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Examination and Proctoring | 4 Min Read

5 Clever Ways Students Cheat on Online Exams and How to Stop Them


More and more universities are conducting exams online. The more reputed the university, the higher is the number of candidates that apply for admissions there. While conducting high stake exams online in very large numbers, how can universities and organizations prevent candidates from cheating? Especially if the candidate has the option of attempting the exam online from remote locations? It’s a well-known fact that cheating in online examinations is on the rise. Students are coming up with smarter ways to outwit proctoring technologies while giving examinations online.

How Students Cheat Online and How to Prevent It

1) Screen Sharing/Mirroring:

When giving exams from remote locations, the candidate has the freedom to make use of multiple monitors to have a friend simultaneously access the exam questions and provide answers. Candidates have been known to use screen sharing and mirroring to cheat in tests.

How to Prevent It:

By using secure browsers to conduct exams, cheating using screen sharing or mirroring can be prevented. A secure browser prevents the test taker from venturing outside the test environment to access display settings that can be used for screen sharing or mirroring.

Additionally, using a proctoring software that allows screen sharing with the live proctor can also prevent test-takers from cheating using screen sharing/mirroring as the proctor will be aware of any activity that takes place on the test taker’s screen.

2) Cheating Devices:

Companies like Prometric who conduct high stake online exams like CAT and other competitive examinations were recently quoted saying that test takers are using Bluetooth devices that are very small in size and practically undetectable. Candidates are also making use of calculators that can store formulas and other data that can help them score high on the exam. Test takers themselves admitted that its true- this new trend of using hi-tech devices for cheating in online exams. They also said that a smaller number of students use traditional methods of cheating like chits and scribbling on palms anymore.

There is a huge market for undetectable cheating devices, with e-commerce giants like Amazon selling these crafty gadgets, targeted towards test-takers, at lucrative prices.

How to Prevent It:

Opting for live proctoring along with auto proctoring could prevent test-takers from using gadgets to cheat as these proctoring technologies record the candidate’s eye, head, and keystroke movement. These technologies can also record audio and can detect and differentiate between the candidate’s voice and any other voice.

3) Mobile Phones:

Using smartphones to cheat in online exams in on the rise. Connected devices enable candidates to store answers, conduct a web search for answers, and aid other fellow test-takers in finding answers to test questions.

A study conducted by McAfee an online security software manufacturer, found out that one in three students in the USA uses mobile phones or other connected devices such as smartwatch to cheat in exams.

How to Prevent It:

Auto-proctoring service providers have updated their image recognition technology to identify devices such as mobile phones and smartphones. ProctorPlus – an auto proctoring service provided by Mettl, prevents usage of mobile phones during online exams by using advanced image recognition technology to identify these devices. Alternately, if the mobile device is not visible in the webcam, the auto proctoring software is able to detect if any activity is happening in any device where the candidate is logged in (via email, etc.) and flags this incident as a cheating attempt.

4) Auto-Coding Software:

In programming tests that are conducted either during school/university examinations or during recruitment, candidates have been known to use auto coding software to pass the exam. Such software creates programs, without the candidate having to write a single line of code.

How to Prevent It:

Plagiarism checks that identify if the exact same code that is entered by the test taker is available anywhere on the internet, can be used to prevent candidates from getting away with cheating in coding and programming tests. Using MOSS (Measure of Software Similarity), an automatic system that detects plagiarism in programming codes, cheating in programming tests can be prevented.

5) Impersonation:

Making someone else take the test for you seems too far-fetched or something borrowed from the plot of ‘Suits.’ But when exams are given remotely online, the chances of the candidate using an impersonator to give the exam on their behalf becomes highly likely. No need for the use of any cheating devices or methods, just use a Brainiac to finish the test for you. Many test takers have used impersonators to clear so-called ‘high integrity’ tests over the years.

A 2013 U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General’s report indicates that an estimated $187 million in federal student aid was likely fraudulently acquired by rings of criminals between 2009–2012, using fake identities of test-takers.

How to Prevent It:

Using Online ID authentication can help in preventing fake candidates from attempting the exam on behalf of the actual test taker. These days, proctoring vendors have come up with multi-level online authentication methods where the candidate’s face is matched with that in the candidate’s submitted ID, biometric information is collected and crosschecked before the exam, and even information such as keystroke is used to ensure that the actual candidate attempts the whole exam without bringing in an imposter midway during the exam.

As AI used in proctoring technologies advances to thaw all attempts made by test takers to cheat during online examinations, the integrity of online exams will rise rapidly to allow for fair candidate selection whether its in school/universities or corporations. It’s imperative for institutes or corporates that use online examinations to adopt the latest AI-driven proctoring technologies to drive fair student/talent selection.

How Mercer| Mettl Can Help?

Mercer | Mettl’s full suite of remote proctoring solutions is secure, scalable, cost-effective, and customizable as per client’s needs. Our online proctoring solution caters to a wide range of examinations from pre-employment assessments and entrance tests to mid-semester exams. Besides, Mettl’s AI-powered proctoring platform helps in conducting secure virtual exams seamlessly and efficiently. ProctorPLUS is one such cutting-edge tool that provides a holistic solution to ensure the integrity of your assessments with a 95% accuracy rate in preventing cheating. It can be customized as per your needs and ensures low costs, top-notch features, and flexibility of options. It comes pre-integrated with Mettl’s online assessment platform and can also be easily integrated into any human resource management system(HRMS).

You may also want to read: Online Remote Proctoring GuideCOVID Virtual Exams

Originally published January 3 2019, Updated July 20 2020

Romila Kanchan

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