Student cheating methods are increasing and professors are trying to keep up

Georgia State professor, teaching students. | The Signal Archives

Students are getting more creative with how they cheat on exams, and professors are trying to figure out ways to minimize the situation.


In addition to requiring students to put their technological devices and other supplies away before an exam, professors are now having to ask students to remove or turn backwards ballcaps they’re wearing. While students are coming up with more ideas to get the grade they want, Georgia State professors Yvonne McDowell and Amanda Clevinger don’t feel that cheating has increased in their classes.


“I have not found cheating to be a severe issue in any of my classes,” Clevinger, a psychology professor, said. “When cheating is an issue, it tends to be on writing assignments rather than on exams.”


According to the AJC, Georgia records show the number of public school students disciplined for academic dishonesty, including cheating, rose around 3.5 percent from the 2012-2013 school year to 2014-2015.

The University System of Georgia does not keep such data for the 29 public colleges and universities in the state, but Georgia State does. According to Dr. Darryl Holloman, Georgia State Dean of Students, there were 381 cheating incidences in 2015 and 274 in 2016. The school is collecting data for 2017 until June 30.

“We keep record of it in the case of students who are primarily cheating more than once,” Holloman said.

Holloman said it does not appear that student cheating has increased any more than the school’s regular conduct issues that have occurred.

“I think what has increased is a level of awareness among faculty and students acknowledging when they’ve caught peers cheating,” Holloman said. “There is an increase in awareness in which more people report when these things happen. There are systems in place that catch it, specifically plagiarism.”

Holloman said that because of softwares such as Turn-it-in, an online plagiarism checker, and lockdown browsers, teachers can now be more aware of when students are cheating, as opposed to in the past, when it would’ve required much more effort for a teacher to determine a student had been dishonest.

According to Holloman, plagiarism is the number one utilized method of academic dishonesty at Georgia State, and cheating occurs most in classes where writing papers is mandatory.

“I think people are cutting and pasting, sometimes not knowing that those things are traceable,” Holloman said.

Clevinger said that generally speaking, she has detected more instances of cheating in lower level classes with larger class sizes housing around  90 – 120

students. She has around three cases in her lower level classes each semester and perhaps one in her upper level classes with around 50 students.

“From my experience it seems that in lower level classes, copying directly from the source is the main way of cheating; whereas, in upper level classes, it is unauthorized collaboration,” Clevinger said.

Reasons for cheating

Reasons for students cheating include procrastination, pressure to get a high score, misunderstanding the work or worrying their words don’t sound “smart enough.” McDowell, a law professor, said students may have anxiety or simply don’t prepare or view cheating as the only way to pass the class.

When Clevinger confronted students for copying from published material, students said that they were in a hurry and did not have enough time to do the assignment properly. Others said that they couldn’t think of how to re-word the author’s words.

“On unauthorized collaboration cases, students have said that they could not afford to get a poor grade on the paper and wanted to work with someone who they felt was a good student in order to secure a high grade on their paper,” Clevinger said.

According to Mcdowell, cheating has been at a steady rate for the past three years but not a major issue in her classes, although every semester there are usually a few students who do it.

Students typically try to use their phones to look up answers. I don’t give any exams online, so they’ll try to cheat while I’m proctoring the exam in class,” McDowell said. “I have had a few students plagiarize a paper from former students.”

McDowell only gives tests in class, in contrast to the growing popularity of taking tests online. This technique ensures students don’t have the opportunity to cheat online, but McDowell takes other measures to mitigate the issue.

“My paper tests change every semester,” McDowell said. “It’s harder to find former copies of the paper. I have students sit far apart from one another during testing if that’s possible.”

Upon confrontation for cheating, students have given lots of reasons as to why they were dishonest.

“Students have told me they were exhausted. They blamed [it] on the difficulty of my tests. They told me they didn’t know how to prepare for my exams,” McDowell said.

How Students are Cheating

The University of Georgia (UGA) keeps maintains their own data regarding academic dishonesty, including the specific department, allegation, decision and sanctions. Over the past three fall and spring semesters, 2,030 UGA students have been reported for academic dishonesty, with the largest amount being 988 in the 2012-2013 school year.

Most cheating cases involve unauthorized assistance or plagiarism. With unauthorized assistance, students use everything from their classmates to pulling information from the internet while taking an online test.

Along with the increasing abilities of cell phones comes the temptation for students to use the technology to cheat in school, especially when today’s smartphone is small enough to fit under a desk on a student’s lap and avoid the eyes of a professor.

A 2012 infographic published by

reported that 35 percent of teens admitted to using a cell phone at least once to cheat in school, while 65 percent reported seeing other students using phones to cheat. Other students admitted to using phones to store information to look at during a test, taking pictures of test questions to send to other classmates and searching the internet for answers during a test.

Creative Cheating

As reported by the AJC, some extreme cheating cases recorded by Examity, an online live proctoring company that has both UGA and Georgia State as clients, include:

  • A student’s mother hiding under a desk and trying to communicate answers;
  • A test-taker faking a coughing fit to free a cheat sheet in the back of his throat;
  • And in another case, someone stood outside the room and tried to cough Morse code answers to a test-taking student.

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