physics and English, and already works as a web developer, is planning to study applied information technology at university.
The media attention from his FoI request has already garnered him an offer of work from another transparency-related organisation, the research website Correctiv.
“If I have time before university starts I’ll definitely do it,” he said.
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