How can I cheat on exams

How teachers should recognize cheating in online exams

O. recently took a written online exam. But he didn't get a grade, but an "X". Students get this if they are caught cheating - therefore O. is not named here. During the exam, which was held in "closed book" mode - the students were not allowed to use their documents - his number posted a photo of the exam script to a Whatsapp group of the course. What O. apparently overlooked: The teacher was also in the group - the use of unauthorized aids was exposed.

M. also received a cheat note: A few days after the exam, the teacher asked him questions about his answers - but he could not answer them. For them it is clear: A ghostwriter wrote the exam for M.

O. and M. would have had a rather difficult time with their cheating methods in times of face-to-face exams. Supervisors walked through the rows and watched whether students pull out their smartphones, pull cheat sheets out of their sleeves or copy off fellow students during the exam. In a survey conducted by the University of Vienna, around 53 percent of students stated that online exams invite cheating. In so-called open book exams - which many students rated positively - cheating is less of an issue. Also because they focused on the application of knowledge instead of asking what they have learned by heart.

Guide against cheating

In order to discover digital cheating as an examiner, the Ministry of Science has commissioned a guide to "Good scientific practice in electronic 'distance tests' at Austrian universities and colleges". It was created by the media scientist Stefan Weber, known as the "plagiarism hunter", and the lawyer Markus Haslinger, who founded the focus on "Good Scientific Practice" at the Technical University of Vienna. The guideline refers "expressly only to universities" as well as written exams with open questions, since, according to the authors, other questions arose in oral exams and multiple-choice exams - for example, whether it can be avoided that old questions are asked that are already correct Answers can be found in Facebook groups.

Above all, one has to start writing exams in advance in order to minimize rule violations, write Haslinger and Weber. Teachers should check whether plagiarism checking software is licensed at their university, which is ideally linked to the learning platform and - with the consent of the students - automatically checks the exams. It is also important that only one version of the exam can be submitted.

The students should also be informed in advance what permitted aids are, i.e. whether the internet, slide sets, printed literature or transcripts may or may not be used during the exam. "Access to literature and databases to answer open questions in distance tests makes perfect sense in a scientific context and only enables correct citation," note the guide authors. Therefore it will "often be wiser" to allow clearly defined aids first and to clarify afterwards whether there was cheating - instead of technically preventing aids from the outset. For example, by holding the test in a browser where certain pages cannot be called up - but this can easily be bypassed by searching the Internet on a mobile phone.

Plagiarism and ghostwriting

The examiners should keep an eye on two rule violations in particular: firstly, team plagiarism if, for example, an essay is worked out in a group and uploaded several times. The best way to unmask the so-called collusion is to use plagiarism checking software, which also compares the drafts of the test items with each other. Logically, you don't find out who copied from whom; the lecturers then have to question the students. If there is no such software at the university or if the examinees refuse to use it, the work can also be checked using a Google search. A process that is probably not seriously feasible with hundreds of exams.

The second rule violation is even more difficult to find out: ghostwriting during the exam. A student identifies himself before the exam, but lets someone else write the exam. Programs for this are only being developed or cannot yet be used for the German language, the authors write. If there is a suspicion, it is helpful to ask questions like M.'s teacher or to compare the text with the other texts of the suspect student in order to find "noticeable differences in spelling and grammar". Standard phrases, "noticeably 'neutral' scientific prose", deviating citation habits or meticulous formatting could also be an indication. Or if no personal reference is made in the text.

According to the ministry, challenges would also arise in relation to the question of how the identity should be determined in electronic tests. Many universities, for example, require a photo ID in addition to a student ID. However, there are also questions about data protection, such as whether it is permissible to request a camera panning through the apartment. The latter, as well as a second webcam that films the examination room, is "only partially practicable," wrote Haslinger and Weber. Preventive measures in the run-up to the test are more important. (set, 10/20/2020)