The line between cheating and casual tips

November 13, 2017 — by Anishi Patel and Elaine Toh

“Hey, how was the test?”

It’s always a little annoying to hear the question, especially after a grueling exam, but somehow, some way, you feel obligated to answer. And a simple “good” or “bad” is never enough — no, this question is loaded with expectations.

It becomes a system of give and take. You quiz me on the useful math test material, and I’ll tell you what you should study for the chemistry test. You tell me what events I should know for the pop quiz in history, and I’ll tell you what quotes to remember for English.

The line between cheating and a slight push in the right direction is indeed blurry. Casual tips are just a part of school life, but there is a line, even if its exact definition is unclear.

Let us begin the search for “The Line” with a teacher’s perspective. AP Physics teacher Kirk Davis teaches what is arguably the most difficult subject at SHS, and as a result, is familiar with the topic of cheating.

“It happens all the time, and everyone knows it,” Davis said. “I have periods two, four, and six, and even if period two doesn’t tell period six what is on the test, if [someone] says ‘you’ve got to be really prepared for this topic,’ that's an unfair advantage.”

Davis curves AP Physics tests across all three of his classes. This means that if a person from an earlier period helps a student from a later class, the former could end up hurting his or her grade. Yet, despite the threat to their own grades, mild social pressure tends to make students disclose test information to their classmates.

So how do you walk “The Line” instead of falling too far to one side?

Well, every teacher we’ve ever had has told us the safest path is the silent one, also known as “don’t say a thing.” But we realize that complete avoidance of the question becomes a quick way to lose respect and trust among your peers.

We’ve come up with a couple carefully crafted answers that could help you stay in the grey area.

Answer 1: “It was manageable.” This is a good response because the term “manageable” means something different to everyone. Nobody can glean anything too useful from “manageable,” because they can’t be sure of your capabilities in said class.

Answer 2: “Ugh I hate (insert class here) so much. I studied for, like, (insert number of hours studied here) last night and I’m totally fried. Can’t remember a thing.” Now groan a little and change the topic. Give a blank-eyed stare. Bonus points if you’ve got sweats on — it adds to the dead-inside zombie effect.

Answer 3: Shout “Dobby is a free house elf!” Cackle a little. Now run. Fast. Flail your arms. Go buy yourself a pair of socks.

But in all seriousness, the best possible solution is to respond in the vaguest manner possible. We’ve heard that that’s good advice for law school too, so take that how you will (you’re welcome).