Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Cheating in your class (TESTS)

It has to be mentioned. Students cheat... I am sure this doesn't shock anyone, except for maybe some students who think they are being so stealthy that it isn't noticed.

Unless you've been living under a rock for a while you are aware of alternative students have to reading (spark notes, pink money, cliff notes, etc.)

This blog tries to:
1. Show some high profile cases of cheating
2. Discuss how teachers can prevent cheating.

We live in a testing generation. These tests do more than just give scores; they determine schools' budgets, reinforce a school's reputation, and limit a student's opportunities. This isn't JUST in America. Sure, we have the SAT to get into college, but China has the Gaokao, Japan has the Center Shiken, and Korea has the Suneung tests which in many cases give even more pressure than the SAT.

For example, just last month there was a riot at a Chinese school holding the Gaokao. Essentially  in the past reports of cheating had been too high, so this time the students were scanned for cell phones, transmitters, etc. After the test they protested. Their logic? Everyone else cheats, so if they can't it isn't fair.

The May 2013 SATs were cancelled in Korea because copies of the test were obtained and distributed. They were selling for exorbitant prices. The college board, in an attempt to save the integrity of the SAT cancelled the test.

And I think we can all remember the Atlanta Cheating Scandal where teachers falsified students answers on tests to increase the schools' scores.

The point is cheating is out there. What's the best way to prevent your students form cheating? Don't give them a test. Now, I am not saying testing should be done away with completely, but often times one test determines 50% of a grade. Is that really fair? Is there another way you could evaluate your students. Dynamic assessment is an option. I still give final exams, but they are worth 20% not 50%. There is also a final project which shows they can do everything we covered in class and the rest of their classwork.

Before you give a test consider, "Am I doing this to punish?" "Am I doing this because it is a habit?" "Am I doing this because it is required by my school?" or "Am I doing this because it is the best way to check comprehension." If a test isn't the best move, see if you can try something else. If a test is the best move, then consider the following suggestions.

  1. Give them confidence!
    • Do practice tests that are in a similar format as the test so they won't be overwhelmed by a new format.
    • Make sure the study guide has things which apply to the test!
    • Ask them to help you make questions. This is a great study tool AND they will feel more empowered when they take the test as they see the students have helped create the content, not just the teacher. 

  1. Be strict
  2. Don't let this happen in your class.
    • Prohibit most items. There will always be ways around the rules, but students are less likely to cheat if you have established yourself as a teacher who cares about the integrity of the test. So don't allow baseball caps. Make all backpacks sit at the front of the class. Do not allow watches (project the time left on the board with online stopwatch). 
    • Seriously, prohibit most items. Keep in mind that students can write on anything, water bottles, erasers, the bottom of their shoes, the inside of their skirts etc. You shouldn't give them a full pat down before entering but prohibiting things like drinking from water bottles or sharing erasers will help (plus they really do need to come prepared to class with their own erasers).
    • Make a seating chart or move students around once they have seated. I like making a seating chart because then later you can see who sat next to who and compare their answers. If you don't make a seating chart add a few lines to the top of the paper:
      Left Seat _________ Name: _______________ Right Seat: ___________ This way the student knows that you can monitor who they sat by, and they will be less likely to copy off that student.  
    • Some teachers prohibit bathroom breaks. I understand the reasons, but I have never felt comfortable telling a student they can't use the facilities. I allow it, but I do make a note of it for later.
  3. Make different test versions
    • The easiest way is to just put the pages in a different order. Of course students could realize this and simply flip through their tests until their test matches their classmates, but it may prevent some.
    • Another way to do this is just to move the questions around on the paper. This way all the students have the same questions, but not in the same pattern (making cheating tougher).
    • An alternative for multiple choice questions, or matching questions is to keep the questions the same and change the order of the answers. 
    • Finally you can ask the same questions but switch out the main words. Instead of, "In an introductory paragraph the first sentence is usually called the ________________" on another test it would be, "In a body paragraph the first sentence is usually called the ______________." This is easier for some tests and areas (math for example can ask the same question and just change the numbers).
    • Some teachers don't actually make different versions they just pretend to. They print the tests on different colored paper, or mark different symbols on the front of the test to make students think they can't cheat. This may work for some classes, but I never fell for it as a student, so I don't know why your students would.
    • For ALL of these methods make sure that you monitor where the papers get passed. If you do the "take one pass it down routine" students can easily grab the same test as the person sitting next to them.
  4. Ask short answer or essay questions
    • The following is pretty easy to copy: _________ is the main character in "The Gift of the Magi."  It also isn't a great question. It shows the student can recall, but does it show comprehension? Asking questions higher on Bloom's taxonomy will get you a better idea of what the student really knows and make it harder to copy. 
  5. Use a smaller font
    • I don't use this technique but Eric Martel did. When the font is smaller, it makes it harder for the student sitting further away to read answers (and find out if they have the same question).
  6. Watch them
    • I know this seems like a given, but some teachers don't keep the best watch on students. I know some teachers who leave the room in the middle of a test. Others  use this time to grade. I understand this, but be sure you are still paying attention to the class. 
    • Some teachers find walking around helps, and it can, but be sure to be random (and don't wear heels). 
    • I find standing in the back works best for my classrooms as they can't see me and assume I am watching them. Some teachers go elsewhere for a better vantage point. This probably isn't needed, but it is nice to see teachers give 100%
  7. Give them confidence!
    • Draw a big smiley face on the board! 
      • I find that a lot of my students get nervous and start looking around the classroom just to try to find some confidence. The happy face makes them laugh a bit and focus on that instead of another students test. So give it a shot. Draw a big happy face and write, "You can do it!" or "Don't worry be happy" on it.
  8. When in doubt  consider drastic measures
    • OK, I don't actually suggest you put students in their own private box (like below), but it is an option.

There we go! In short, contemplate alternatives to the test, prepare yours students for the test, and be aware during the test! What deterrent do you use to prevent cheating during tests?


  1. I've just realized some of my students (and I'm not even sure how many of them) cheated during a test. My question is how to react now. I have already decided to make them re-sit it but what else do you think I should do? And what do you think I should definitely not do? I could do with some advice. Thanks in advance.

  2. That's unfortunate. I few things I'd keep in mind.
    1. What does your institution do? A similar situation happened to a friend and his school had some rules in place. Some of the students received a zero with no chance to resit. Some of the students had the chance to take it again with an automatic dedication of 10%. Some students now have a note in their file. It depended on the severity of their cheating (copying, stealing the test, using their cell phone, etc.) Make sure you are following the school's rules.
    2. Could there have been more? Is it something where other students probably cheated as well? Again, a friend once had the school tell her the entire class had to take the test again even though they only had proof of a few cheaters.
    3. Do you need to change the test? Keep in mind that they have seen the test once, so if they are going to take it again, you probably need to write a new one.

    Best of luck to you. I don't envy your situation.


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