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Ten Clever Ways Students Cheat In Online Proctored Exams and How To Prevent Them

Examination and Proctoring | 4 Min Read

Ten Clever Ways Students Cheat In Online Proctored Exams and How To Prevent Them

Introduction

Did you know that even marquee educational entities have had their honor codes breached?

On February 7, 2019, a Yale Daily News survey revealed that 14% out of 1400 undergraduates confessed to having cheated at Yale.  

Until Harvard University reiterated its academic honesty policies, some of its students faced plagiarism allegations back in 2012.

Implausible, right? However, it affirms that ethical lapses, such as exam cheating, occur more often than we would like to believe. And unfortunately, it creates significant anxiety concerning online exams’ integrity amongst academia. But why is it so? Is online cheating that difficult to detect?  Well, a common and incorrect perception is that it is easier to cheat in an online exam than in its traditional counterpart. Hence, students employ tactics to succeed academically without having to work for it.  But if you ask us, detecting cheating in an online as well as offline setting can seem challenging. However, it can easily be prevented with the right tools.

But before we share a host of solutions that strengthen the online examination system, we must retrace our steps to address the crux of the problem.

Let’s begin by understanding what constitutes cheating in exams.

Cheating in exams refers to any intentional or unintentional form of academic misconduct that provides certain exam-takers an unfair advantage over others. It is a serious violation of disciplinary rules, leading to severe consequences for students and exam-giving educational centers.

While picking up the threads of the definition, another query that piques my interest is: why do students cheat?  

Most recently, I was browsing the internet, looking for queries associated with examinations. I was appalled by the suggestions that popped online. It included questions such as how to cheat in online exams from homes, how to cheat in online webcam tests or the best way to cheat on a proctored exam. What lures students into searching for “how to cheat in an online exam?” Why attempt academic dishonesty?

Is it the pressure to succeed, the ever-growing competition, the convenience of cheating, lack of in-person supervision, personal misjudgment or merely the thrill?

This is a frequently asked question. However, the answer remains elusive. But I am sure that cheating is not a technological problem, but a social challenge. And some test-takers will always find unique ways to indulge in it. Students exhibit ingenious creativity by devising the means to cheat on an exam.

 


10 Unique Ways in Which Students Cheat in Online Exams and How to Prevent them in an Online proctored Exam

Don’t believe me?

Well, after speaking with some of the leading universities and institutes, I’ve curated an interesting list that’ll detail some unique ways in which cheating occurs in online exams.

It includes:

 

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Let’s explore them in detail:

Impersonation:

Impersonation is one of the most common forms of examination malpractice, wherein students, instead of taking the exam themselves, ask others to take the exam on their behalf.

For example, if A has enrolled for an exam, he/she sends B to take it to gain an unlawful advantage, which counts as impersonation.

We know that making someone else take the test seems far-fetched or an idea borrowed from the plot of the hit American TV series ‘Suits.’ However, the reports mentioned-below conclusively demonstrate the ubiquity of the issue.

  • A 2013 report by the US Department of Education Office of Inspector General indicates that an estimated US$187million in federal student aid was likely acquired fraudulently by rings of criminals between 2009 to 2012 using fake identities of test-takers.

You may believe that enhancing the level of precautionary measures during an online exam would enable you to spot an impersonator easily. But, let me tell you that there is no one way of impersonating. Two interventions where impersonation can occur while giving an online exam are impersonation before the exam and impersonation during the exam.

Here’s how:

  • #CheatingInstance 1: Impersonation before the exam

Authenticating a test-taking student’s identity before the exam is often a common phenomenon. But students try to bypass the authentication process by sharing login details with the impersonator prior to the test. Some even alter the identity proofs and admit cards to legitimize the impersonators. An impersonator only needs to confidently pose as the original test-taking student, complete the authentication process and appear for the exam.

  • #CheatingInstance 2: Impersonation during the exam 

Another interesting aspect of impersonation is that there is no guarantee that the student authenticating and commencing the exam is the one completing it. Since there is no authentication once the exam has begun, original test-takers leave the system midway, and their impersonators take charge to complete and submit the exam. Sadly many examination systems are susceptible to such a threat.

 

How to Prevent Impersonation in Online Tests 

 

The absence of a dynamic authentication process throughout the drive increases the possibility of such fraudulent activities.

But what if we tell you that multiple solutions ensure that the candidate appearing, taking the test and submitting it is a genuine individual who had actually enrolled.   

Examiners can leverage various online authentication mechanisms that help prevent imposters from attempting the exam on behalf of the actual test-takers before and during the exam. There are multiple levels of scrutiny offering high accuracy to ensure a secure examination drive from start to finish. Some of these sophisticated ways are:

  • Before beginning the exam, the examiner can administer a 3-point candidate authentication process by asking for an approved ID card, sending an OTP on a previously registered mobile number and matching the person on-screen with the previously shared picture. All this is done on the spot. The student will be allowed to give the online exam after the details are matched and approved.
  • Apart from authenticating at the beginning of the exam, random identity authentication during the exam can also be conducted to verify that the right test-taker is completing the exams. AI-enabled facial recognition applications automatically capture the exam-takers image and match it with a pre-snapped correct image at regular and random intervals. This ensures that the students do not indulge in any form of impersonation during the examination.
  • In case the student tries anything suspicious such as hiding from the window screen or getting another person in-between, the AI will flag it off saying, “candidate not visible” or “additional person present,” alerting the proctor.

Thus, an examiner can employ these advanced solutions to eliminate any violation and ensure that the actual candidate attempts the entire exam without bringing in an imposter mid-way.

Use of External Resources:

Remember the popular scene from the cult Bollywood movie ‘Munnabhai M.B.B.S’ wherein the actor flouts the ethical code by having his friend dictate the answers through a hidden earpiece using a mobile phone? It sounds filmy, right? Well, it is a reality! 10 MBBS final year students caught cheating in ‘Munnabhai style’ in Agra. 

There is no doubt now that students have become highly sophisticated in cheating. And some cheating masterminds tend to find a way to bend the rule, especially during online exams. That is why they don’t shy away from manipulating external resources to game the system.

Here’s how cheating is undertaken using external resources:

 

how cheating is undertaken using external resources

 

Let’s explore them in detail:

  • #CheatingInstance 3: Seeking help from friends and family present in the room

Remember when the old-school style of cheating using chits, whispering or answering with gestures was common during exams? It still is. When taking online exams, students continue to adopt these tactics by stationing their helpers away from the webcam. Each time the student wants an answer, he/she will either hide his/her face, disappear from the screen, look around the room, or makes suspicious gestures. In turn, the helpers will either write the answers on a placard or whisper them softly to the test-taker.

 

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How to Eliminate External Help During Online Exams

 

You must be thinking that preventing ways to cheat using external resources in an online proctored exam is impossible! Not quite, as we bring you the power of AI.

  • AI Proctoring is hands-on at identifying any suspicious behavior, either through image, video or sound. AI’s video scanning feature continually monitors the test-takers’ videos for any suspicious behavior and activities and flags them to the examiner. Also, the high-quality audio proctoring software accurately scans the physical environment for additional sounds or noises, whispers, mumbling and other such occurrences using a microphone.

 

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  • Additionally, the online exam-taker can be asked to share a 360-degree view of the room or venue where he/she is attempting the exam to secure the examination. This 360-degree video-capturing webcam can be attached to the computer screen or worn as headgear to observe the test-taker’s view during the examination. AI will raise a red flag for every discrepancy, curtailing any chance of cheating in an online exam. 

Now let us now share another interesting tactic employed by students to gain an unfair advantage during online exams.

Use of Technology and Tools

Gone are the days of using sticky notes and textbooks. Students have transitioned to using software and high-tech gadgets readily available on the market to cheat during online exams. Some common examples of such techniques are:

  • #CheatingInstance 4: Seeking help by remotely using software

Ever noticed students having multiple screens open on their computers when taking a remote online exam? Seems harmless, right? But it’s not because they are leveraging a new-age technology named real-time screen-sharing. A test-taker has a helper on the other side of the screen, simultaneously accessing the exam, providing assistance with answers or writing them on the test-taker’s behalf. Another way of exploiting the tools available online is by using WhatsApp as a mechanism. By enabling this application’s web version on the system, smart cheaters conveniently ping questions to their associates who, within minutes, reply with the answers. It’s a clever ploy as most proctors fail to consider and ascertain such a type of cheating.

  • #CheatingInstance 5: Using sophisticated microphones and earpieces

Nano-sized, non-wired devices such as Bluetooth earpieces and practically undetectable microphones are standard accessories to undertake online exam cheating. The student attempting to cheat slyly connects with another person over a call during the exam, who, in turn, dictates answers, audible only to the test-taker.

  • #CheatingInstance 6: Storing answers on smart devices

Test-takers on the lookout for how to cheat on an online exam use advanced calculators, smartwatches, mobile phones and other connected devices that store formulas, answers and other data that aids them in finding answers to the test questions. Some even use other external smart devices that are easy to conceal and challenging to detect. They simply plug them into the computer before or during the test, and cheating is set in motion.

 

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How to Restrict the Use of External Resources in an Online Exam

 

Just when you thought that detecting a fancy and sophisticated piece of equipment or software is difficult and hence enables students to cheat easily, we bring you a solution to your eternal worry. Cheating using external software or devices in an online proctored exam can be eliminated by leveraging various innovative solutions, such as:

  • Have you ever heard of a proctoring feature named secure exam browser? Well, it is a web-based lockdown browser that converts any system into a safe workstation. This feature doesn’t let the test-takers venture outside of the test environment, which automatically stops applicants from using software and tools such as screen-sharing, WhatsApp and mirroring. Even the ‘Task Manager’ can’t be accessed to restrict the display of program and process details running on their computers.
  • You can collaborate with an auto proctoring service provider offering advanced video proctoring accessibility. Such a technology identifies unwanted gadgets, such as mobile phones and smartphones near a student and, using AI, flags and alerts the proctor instantly.
  • Leveraging high-quality audio proctoring software to outsmart the students who use microphones and such connected devices for cheating will seal the deal. Such software ascertains the differences between sounds that can and must not be in a testing environment. It accurately scans the physical environment for additional sounds and noises, including whispers and mumbling, through the microphone and instantly alerts the proctors.
  • By opting for the hybrid proctoring approach that combines live proctoring and auto proctoring, examiners can ensure a cheating-free exam. The approach offers a notable advantage. While the live human proctors monitor candidates’ granular activities, deterring them from using gadgets to cheat, an automated proctoring technology simultaneously records the candidates’ eye, head and body movements for discrepancies. A combined report of the flagged instances provides an examiner enough data to ascertain the collusion levels.

Cheating Using the Internet:

Another interesting way students indulge in cheating during an online proctored exam is by switching from their exam screens and navigating through various websites and search engines.

Here’s how they trick the proctor and the system:

  • #CheatingInstance 7: Misusing navigation privileges

Many institutes advocate the privilege of letting students navigate through a few whitelisted websites while giving online exams. They also allow access to specific software/ third-party applications for online test-taking. For instance, during open-book exams. Students tend to misuse this easy access to the internet by logging onto other unauthorized websites during the test, pasting the questions onto the URL and finding the best solution online from which they plagiarize.

  • #CheatingInstance 8: Cheating using their own system

Even if there are no privileges, students tend to misuse the system by keeping documents (Ebook, PDF, notepads) or browsers (Google, Bing, Firefox) open in a separate window before beginning the exam. Then conveniently copy-paste the responses from them when needed. These are easy ways of deceiving a remote proctor who has limited information about on-screen activities.

 

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How to Mitigate On-screen Cheating

 

For those thinking about solving one of the most profound questions – how to cheat on an online exam with a lockdown browser – well, it is not possible. Here’s why:

A secure exam browser is a smart solution that restricts online movement as per academia’s requirements.

    • The secure exam browser locks the examination system into a kiosk mode. This means the student taking the exam can’t exit unless he/she completes the exam and submits the responses for grading. This ensures that no navigation elements, no impromptu search choice options, nor are any toolbars and UI controls are visible. The test-taker can view only the test screen. Thus, the student is unable to open any additional tab. If any software or screen is open before the exam, the test won’t commence until it’s closed. Even keyboard and mouse functions are disabled, negating even the best ways to cheat on a proctored exam.
    • The institute or university may mandate customization options for students that enable using certain predefined websites and software packages to function within the browser. Then the secure exam browser will whitelist only that particular website, and the student will be allowed to access it when needed. Everything else will be blocked.
  • #CheatingInstance 9: Purposely disrupting the test 

There is no dearth of excuses for students seeking to indulge in unethical activities during online exams. This includes tricking the proctor and the system by purposely logging out of the exam. They justify it by blaming intermittent internet connectivity or power cuts. As much as these glitches sound genuine, these are often tactics employed to cheat on online exams.

This is unfair! How does one appropriately identify students who genuinely wish to use unethical ways?

How to Curb Frivolous Excuses?

 

In a scenario where students purposely log out of tests to find the time to cheat – all we can say is, beware! Institutes and universities can enable disruption tolerance, which ascertains and caps the number of times a student can log out and back onto the system. If done repeatedly, the management can take stringent action against the concerned miscreant. The exam can only be resumed after obtaining special permission from the concerned authority if the logging-off has occurred because of genuine reasons.

 

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Abetting Cheating

You might think that cheating is a selfish activity and is often done to promote oneself. But let me remind you that some selfless beings engage in it without benefiting themselves. For example, a miscreant releasing a question paper before the exam or an applicant sharing the question with another applicant as the former has already taken it. Fraudulently discussing the answers to an upcoming exam or copying the questions and distributing them to other test-takers also accounts for cheating in online exams.

 

How to Negate Cheating Abetment 

 

Seems tricky? Not for us!

  • The secure exam browser’s dynamic power empowers you with a stellar feature that restricts keyboard function. Options such as the print screen, screenshot options, right-click menu options, function keys and keyboard shortcuts, copy, cut and paste with the mouse are barred to ensure no text content is copied. This disables the student from conveniently copying problem statements from the question paper and sharing them on the web.
  • If students try to use any gadget to click pictures, as we mentioned before, the AI algorithm will detect the unauthorized gadget and flag it off as an alert to the proctor.
  • Additionally, one can opt for a partner that follows stringent security protocols, such as offering limited access to question papers to avoid content leaks or allowing only specific individuals to access exam papers. Such data protection mechanisms ensure no unauthorized person has access to the examination papers before, and hence they cannot compromise the integrity of the online exams.

Fascinating right? Well, students can find all sorts of loopholes.

But, whatever the situation may be, are you supposed to be silent spectators and wrestle with these outcomes?

No! As educators, you must ensure that students don’t cheat in online exams by staying a step ahead.

 

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Conclusion:

The many tech advancements have given us the power to unlock safe and rigorous testing solutions. Its integration at each level of the examination system is solving significant challenges for an educator. And the dark horse is online proctoring technologies.

Proctoring is a progressive online surveillance system built with AI to reinvent examinations and assessments in the digital age. It provides a new pathway to educationists by enabling the safe hosting of online exams and automatically detecting cheating in online tests.

And as long as AI is used in proctoring technologies to curtail test-takers’ cheating attempts during online examinations, its integrity will continue to rise. Therefore, institutes or corporates that use online examinations must adopt the latest AI-driven proctoring technologies. It will also help eliminate possible student practices around how to cheat in an online proctored exam.

 

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Gargantuan problems proffer equally significant opportunities. Proctoring technology has enabled leading educationists to solve some previously unsolvable challenges and unlock incredible opportunities for their online examination model.

No kidding! The likes of IIM Bangalore, Christ University, The Washington Center (TWC), Howard University, and many others, find online remote proctoring a groundbreaking solution that has put a full-stop to cheating during all kinds of online examination drives.

This is all that we had to say.

What do you feel about cheating in online exams?

Did you find the tips and tricks listed in this blog helpful?

What are some innovative ways of cheating that you’ve witnessed when giving an online exam?

Do share with me. I’d love to examine them and understand whether technology can address them.

And if you enjoyed this article, do share it with your friends and colleagues!

 


FAQs

Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions on how to cheat on Zoom exams, how to cheat in online exams on Google Meet, how to cheat in an online exam in Google classroom, etc.

 

Can online tests detect cheating?

Yes, online tests can detect cheating. Various online proctoring software providers offer a host of anti-cheating methods to predict and prevent cheating instances that ensure integrity, credibility and lend authenticity to online exams. This assuages concerns on the question of how to cheat in the online exam at home with a camera or how to cheat in an online webcam test.

 

How do online exams prevent cheating?

Here are some ways examiners can prevent cheating in online exams:

  • Enabling remote proctoring with a live proctor and AI proctoring.
  • Conducting remote authentication of each applicant’s identity.
  • Preventing on-screen cheating using a safe exam browser.
  • Conducting 360-degree research of the candidates’ rooms using webcams to scan for unauthorized items.

 

Can you cheat on an online proctored exam?

No, it is not possible to cheat on an online proctored exam. In fact, there is no best way to cheat on an online proctored exam due to various anti-cheating technologies available to leading proctoring service providers.

 

Is finding answers online cheating? 

Yes, finding answers during an online exam is considered one of the online exam cheating tricks. However, many universities allow students to access certain pre-decided whitelisted websites.

 

How does a lockdown browser detect cheating? 

Here’s how a lockdown browser detects cheating:

  • A lockdown browser monitors everything happening on the screen using an AI algorithm.
  • Whether a student attempts to open another window or browser, it will restrict him/her and flag such instances to the examiner/proctor.
  • Even if a student tries to use a keyboard for shortcuts or connects any external device with his/her laptop or computer, the lockdown browser will not allow it. It will terminate the exam if he/she repeats such an instance.
  • People wondering how to cheat in an online webcam test often neglect that AI constantly monitors their environment on and off-screen.

Such detailed checks and balances make it impossible to cheat in an online exam on Microsoft Teams or cheat in an online exam on Google Meet.

Originally published January 3 2019, Updated March 15 2021

Shirisha Jain

Written by

Shirisha has been helping countless brands gain traction with her content. Her deep understanding of the education sector and sound knowledge of technical skills have helped her structure the most creative solutions for key stakeholders. Shirisha has also ghosted pieces for several industry honcho’s successfully published both online and offline. When she's not keeping up with the world, you're sure to find her catching up on bollywood stories or gramming for fun.

About This Topic

Online remote proctoring is the technology through which exams are conducted online in a cheating-free manner, using high-speed internet and a computer with a webcam. Online remote proctoring uses video streaming and AI or human proctors to invigilate large-scale exams securely.

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