The evolution of cheating

January 12, 2011 — by Olivia Chock, Wiill Edman, Anoop Galivanche, Albert Gu, Anika Jhalani, Priya Nookala

“Pssst … hey Susie, what’s the answer to question 3?” reads a comic strip from Calvin and Hobbes. The comic brings back a “nostalgic” view of traditional cheating—whispered conversations and quick peeks at peers’ papers. However, the abundance of technology in and out of the classroom has led to a vast increase in cheating techniques in recent years, although “old-fashioned” approaches are still widespread.

A survey of 517 students done by the Falcon suggests that cheating is most prevalent on homework.

“It’s easy to catch students copying each other’s assignments because they don’t even try to hide it,” said campus supervisor Jeanine Sevilla. “At least they should try to hide in a corner or something. It is a complete disrespect to teachers when they spend so much time creating worksheets, and students just copy them off of each other.”

Sevilla said copying was the only type of cheating that she sees because she “cannot access students’ e-mails and computers.” However, with the advancement of the Internet, students are exploiting additional methods of cheating on homework.

The Falcon spoke to a senior who often uses cramster.com, a website that contains solutions to questions from popular textbooks. Although the site is aimed to assist stumped students and teachers, the student claimed that he only copied the solutions presented online

“It only costs a small fee, and you have access to a bunch of textbooks,” he said. “You can copy the answers and the work that goes into the problem, so your teacher could never catch you cheating. It’s well worth the price.”

This isn’t to say, however, that cheating is limited to copying homework. With the increasing accessibility of smartphones and Internet-enabled iPods, students are capable of not only receiving unfair disadvantages through the Internet or from a friend but can also also cheat on in-class activities, like assessments and group discussions. These ploys are likely to be more successful, as the relatively small size of such devices allow students to conceal them.

A junior who spoke on condition of anonymity said he uses his iPod Touch regularly to cheat on Spanish vocabulary tests. Simple flashcard applications that can be obtained for free on the iTunes App Store can be configured, he said, for quick and easy access of definitions and explanations.

“Come on, you’re talking about something the size of your palm,” he said. “Who’s going to notice?”

The most common form of cheating on major assignments, however, is the “cheating ring” formula, one formed by students who will inform their peers on information on a test. Such a system allows for a symbiotic process where friends can receive answers on tests in multiple classes.

The problem with these cheating groups is that they are nearly impossible to catch since no student is actively cheating in the classroom. Since students obtain exam questions and answers beforehand, no cheating takes place while under teacher supervision.

As a result, such a technique is considered commonplace among many students. In the poll, 78.4 percent of students reported receiving specific exam questions in advance was the most common form of cheating.

“Students talking about test questions and answers is pretty prevalent, especially during junior year because the classes become so much harder,” said junior Ivan Lee, who has encountered many such situations in his three AP classes. “A small hint on a test can give you an advantage over others, and that can be the difference between a B and an A. But it’s also unfair for the people who took the test first, especially in classes with curved grades.”

Teachers’ attempts to limit cheating vary across the spectrum. AP and Honors Chemistry teacher Kathy Nakamatsu employs a strict test-taking system in which she hands out each test individually, creates different versions of each test, and prohibits students from touching their pencils before the test commences.

Other teachers, such as AP Biology and Honors Chemistry teacher Bob Kucer, employ a grading curve. Kucer’s method works so that test scores are based off the highest score in each individual period. This system counteracts the possibility of higher scores in later periods. Other teachers are more hands off in their approach to combating cheating, saying that students are only hurting themselves in the long run.

Most students feel that requesting teachers to be more alert during exams would help rectify the problem of cheating.

“[Most cheating occurs] in class, and almost anything can happen because teachers usually sit at their desks and don’t really notice these things,” said one student in a survey. The poll indicated that 65.7 percent of students feel having teachers be more alert during tests would help alleviate the problem of cheating. But one respondent summarized the inherent shortcoming of any methods to combat cheating.

“No matter what teachers do, we’ll find a way around it,” he said. “The only way to stop cheating is to quell it in our own ranks.”

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