Cheating On the Rise, At Home and Abroad

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Academic Leadership

Cheating on tests has reached new heights over the years. Or, at least, it has for these parents in Bihar, India, who actually scaled the walls of the local test centers while their children toiled over notoriously difficult standardized board examinations.

But cheating isn’t confined to Bihar. One online conversation led to hundreds of people admitting to creative and (occasionally) effective ways to cheat on exams, as observed by students and teachers.

Smart Watches, Dumb Cheating

“The pupil in question had a Galaxy smart watch on. He took a photo of test questions with his watch when he knows he is not being observed. The watch auto synced with his phone, which auto 'dropboxed' his photo into an online database. His parent at the other end accessed the student’s dropbox to see questions and replied with correct answers. The phone then sent a text message to the watch.

“The student messed up, though—he forgot to put his phone on silence. It was a mock exam, too. I still don't know if they were doing this as a trial run or if they were just a little dumb.”


“The girls at my school had it covered. They put on black tights with the information all over their legs. You couldn't see it when the tights were slack, but stretch it out and all was revealed.”

The Bard’s Prodigée

“Task: to write a sonnet.

“The student hands in Shakespeare's Sonnet 125, claiming it is his own work.”


“I helped my AP politics class develop a foolproof method for cheating. Our teacher would hand out a test each week, and make us write the multiple choice answers on a blank piece of paper with our name and date on it. After the test was done, we would hand the answer sheet to the kid behind us (last kid in the row handed his to the first kid in the same row) to grade it. The teacher would go over the questions orally and give us the correct answers.

“I told each kid in the class to write the answer as a lowercase ‘c’. If the answer was ‘a’, you close the loop and make a lower case ‘a’, and so on and so forth for ‘b’ and ‘d’. Obviously, if the answer was ‘c’, you'd leave it alone.

“We all also agreed that no one should get a perfect score. We had to always get 2 or 3 wrong answers to make the con work. We left the ‘wrong answers’ up to the kid who was marking our paper. The teacher could never believe we were perfect, and he wasn't able to figure out everyone was getting higher test scores.

It worked surprisingly well.

Watergate: MP3 Style

“One girl recorded the answers to a test on an mp3 player. She ran a single headphone up her shirt, taped it to the back of her neck, and then to her ear.

“The thing is, she wore her hair the same way every day. It went just past her shoulders, so her hair hid everything perfectly and she looked no different than she did any other day. It worked flawlessly.

The Writing on the Wall

“When I was in middle school we had a teacher who was oblivious to what was going on in the room during tests. We began the year with complex cheating systems, but by the time we took the old States and Capital test, one kid walked over to the USA map on the wall, pulled it down so everyone could see, then walked back to his desk. Our teacher did not notice.

Elementary, My Dear Watson!

“My PhD advisor once taught an organic chemistry class. After the exams, the students could look over their midterms and submit them for regrades if they believed there was a grading error on their test.

“A certain clever student used white out to turn a couple of particularly low scoring pages of his exam blank, then photocopied these pages. With these blank exam sheets in hand, he then correctly answered the questions on the page, and used red pen to 'grade' these phony correct responses as incorrect. He carefully re-stapled these pages into his original exam and submitted the doctored test for a regrade.

“When my professor saw how utterly horrible the grading errors were, he became suspicious.

“Conveniently, the next lecture for the class was on photochemistry. He began this class by discussing the nature of fluorescence. He explained how many organic materials contain highly conjugated molecules that can absorb light and re-emit it at longer wavelengths. In fact, many naturally occurring materials, such as cotton, wood, and paper, contain polymeric molecules called lignins that exhibit this property. He explained that different paper processing methods could lead to different ratios of these compounds, and thus no two batches of paper were ever exactly alike.

“He brought out the doctored exam and a UV light, then demonstrated in front of the entire class how most of the pages of the midterm glowed green, but certain pages glowed blue.

“He then said, ‘To the student who submitted this exam, and you know who you are, would you please see me after class? We need to discuss your continued enrollment at this institution.’

“The student showed up after class in tears and admitted the whole thing. He failed the course.”

Additional ISM resources:
ISM Monthly Update for School Heads Vol. 9 No. 4 The Pressure on High School Students to Build Their Resume ... Whose Best Interest Is It?
ISM Monthly Update for Division Heads Vol. 6 No. 9 Forget Swine Flu—It's Senioritis!

Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 39 No. 6 The Wise Use of Your School's Disciplinary Data

Volume Number
Volume 12
Issue Number
Image of a teacher and students in class
Image of a teacher and students in class

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