Academic Cheating

Academic dishonesty, in the form of cheating and or plagiarism, is one of the unfortunate consequences of education. For example, in Southeast Asia, a group of students were caught cheating on an exam to enter medical school. Their strategy involved the use of smartwatches. People outside the building were sending wireless messages to the students through their smartwatches with prospective correct answers. The students who were caught paid around $30,000 for the illicit support, which is about 10 times the yearly minimum wage in the country.

Another example involves students wearing what has been referred to as “anti-cheating hats”. These hats essentially involve wearing paper on one’s head to block your view of all the people around you so you can only see your own answer sheet. Locally, this is done as a joke to remove the stress of the exam. However, when international media found a photo of this on social media they took it as a sign of intense cheating and dishonesty,  which embarrassed the school.

The majority of high school and college students have admitted to cheating in one form or another. This includes critical fields such as medical school. Such rampant behavior must have some causes. At such, in this post, we will look at causes and simple solutions for cheating. In this post, we will look at motivations for cheating as well as solutions to alleviate the problem.


One reason for the large amounts of cheating is that it is highly successful with less than 2% of students being caught when teaching. With a success rate of almost 100%, there is almost no reason to be honest if your grade is in danger. If an adult knew that there was almost a 99% chance of getting away with a crime, such a crime is highly likely to increase.

Another factor is the fact the students can be inattentive to their studies. With all the distractions of friends, family, work, and entertainment it can be hard for students to exercise the discipline to study. Besides, when students do study it is often for the goal of memorization rather than comprehension. Understanding is hard to forget but the memory is weak. Add to this the belief of cramming and staying up late before exams and students will experience intense anxiety when they cannot recall a key idea or concept.

Teachers can also contribute to cheating. If a teacher is unclear, heavily focused on memorizing, provides little feedback, these can all contribute to students cheating to “survive.” If students think a teacher is unfair in their assessment and or instruction they will try to even the playing field through cheating.


Clear communication of what to expect on exams as well as preparation through reviewing can help to reduce cheating. If students know what to expect and believe they are prepared there is less pressure to cheat in order to control things students think they cannot control. However, it is up to the teacher that they understand the importance of consistency between what is taught and assessed in their classroom to establish the trust necessary that the teacher is not looking to fail students but to help students excel.

Another strategy is to move away from heavy memorizing closed question exams to critical thinking open-ended exams. Multiple choice, matching, true/false, etc. are all examples of questions with one answer. If there is only one answer, a student simply needs to memorize the one answer.

Open-ended questions require critical thinking and the development of a unique answer based on the student’s prior experience. Essay questions are one example of this. It is extremely difficult to memorize an essay question answer in advance. This naturally helps to reduce the temptation to cheat do to the hopelessness of that at the moment.

Providing alternative forms of assessment can also help. Some students just do not do well with exams. Considering that at some universities the mid-term and final exam can account for over 60% of the final grade such high stakes testing can encourage cheating. Through providing smaller more frequent assignments teachers can support learning while decreasing high stakes testing.


Cheating will always be a challenge in education. With the distractions that young people face, the culture of accepting academic dishonesty, and the incredible inability to catch students who do this. There is little hope that the current situation will change. A student cannot cheat without opportunity. Therefore, the use of preventive measures that help to reduce the risk of academic dishonesty.

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