For as long as the exam process has existed, people have always tried to find ways to give themselves the upper hand by not exactly following the concept of ‘exam conditions’.
Loopholes in the rules are exploited just as much in real life as in the exam room. You might remember the case of the ‘Millionaire Trio’ in 2001, who were found to have conned their way to the £1m jackpot through devising a pretty pathetic plan of coughing to signal correct answers.
Such techniques have been used before by students who should have known better, with even more elaborate methods like Morse code and hand signals having alerted exam invigilators to possible forms of communication in the exam room.
This year, Sheffield Hallam and Wolverhampton have been reported to be among the universities where rather a lot of exam sneakiness has gone on over the last five years. Not surprisingly, technology is becoming an increasingly common method of bending the rules. Whereas at one time a dishonest student might have scrawled answers up their arm in ink, the rise of mobile phones allowed cheating to go electronic as the 20th Century ended – a problem now exacerbated by such developments as Bluetooth and hidden earpieces.
More low-tech forms of academic dishonesty include plagiarism, falsification of data, bribery and, in some cases, sabotage, where students have found ways to harm their peers’ chances of performing well in order to make themselves look better.
Cheating in exams, aside from being immoral and unfair on other students, is clearly not worth the risk, as penalties for being caught can be extremely severe. Even one instance of being caught cheating can result in a student’s being disqualified from all courses, leaving a whole year or more of work wasted because of one act of stupidity.