What Is Cheating in School (Why Cheating College Exams)?


When talking about cheating, I am going to describe it as behaviour first and then I will talk about cheating in the tests. So, detecting cheating in tests will be preceded by methods used to detect the cheating behaviour among test/exam sitters also known as testees/examinees.

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  Fraud is Bad: United to Stop It



What is cheating in school?

Cheating at school: Factors leading It

What is cheating in a Test? [Sample Studies]

Detecting cheating in test (especially in multiple choice tests)


What is cheating in school?

The literature around this educational plague “cheating” shows that it occurs on all levels: from elementary to university levels, (Manoppo & Mardapi, 2013). Cheating is also present both in developing or developed countries; and in USA for examples, statistics about cheating are alarming:

THE CENTER FOR Academic Integrity at Clemson University (previously at Duke University) reports that “on most campuses, over 75% of students admit to some cheating. In a 1999 survey of 2,100 students on 21 campuses across the country, about one third of the participating students admitted to serious test cheating.

The same picture of astonishing percentages of students cheating is displayed in Abbas and Naeemi (2011:246):

While surveying some American universities it was seen that a shocking percentage of students present there in fact cheat, these percentages range from a low of 15% to 20% to a sure high of an astonishing 81 % (Maramark & Maline, 1993)

But before any other thing, it is better to define what cheating is.

[….]. Any action that violates the established rules governing the administration of a test or the completion of an assignment; any behavior that gives one student an unfair advantage over other students on a test or assignment; or any action that decreases the accuracy of the intended inferences arising from a student’s performance on a test or assignment, (Yonoppo & Mardapi, ibid: 116-117)

According to the definition above, we can draw three points:

  1. First, cheating violates some understanding of what constitute appropriate activities for completing a specific academic activity.
  2. Second, cheating violates a sense of fundamental fairness in that it affords one or more students an unfair advantage in learning, grades, or opportunities that other students do not have. In this sense, cheating is similar to what is sometimes called test bias
  3. Third, cheating confounds the meaning that can be made from the student’s performance on a test or assignment. Typically, we would like for the summary indicator of the quality of a student’s work (i.e., the student’s test score, term paper grade, rating for performing a skill, etc.) to clearly communicate something about that work. In this sense, cheating can be thought of as something that introduces “noise” or “pollution” into the communication process, resulting in a degradation of our ability to make, understand, communicate, or use that indicator.

While governments’ global objectives to carry education policies out is to produce human resources who are likely to perform their duties and then contribute to the welfare of their whole nation, cheating in universities comes to dilute this objective. As Rahmalia and Arianto observe the following:

Universities are formal institutions that develop students’ skills as a provision to confront the workforce challenges. They are expected to be able to print qualified and ethical professionals in science, morals, or other fields.

Their comment is about what is expected from university students in the future: becoming human resources who are professional, scientific, moral and ethical in the profession they would choose. This also messes up the ideas or point that assessment should be aligned with job industries opportunities.

Cheating at school: Factors leading It

Many studies demonstrated factors causing or pushing students to cheat. Most researchers’ approaches vary according to the aims of their researches. Three factors have been identified as causes to cheating: Pressure, opportunity, and rationalization, (Arianto &Nursani, ibid:4):

  1. Pressure which includes: pressure due to financial factors (financial pressure), bad habits that people have, pressures coming from external parties, and other pressures;
  2. Opportunity, which includes: lack of control to prevent or detect violations, inability to assess the quality of a performance, failure to discipline fraud, ignorance, apathy, or Inadequate ability of victims of fraud and lack of information access;
  3. Rationalization, which is internal conflict in the perpetrator as an attempt to justify the fraud action.

The same view about factors leading to fraud or cheating by students is in Abbas and Naeemi (ibid: 247):

A banner showing factors leading to cheating in exams

        Some Variables in Students’ Cheating

The author here tested the following hypotheses:

  1. Students with high CGPAs are not inclined to cheat
  2. Males have a higher tendency for cheating than females
  3. A high degree of parental pressure with respect to getting good grades causes the students to cheat.
  4. Lack of preparation for an assignment, quiz or exam increases the chances of cheating
  5. Involvement in extracurricular activities reduces the time students devote to their studies which in turn causes them to cheat.

What is cheating in a Test? [Sample Studies]

Detecting the cheating behaviour

The existence of cheating as a behaviour can be detected, among other techniques, through:

  • Administration of a survey to students where the latter fill a Modified-Likert scale (4-1 scale format);
  • Using Integrity Software (Easy for Multiple Choice Questions);
  • etc.

Research Case: “Perilaku Kecurangan Akademik Mahasiswa: Dimensi Fraud Diamond”

Authors: Rahmalia & Nursani Gugus Irianto, SE., MSA., Ph.D., Ak.

Where hypotheses are:

H1: The perceived pressure on student influences his/her academic cheating behavior.

H2: Students ‘ perceived “opportunity to Cheat” are influential in the conduct of student academic cheating.

====No proctors/invigilators not doing their good jobs

H3: The perceived rationalization of students is positively influential in the conduct of a student’s academic cheating.

H4: A student’s ability may induce a student in an academic cheating behavior.

And Population and sampling:

  • Population: 1, 076 students
  • Sample: 292 students
  • Sampling method: Probability
  • Sampling technique: disproportionate stratified random sampling

Hypothesis testing description (Irianto and Nursani, ibid:9)

The hypothesis testing was carried out using the Partial Least Squares (PLS), i.e. evaluation of measurement models (outer model) and evaluation of structural models (inner models). Evaluation of the measurement model is achieved through validity and reliability tests. The structural model is evaluated using the R2 and the value of the path coefficient or T-values.

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What Is Cheating in School?


  • (1) Pressure,
  • (2) “opportunity to Cheat” (No proctors or invigilators not doing their good jobs),
  • (3) rationalization,
  • and (4) a student’s (low) ability

===>were found to be statistically significant. These factors can cause students’ academic cheating

Detecting students’ cheating techniques and how to prevent from cheating

Research Case: “Detecting and Preventing Cheating During Exams”

Authors: Yee and MacKown

  • Sampling technique: Collection of the Teaching Assistants/Adjuncts/proctors’ informal brainstorming about how they caught students who were cheating.

This is how the researchers describe what they did to collect the strategies used by students to cheat:

However, informally brainstorming about instructors’ past experiences with student cheating methods has often proved useful in the training of new teaching assistants and adjunct faculty members, and the list of possible cheating styles presented in this chapter grew organically from such humble beginnings. While UCF did not gather statistics on the frequency of teachers observing or suspecting the employ of each method, the list grew with each new method observed or idea supplied by participants during brainstorming

Yee and MacKown made a somehow thorough documentation on cheating strategies. These were tabled or identified through proctors’ informal brainstorming and how to base on such a knowledge to prevent students from cheating. I’m gong just to mention the cheating strategies of the sake of brevity of this website article.

  1. Whispering: asking for and giving answers verbally;
  2. Wandering eyes: looking over the shoulder of someone or to the side;
  3. Passing notes: scribbles on paper;
  4. Sign language: use hand gestures (especially fingers for numbers) to communicate with others;
  5. Morse code – voice: use coughing or sneezing a set number of times to communicate an answer;
  6. Morse code – nonverbal: use sounds like stamping feet, tapping pencil, etc., to communicate an answer;
  7. Misdirection: one person distracts the proctor(s) while others cheat;
  8. Write on body: ink written on body part, perhaps covered by long sleeves;
  9. Write on desk: especially when written in pencil for easy wiping later;
  10. Cheat sheet: prewritten cheat sheet, usually small font, hidden in clothes or under wristwatch;
  11. Cheat sheet on floor: prewritten cheat sheet hidden in book or under folders below the desk;
  12. Cheat sheet in bag: prewritten cheat sheet in backpack; accessed when getting new pen;
  13. Bathroom: leave with permission; get notes pre-hidden in bathroom (or from a friend waiting outside lecture hall);
  14. Chewing gum: write cheats on stick of gum in ink; pop into mouth if endangered (evidence is gone);
  15. Baby wipes: write on the body in ink, but have an alcohol wipe ready to remove evidence quickly;
  16. Invisible ink: visible only with a certain kind of handheld pen light;
  17. Water bottle: remove label, write cheats on inside with small font, reattach. Water acts as magnifying lens;
  18. Baseball cap: reading the underside of the brim;
  19. Sunglasses: cheats pasted or written on inside of dark sunglasses;
  20. Barrel pens: pens with a small window and click to rotate messages can have a “safe” setting and use the other click settings to write cheats;
  21. Bra: cheat sheet stuck into center of bra, visible only when looking down into blouse;
  22. Leg fan: cheat sheet folded like a fan and taped inside thighs; student hikes up skirt and opens legs, and cheats are visible only to the cheater;
  23. Cell – texting: type out a text message to someone else in class (or even at home) and get silent text reply;
  24. Cell – photo: take photo of test question, send to someone at home, get silent text reply;
  25. Calculator – program: type formulas or cheats into calculator before test begins;
  26. Calculator – sharing: program cheats ahead of time and let someone else use the calculator during the test;
  27. iPod – professor: listen to recorded lecture during the test; possible to hide earphone wires behind long hair;
  28. iPod – student: prerecord yourself saying formulas and cheats; listen during test;
  29. Mutilate: erase, cross out, crease, fold, cover over (even with Chapstick) “non-answer” parts of the Scantron form to confuse the machine and guarantee a 100% score (note: none of these methods work all the time;
  30. Shades of gray: guess about multiple answers in the same line, all in gray so you have a chance to get lucky. Also, possible to erase the wrong answers if you get the form back, and make a case for the machine not seeing your answer;
  31. Lie about answer: Leave answer blank entirely, but bubble in the correct answer in “gray” when the form comes back, and claim the machine didn’t read it;
  32. Duplicate Scantrons: have a friend take the test on two forms but keep one. In next hour, you turn in his/her form as your own;
  33. Steal questions: keep the question packet and give it to someone who will take the test later in the day;
  34. Bank Questions: memorize questions from last year’s test, saved by a friend or a social (Greek) organization;
  35. Publisher’s questions: contact the textbook publisher and pose as an instructor; request test bank;
  36. Feign Illness: after seeing test, get permission to go home sick and take the same test later;
  37. Ringer: send in an expert to take the test for you and write down your name
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Detecting cheating in test (especially in multiple choice tests)


(a) Authors: 1)Yance Manoppo, 2) Prof. Dr. Djemari Mardapi, Ph.D

(b) Analysing cheating:

  • Software used: Integrity (Manoppo &Mardapi, ibid: 121) and below is their comment on that software:

This Software is a secure online interface application designed to analyse multiple choice exam data. The Program evaluates statistics of honesty of a test and academic honesty of students who take the test. Integrity uses the data files sent by the user (client) to obtain detailed test statistical information, as well as a detailed copy detection statistics report

(c) Cheating detection Methods:

To detect the existence of cheating in Chemistry SMA/MA National/State Exam, five (5) methods were used: (1) Angoff’s B-index, (2) Pair 1, (3) Pair 2, (4) MESA, and (5) G2

(d) Results and their description

Analysing the researchers’ findings, here is a briefing of what was found out:

  • Using Angoff’s B-index method, 13 pairs were found;
  • With the method of Pair 1, 212 pairs allegedly cheated;
  • Analysed using Pair Method 2, 444 pairs of cheaters were found;
  • With the MESA method, 7 pairs were detected to allegedly have cheated;
  • and with G2 method suspected pairs of cheater amounted to 102

===>Based on the results of the analysis, the method that helped detected as many pairs of cheaters is that Pair method 2 that helped identify 444 pairs of cheaters, which reasonable and sound as this was taken from a large-scale (national/provincial) assessment of Chemistry subjected matter.

Graphically, this is their results representation (in Indonesia language=Bahasa Indonesia):

A Picture featuring a graphic of pairs suspected in test cheating
   Accuracy in Detecting Test Cheating


Manoppo, Y. & Mardapi, D. (2013). “Analisis metode cheating pada tes berskala besar,” Jurnal Penelitian dan Evaluasi Pendidikan

Abbas, A. & Naeemi, Z. (2011). “Cheating Behavior among Undergraduate Students,” International Journal of Business and Social Science: Vol. 2 No. 3

Nursani, R. & Irianto, G. (2014). Perilaku Kecurangan Akademik Mahasiswa: Dimensi Fraud Diamond retrieved from jimfeb.ub.ac.id/index.php/jimfeb/article/view/


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