High-Tech Cheating

If you’ve ever suspected cheating may be responsible for some uncommonly high test scores, Cheat-Tech may be the culprit. Not surprisingly, an entire tech industry has grown up around helping students cheat on exams in ways impossible to detect, and just as difficult to prove.

Is Cheat-Tech prevalent in International Schools? We’re not in a position to say. Except one thing is for certain, privileged students have the financial resources to purchase any or all Cheat-Tech devices.

If you believe your exams are falling victim to technology, here’s some helpful insight into how students use Cheat-Tech in, and outside the classroom, and what you can do to deter offenders.

IN the Classroom

Smartwatches – So-called smartwatches are the perfect device for streaming test answers sent by an accomplice in a remote location. Special screens can make a smartwatch appear to be turned off to all but the user who is wearing special lenses. Solution:  In late 2019 the Independent Commission on Examination Malpractice in the UK recommended all watches be banned from exam halls, even what appears to be normal watches which may be a smartwatch in disguise.

Smartphones – Would-be cheaters have gone beyond the obvious, using tiny earbuds to listen to prerecorded information transmitted from their smartphones hidden away in their purse or pocket. Solution:  Signal Jammer

Spy Cam Glasses – This may seem extreme, yet students have been caught cheating with spy cameras hidden in eyeglass frames. These micro cameras read and transmit exam questions to an off-site helper who sends back the answers to a smartwatch.  Solution:  No watches allowed in exam hall

Invisible Ink Pens – Perfect for creating cheat sheets, invisible ink pens have a special light at the tip of the pen that makes otherwise invisible ink, visible to the user. Solution:  Pass out easily identifiable pencils/pens and erasers. Prohibit the use of any other writing device.

Electronic Erasers – Like spy glasses, this device can transmit questions and receive answers. Solution:  Permit cross-outs. No erasing.

Calculators – We’re talking calculators that look just like ordinary scientific calculators but can stream answers from an offsite accomplice, store and retrieve information and connect to the internet for a quick Google search. A push of the right key instantly puts the device into calculator-only mode – a handy feature if the user thinks the teacher is watching. A code is needed to return the device to Cheat-Tech mode, making it impossible to prove the device was used for cheating. Solution:  Insist on the use of school-supplied calculators during exams.

Fake Fingerprints – Although we’ll never encounter this form of cheating in our classrooms, it’s interesting to note that students in China have been caught using fake fingerprints to appear to be another student for whom they had planned take a college entrance exam. Chinese education authorities now have taken to using facial recognition systems, fingerprint verification, metal detectors, drones, and signal jammers in a bid to thwart unscrupulous pupils.


OUTSIDE the Classroom

Auto-summarize – The latest trend in student cheating involves students using auto-summarize features in programs like Microsoft Word that extracts the most important information from a large piece of writing and generates a much shorter version that anti-plagiarism software has difficulty detecting. Summarizing software is easily found online. Solution:  On the first day of class, get a writing sample from every student. A few paragraphs, handwritten, on an impromptu topic should be enough.

Have something to add? Please scroll down to join the Discussion.

8 thoughts on “High-Tech Cheating

  1. There is no way I’d spend this much time and energy trying to catch kid who are so determined to cheat that they set up a bunch of high tech gadgets to do it, like a damn James Bond movie. Teachers don’t get paid enough to spend time trying to take down a teenaged spy ring. I work with kids most of the time so this would never be a real issue. But for those working with teens, I say don’t waste your energy on this. If they cheat, hopefully it will eventually bite them in the ass and if it doesn’t, well life is already pretty unfair. Busting them for cheating won’t make the world a just place.


  2. I agree with the comment above about it does catch up with the students. Saw grade fixing and massive cheating in Vietnam, Egypt, and Azerbaijan. Those students would go to US schools and wash out within a year because they never bothered to learn anything and would have to go back home to their wealthy parents and enroll in the local university, buy grades, and get a local degree!!!! Parents never considered that money only goes so far and that their children would have to actually step up and learn something! Used to hear people brag about how they only attended a few classes, paid for most of their grades, and held fancy degrees from “overseas universities” Actually had a colleague ask me why Americans would waste so much time taking classes when all you had to do was pay off the teachers.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t really care if my students cheat. I know that life will eventually catch up to them. If they have no honor that’s on them.


  4. I generally don’t allow students to have their phones in a test. But I have been a bit lax in my new school, and I have noticed there have been some remarkable scores for some of my students . I think I will look into the smart watch thing too. The official exams are heavily policed with photos of each student on their desks. Smartwatches, phones are not allowed and calculators are restored to their default settings in the exam room before they sit the exam.

    If you know your stuff and do the work then you will get the reward.


  5. I saw some very low tech cheating in Pakistan. Kid actually not only copied his friends answers but also put his friends name at the top of his test paper. That’s not to say cell phones weren’t used for cheating. No cell phones allowed in class during exams was my policy. This was pre smartwatch. The greatest amount of cheating was on major papers of which many were plagiarized from the web. Some parents had the attitude that if a paper had already been written on a topic, why should their kid waste time writing another one? LOL


  6. Guatemala was the worst. Competitive cheating a cottage industry. If I were in US admissions office, I double check each application in house.


  7. The kids were not that sophisticated in Myanmar. They would just have their tutors get similar hair cuts and show up on their behalf to take the SAT and AP exams. The school shrugged it off because the parents control everything. I saw so many young people admitted to UCLA, Stanford, and Cornell only to wash out after one year because they never deserved to be there to begin with.
    The cameras in specs is a novel idea, never thought it would get that sci-fy


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