Preventing and Confronting In-Class Cheating

A problem which may confront faculty is how to handle suspected cheating during an exam without disrupting class and disturbing the other students.  Here are some tips on how to prevent cheating during an exam and also some ways to respond without causing a disturbance when your attempts have failed and you need to act.  Questions or comments should be directed to the Office of the Dean of Students (760-750-4935).

Preventing In-Class Cheating

If possible, prepare at least two versions of the exam.  You can use the same questions, just alter the order, especially on multiple choice and true/false exams.  Exams with similar patterns of answers, but with different tests, may indicate that one copied from another.

As they enter the room, assign places for them to sit.  The first student to arrive might sit in the front row, nearest the door, for example, while the next student sits in the back, by the windows.

Before distributing exams, remind students of your policy on cheating, reading from your syllabus what you’ve told them before. 

If you ever suspect a “ringer” or imposter may be taking an exam, notify the students that they’ll need to show photo ID when they turn in their exam; if they don’t have an ID with them, you won’t grade their exam until they show you one later.

Remind them of what materials they may use on the exam.  If it’s a closed-book, closed-note test, have them clear their desks of books, purses, backpacks, telephones, and other items prior to distributing the exams.  Tell them that anyone looking in their property after the exams are distributed will be considered to be cheating; get out an extra pen/pencil, cough drops, erasers, and the like now.

Remind them to turn off cell phones and pagers. Anyone seen with either during the exam will be considered to be cheating.

If this is to be a “blue book” exam, have each student bring a booklet to class and sign their name on the back cover.  Collect them and redistribute them randomly, making sure no one gets back their own.  Or, have them bring a blue book and they can trade it for one you provide.

Remind them there is to be no talking and if they have a question, to raise their hand and you’ll come to them.

Walk around the room throughout the exam.  Stand at the back of the room periodically; the students who monitor your whereabouts are the ones to keep an eye on!

Tempting though it is, do not read a book, grade papers or other exams, or do other work while monitoring the exam.  Keep an eye out for “wandering eyes” or quiet conversations.

When students turn in their exams, have them individually place the exams in a large envelope you’ve provided.

Confronting In-Class Cheating

If you suspect cheating is occurring, try to resist the temptation to take the exam from the student, tear it up, and send him or her out of the room.  Rather, let them complete the exam, or give them another copy and let them continue on the new one, noting where you exchanged tests.

If you notice “wandering eyes,” remind the students that all work must be individual and to keep their eyes on their own paper and/or visit with the student(s) whom you suspect and quietly remind them specifically.

If students appear to be exchanging information by talking or copying, quietly record their names, where they are on the exam, and have them just as quietly, change seats.

When you see a student using notes or having notes visible, immediately, but discreetly, confiscate the material.  DO NOT destroy the notes as they will be evidence in disciplinary proceedings to follow.  Make a note where the student is on the exam, but let them complete the test.

The same applies to having a phone or pager visible; text-messaging is a quiet way to share information.

If you hear talking,  whispering,  or murmuring, in any language, either remind the class in general that no talking is permitted or quietly confront the students who are doing the talking.  Note where they are on the exam and have them quietly change seats.

Sometimes students will have come into the classroom before the exam and written information on the desk top.  If you suspect this has happened, have the student change seats, note where they are on the exam, and allow no one else to sit there, if possible.

If a student becomes disruptive when confronted, tell them that disrupting the class is a separate violation from cheating and warn them they will have to leave if it continues.  If they continue, dismiss them.  If they will not leave, you may call University Police by dialing 4567 on a campus phone, or 760-750-4567 on a cell phone.

Courtesy of Cal Poly Pomona University. Some of the material on this flyer was adapted from Confronting In-Progress Cheating, developed by the Office of Student Judicial Affairs at the University of California, Davis.  Visit their excellent website at http://sja.ucdavis.edu/files/confront.pdf.

Additional resources for plagiarism prevention are: