Preventing Academic Dishonesty

Preventing exam cheating

Exam Questions

Certainly, writing new questions each administration of a course would help reduce cheating. Asking teaching assistants to write questions is one helpful strategy. Requiring students in the course to write and submit questions during the semester can also be helpful, not only to designing new exams, but also as a study strategy for the students.

Of course, writing new questions is not always feasible. Thus, when using questions that have previously appeared on exams, instructors must be vigilant to ensure that no student leaves the exam room with a copy of the exam. Enforcing this requirement will be difficult in large classes. At some point it is likely that copies of exam questions will leak out and find their way to the internet.

If it is possible that some students have copies of old exams, an instructor should make copies available for all students. No student should have an unfair advantage over others.

Exam Administration

● In addition to prohibiting phone use, prohibit smart watches and items on which students can write notes or formulas (e.g., water bottles).

When giving multiple choice exams consider using four versions.

Scramble the questions and use different color test booklets. For example, in the first row of students, alternate blue and green versions. In the second row, alternate pink and yellow versions. In the third row, go back to blue and green.

Be sure to tell students they may not sit next to someone with the same colored exam booklet.

Insert answer sheets in each exam, and place a highlighter mark on each answer sheet that matches the color of the exam booklet.

At the very beginning of the exam, ask students to be sure that the color of their test booklet matches the color of the highlighter mark on their answer sheet. This prevents students with a pink exam from copying from the yellow exam next to them and then turning their answer sheet in as if they had a yellow exam booklet.

Ask students to remove baseball hats and headphones.

Have them close all books and be sure everything is far enough under their chair that nothing is within view.

Check to see that any information stored in the memory of their calculator is cleared.

Be sure all cell phones are out of sight. Students have received unfair advantage by receiving information through text messaging.

Be very intentional about keeping exams, grades, etc. locked up.

Have enough proctors in order to deter dishonesty.

If possible have students sit in assigned seats. Check IDs if feasible to ensure that students have not sent another student in their place. Have students keep their ID on their desk as they are taking the test so that they can be checked randomly.

When using bluebooks collect them as students arrive and hand them out again randomly before the exam.

Obviously it is risky to have students taking make-up exams to take the same exam as everyone else.


Exam Grading

● Do not give exams back to students. Designate a time during which they may look at their exams after grading, but do not let them keep copies or allow photographs of exams.

On essay and short answer exams, place a slash through any unused answer space. If using a true-false exam, circle the correct answer if the student did not.

Photocopy exams before returning them, or indicate to students that you may do this.


Preventing plagiarism on papers and assignments

Paper Topics: Change topics often. If students may come up with their own topics, require them to gain approval for topics not on your list. Topics should be specific and unique enough that students are not able to easily find a paper on the topic.

Process Steps. Try to avoid simply assigning a paper at the beginning of the semester that is due at the end. Students may have very little experience in writing a paper from scratch. Set a series of due dates throughout the semester for different parts of the paper. These might include selection of a topic, identification of initial sources, an outline, a first draft, a final draft incorporating peer and/or instructor comments. This process should help improve papers and make it very difficult to plagiarize. An alternative would be to require students to submit rough drafts, notes, index cards, etc. with the final draft.

Clear expectations. Make clear what you are looking for in the paper. Provide information on format, structure, style, footnotes, margins, etc. If it is important for you that students compare and contrast, list pros and cons, or discuss costs and benefits, be clear about this.

Keep papers for comparison in future semesters.

Oral reports of papers. Having to stand up in front of a class will require students to be intimately familiar with their paper. Simply copying a paper will not provide the necessary level of familiarity.


Methods of Detection

Put exact phrases into a search engine.

Employ commercial software that compares papers to existing ones in large databases. Examples include, SafeAssign, and Turnitin.

Examine term paper sites such as