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Examinations

Since the process of cheating on an exam is quite different from plagiarizing an essay, different strategies must be used to address this problem. Again, it is much better to prevent cheating than merely detect it. The rules of behaviour in exams should be made clear in advance, so that students do not inadvertently do something the instructor views as unacceptable and know that invigilators are aware of possible ways of cheating. York's Senate Policy on Invigilation of Examinations provides general instructions and procedures for conducting examinations. In addition, the following is provided to help in dealing with different types of cheating on exams:

  • Getting illegal access to information about the exam before it takes place

    This can be prevented by making sure copies or drafts of the exam are not accessible to anyone who should not have access to it. Material related to the exam should not be left on desks or in wastebaskets. In some cases desperate students have broken into offices to retrieve copies of an exam. Locking up exam material in a file cabinet or making the material difficult to find can be an extra precaution.

  • Copying from another student

    This can be hard to avoid or detect in crowded examination halls, particularly in sloping lecture halls, where students may be able to see the work of several other students without being obvious about it. This kind of cheating is particularly easy in the case of multiple choice questions or questions for which the answer is a number, a formula or a diagram. Some suggestions to minimize copying include:

    • Seat students as far apart as the room allows
    • It is better to seat students behind each rather than side by side
    • In sloping lecture halls, an invigilator standing at the front of the room and looking towards the students can note if their eyes are wandering in inappropriate directions
    • Have students remove hats that might hide wandering eyes
    • Create two or more versions of the exam and distribute them to alternate seats, so that students cannot easily see other copies of their version of the exam. For example, different versions of a multiple choice question could be obtained by rearranging the order of the questions, or of the answers for each question. Indicating in advance that there will be several versions of the exam can prevent cheating.

    If there is some reason to suspect that a student is copying from another student, but if the invigilator is not completely sure, it may be appropriate to ask the student to move to another seat where copying is not possible. This should be done in a way that does not cause disruption for other students. It also can be useful to have another invigilator assess the situation.

  • Bringing information into the exam room before or during an exam.

    This could involve smuggling in notes, either at the start of the exam or in connection with a trip to the washroom. It also could involve the use of a cell phone or other communication device. Such devices should not be allowed. To minimize the possibility of a student bringing in exam booklets containing information, you could mark the official booklets for the exam in some way.

  • Arranging for someone else to write the exam

    The main preventative measure here is to check identification and signatures carefully. This kind of cheating is extremely difficult If all the students are known to the instructor, but for big classes it may be hard to prevent. Photographs are not always clear, especially if the hairstyle or the glasses of the person has changed. As in the case of copying from another student, it would be appropriate to ask students to remove hats that hide faces.

  • Changing the answer on a graded question

    This involves a student changing the answer on a graded question and then, without acknowledging the changes, asking the instructor to grade the exam again.The alteration may involve changing an answer or adding additional material. Requiring students to write in ink will prevent them from changing answers, and graders can draw lines around or under students' written answers so that it is difficult to add material.

    If there is reason to suspect that an answer has been altered after having been returned to the student, it could be appropriate to make a copy of later tests written by the same student, so that hard evidence can be obtained.

Invigilators need to take their responsibilities seriously, and watch for activities that suggest cheating. In the interest of prevention, it is important for students to know in advance that cheating of any type is not acceptable, and that confirmed cases of cheating will result in penalties. It is also very important that students know exactly what constitutes cheating. The rules should be clearly defined. The best way to do this is to include information with the material handed out at the beginning of the course.