UK’s dumbest exam cheats: top 10 ways students get caught

They did what?

There are a few things we all know are disqualification-worthy when it comes to exams. A mobile phone in your pocket, or even ringing at the back of the hall, for example. Or not-so-discretely smuggling your notes into the exam hall.

As an alternative to a good study schedule and a healthy dose of hard work, cheating is a potentially disastrous way to go about your exams and coursework. Here are the 10 most common banned behaviours students get caught out on, along with some tragic and amusing anecdotes from the TSR community.

1. Bringing in a mobile or other electronic device

The old classic. No one wants to hear a ringtone or message alert in an exam. Not only is it off-putting, it also gives everyone that sinking feeling it might be theirs.

OphyCal shared a story about the dangers of having even a battery-less phone on you: "A phone went off in an exam I was in last week. Teachers asked all the students in the room to empty their pockets. 

"15 people were disqualified for having phones on them, most were switched off and a few even didn't have batteries in them. 

"The culprit just hid their phone and they got away with it."

Although the real bad guy seemed to escape without any consequences, the rules are very, very clear: no mobile phones should be taken into exams.

2. Bringing in notes, study guides or organisers

Whether they're written on scraps of paper or somewhere on your body, prompts have no place in an exam unless you want things to quickly get awkward. 

A girl in Iheartnerds' GCSE geography exam "took the notes in with her and put them on her lap, and slyly looked down at her lap throughout the whole exam. That was until they accidentally slipped off her lap right into the invigilator's pathway."

And Gromit94's tale is further evidence that this tactic often backfires: "I know of someone who attempted to cheat in their English exam by writing key phrases on their hands. But then they got really nervous that they'd been caught and ended up sweating the words off anyway. They were left with a very odd black smear."

3. Exchanging information by talking in an exam

The thing about exam halls is they're pretty quiet, so the chances are you will be heard if you say something.

"My mate whispered me an answer once but I couldn't hear him so that was a fail and another time it was four tick boxes and [we were] asked to tick one and I ticked one, then glanced over to someone else to see if they ticked the same one and they had so I just moved on. Not really cheating but a little conferring never harmed anyone," says unidreams.

But don't let this fool you, conferring is cheating just as much as talking to your friend is cheating, even if you can't hear what they're saying.

4. Copying from published sources in coursework

Make sure you put things in your own words so you can't be accused of foul play. And if you're put in groups to do your coursework at uni, be extra vigilant that other people's writing isn't plagiarised.

xoelisee shared her near miss: “I hate group work, my grades are always a whole classification lower unless I literally do the whole assignment myself. 

“The worst experience I had was a group of three of us in our final year doing an assignment, I had done literally 95% of the work (all the data collection and the majority of the write-up) and one group member had written sentences here and there, the third group member did not contribute anything.

"I submit it on Turnitin and find out the work that one group member had contributed was plagiarised completely from various websites. Luckily we were allowed resubmissions so I stayed up until 2am redoing the assignment and submitting it, ended up getting 80%.”

5. Possessing confidential material before an exam

Buying leaked exams isn't smart. If and when the exam board finds out about a leaked exam, a reserve paper will be used instead, or everyone will need to resit the paper.

ieatraw asked: "Apparently a mate who had done his GCSEs, came forward and said that he had bought the papers prehand from a dude on insta his selling again this year's papers. 

"Just wondering what's your thoughts on this?"

And ChicaDelTeatro replied: "If he is, it's a) a data breach and b) basically illegal. Somebody should report him and ensure that the rest of Year 11 don't have to resit a whole exam series because of one criminal."

6. Bringing a calculator or dictionary when not allowed

grinchyaaa got 'lucky', saying that in the maths non-calculator exam, "I managed to have my calculator on my lap tapping away, never got caught.

“On my maths calculator exam I had all the Sin Cos Tan etc equations written on the inside lid of the calculator.”

But not everyone is so lucky, clearly, because this is one of the top ways students get caught cheating. And imagine the stress of wondering if you're going to get caught every time an invigilator walks by.

Top 10 ways students get caught cheating in exams

7. Exchanging prohibited information non-verbally

Sign language and eye contact will look pretty suspicious in the middle of an exam, but what about communicating through natural bodily functions like coughing?

maimoonahussain says: “My friend used to sit behind me in all my exams and he would cough near the end of the exam and I would lift up my sheet and pretend to be checking it and he would copy me.”

Best to give it a miss, as I'm sure raising your sheet in the air would raise a few eyebrows.

8. Copying from another candidate

There's usually enough distance between desks that straining to see other students' answers is going to be obvious. And if it isn't, well you may just out yourself in another way, like Beebumble's friend, who “fell off her chair trying to copy someone. The person she tried to copy got the answer wrong anyway.”

Double karma.

9. Making a false declaration of authenticity

Another well-worn coursework blunder is asking someone for help, but then attempting to pass their work off as your own.

999tigger warns a TSR member that paying someone to edit your work is risky business: “You need to be very careful as it would be easy to construe what you are attempting to do as cheating.

"You make a declaration it is all your own work, so be careful. You could get someone to read it and offer feedback on obvious spelling and grammar etc. but if they go too far, then you will be cheating. Proofreading is possible but it is a very tricky area.

“If you have a tutor or a friend whose English is good, then that may be difficult to spot, but at some stage it will be cheating."

10. Getting help beyond what is allowed in coursework or exams

Sometimes it's undetectable, like MunaSultan's example: “I got made to do a French exam even though I can't speak french, for the speaking and listening I got a fluent French speaker to write me a paragraph and I got 26 out of 30.”

Other times, it isn't even your fault; Naathan_b said that his GCSE PE teacher "kept coming over to me telling me the answers, I never asked him to!”

Whatever the case, asking or receiving help in exams or coursework is grounds for disqualification.

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