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UIC TA Handbook - How to Discourage Cheating

By Matthias C. Lu
Professor Emeritus, Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmacognosy
UIC College of Pharmacy


Richard Kassner
Professor Emeritus, Chemistry
UIC College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


The best way to eliminate cheating, whether it is on exams and quizzes, or on term papers, lab reports or pro­ jects, is to get the students to "buy into" the importance of academic honesty and integrity. If you can create an environment where the students have a sense of responsibility for their behavior, you can go a long way in reducing the amount of cheating. Also, the students need to know what your expectations are for the course, as well as how you intend to assign their grades. At the very start of the semester, the students should be informed that cheating will not be tolerated in any form and what the penalties are for cheating. You might also want to remind the students of some of the things which would be considered as cheating (e.g. copying answers, plagiarism, etc.) Clearly, most students should have a pretty good understanding of what constitutes cheating, but a printed reminder at the start of a course can be both an effective reminder as well as a deterrent. If your grading policies are clear and the students know that there is no need to cheat and/or there are no opportunities for cheating, they will be much less likely to take the risk of being caught.

The following are ten ways to deter cheating on exams and quizzes.

  • Always use an examination room large enough so that students can be seated in every other seat for the exam or quiz. Try to reserve an additional room early in the semester for the exams if necessary.
  • To prevent students form sitting close together, you may consider pre-assigned seating for the exams, i.e. put seat numbers randomly on each exam booklet and require the students to sit in their assigned seats for the exam.
  • All books, notes, and other articles should be placed in either the front or back of the room.
  • Have enough proctors to effectively monitor the exam. Proctors should be encouraged to walk around the room throughout the exam.
  • If you are giving multiple choice exams, make sure to let the students know that you will be using alternate exam forms, i.e., multiple exam forms with a different ordering of questions. This will deter cheating and your efforts at the beginning of the semester may prove to be worth it later on, even if you do not continue to use multiple exams.
  • Do not allow students to bring in any scratch paper. Instruct them to use the backs of the pages for that purpose. If more work space is required, you should provide (or have the proctors provide) additional scratch paper for the students. Also, make it clear that if they use the backs of the pages to answer any part of the exam, they need to clearly indicate that under each question in order to receive any credit.
  • If you permit any re-grading of exams or quizzes, photo copy some (or all) of the exams before they are returned to the students. The students should be informed at the start of the course that you will be photocopying their exams and quizzes to prevent altered answers.
  • Be ever vigilant in watching for signs of possible cheating. Students have been known to bring crib sheets, store notes and formulas in programmable calculators (and other electronic devices), write on themselves and/or their clothes and shoes, signal answers to others across the room, and even exchange papers during the exam (watch for this after the exam while people are turning in their exams as well).
  • To prevent people from taking exams for other people, have the students sign their exams and check their IDs when they turn in their tests. For even more security, check IDs against a class roster upon entry into the exam room or before handing out the exams. If you plan to check IDs, make sure to note this in the syllabus and make a point of warning the students several times before the exams.
  • Maintain adequate security at all times for all exam questions and materials before the exam. Make sure you secure all copies of the exam under lock and key, and destroy any extra or erroneous copies. There are many apocryphal stories about the theft of exams from departmental offices and trash bins.

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