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(Cheating) Prevention Techniques for Tests

Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning

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A second step in preventing cheating is to reduce opportunities for students to engage in academic dishonesty by establishing ground rules for taking tests. Inform students what they can bring to class (calculator, pen, or pencil) and what they cannot bring to class (backpack, earphones, or cell phone)




The posting gives three good ideas on how to reduce cheating during tests.  I is from Chapter 8, Techniques for Promoting Academic Integrity and Discourage Cheating, in the book, Teaching Unprepared Students: Strategies for Promoting Success and Retention in Higher Education, by Kathleen F. Gabriel, California State University, Chico, Chico, California. Stylus Publishing, LLC., 22883 Quicksilver Drive, Sterling,, Virginia 20166-2102., ©copyright 2008 by Stylus Publishing, LLC, all rights reserved.  Reprinted with permission.




Rick Reis

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(Cheating) Prevention Techniques for Tests


When administering tests, there are several steps that we must take to reduce the chances of academic dishonesty and to create an atmosphere of fairness to all. When students think that other students are getting away with cheating or that a teacher will not take measures to make sure that students do not cheat, many will feel that they have to cheat to level the playing field (McCabe & Trevino, 1996). By implementing the following three steps, which are included in McCabe and Pavela's (2003) Principles of Academic Integrity, we can communicate to all our students that we will not tolerate academic



1. Affirm the importance of academic integrity;

2. Reduce opportunities to engage in academic dishonesty;

3. Develop fair and relevant tests (and/or forms of assessment). (p. 1)


To implement the first step, professors must affirm, with our students, the importance of academic integrity and honesty. To do this, we should have a statement on our syllabi along with a reference to the college's academic integrity policy (or at least list the Web site where the policy can be found). In addition, we need to talk to our students about academic integrity and what it means. We need to give examples of what we consider to be cheating and what types of collaboration will be allowed (or not allowed) on different assignments. It is also helpful to give students suggestions on how to study for exams and to post information on tutoring on campus.


We can also go over our university procedures and due process steps for anyone accused of cheating. Students should know that the procedures are in place to protect students from false or unfair accusations. McCabe and Pavela (2003) suggest that we remind our students that "institutions of higher education are dedicated to the pursuit of truth. Faculty members need to affirm that the pursuit of truth is grounded in certain core values, including diligence, civility, and honesty" (p 1).


A second step in preventing cheating is to reduce opportunities for students to engage in academic dishonesty by establishing ground rules for taking tests. Inform students what they can bring to class (calculator, pen, or pencil) and what they cannot bring to class (backpack, earphones, or cell phone). Consider implementing the following suggestions when administering exams:


1. Know your students' names and faces; if that is not possible (i.e., large class) require students to show their identification cards (Davis, 1993, p. 307; Wankat, 2002, p. 129).


2. Do not allow students to wear baseball hats or hats that hide wandering eyes.


3. Have students spread out; if the classroom is too small for this, try to reserve a larger classroom for test day. If that is not possible use random seat assignments so that friends cannot sit together (Davis, 1993, p. 307; McKeachie, 1994, p. 99).


4. Have at least two versions of the exam for larger classes (Davis, 1993, p. 306; McKeachie, 1994, p. 99).


5. Be present on test day (Davis, 1993, p. 306; Wankat, 2002, p. 239).


6. Warn students ahead of time if you will not permit bathroom privileges so they can be prepared.


7. Ensure that classroom management is in place so that the room is quiet (McKeachie, 1994, p. 84).


8. Explain or remind students of all the testing procedures and rules (Wankat, 2002, p. 86).


By implementing the above testing procedures, the opportunities to engage in academic dishonesty are dramatically reduced.


A third step we can take to prevent cheating is to develop fair and relevant tests. In classes where exams are part of the grade, we should write new tests every semester. Wankat (2002) suggests that we keep an "idea" file for test questions (p. 84) and after writing a test, solve it (even the essay questions) before finalizing it. "By solving the test first, you will find questions that are ambiguous, cannot be solved, are too long or too hard, or are trivial" (p. 84). Wankat also reminds us to time ourselves when we take the test:


The time it take you to solve the test can be used to estimate the time it will take students to solve the test. As a rule of thumb, try multiplying your solution time by five for first year students, four for juniors, and three for graduate students. Adjust these factors until you obtain good predictions (p. 84)


Following these guidelines will help us develop fair tests for our students. "Professors who develop good rapport with students and give tests that the students think are fair will have only a small amount of cheating in their classes" (Wankat, 2002, p. 87).




College Teaching, 54(3), 253-258.


Davis, B. (1993). Tools for teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


McCabe, D. L., & Pavela, G. (2003). Ten principles of academic integrity. College Administration Publications, Inc., Saint John's, Florida. Retrieved from


McCabe, D. L., & Trevino, L. (1996). What we know about cheating in college. Change, 28(1), 28-34


McKeachie, W. (2002). Teaching tips; Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers (11th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.


Wankat, P. (2002). The effective, efficient professor: Teaching, scholarship and service. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.