Exam cheats turning to technology

By Garth ApThomas

Students who try to cheat in exams held at Newcastle University have been turning increasingly to technology.

The figures are revealed in a Freedom of Information request looking at two sets of academic years – 2010/11 and 2014/15.

In 2010/11 there were a total of 16 cases to answer over cheating, none of them used technology to try to beat the system. The methods used were: possession of unauthorised notes – 12, attempting to/conferring with other students during an exam – 4.

However the picture had changed significantly by 2014/15. There were 54 cases to answer and a considerably wider choice of rule breaking in use. This included: possession of mobile phones – 25, possession of unauthorised notes – 20, attempting to/conferring with other students during an exam – 4, possession of unauthorised material (blank paper) – 3, possession of unauthorised dictionary – 2, possession of unauthorised text book – 2, not following instructions – 2, attempting to copy from another student – 1, possession of unauthorised data stick – 1.

A spokesman for Newcastle University said: “The increase in the number of assessment irregularity cases is due to a number of different factors, including increases in the student population and the number of examinations being sat, improved and enhanced invigilator training, and changes made to the exam rules in light of developments in technology and changing trends.”

The response from the university breaks the cases down into subject areas.
It explains cheating is defined as there being a ‘case to answer’ following an investigation into an alleged assessment irregularity. It’s possible that a student was found to have committed an assessment irregularity in more than one exam.

Academic Year 2010/2011
Total number of cases where there was a case to answer – 16
Number of cases per school/subject area:
School of Marine Science and Technology – 5
Newcastle University Business School – 4
School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering – 3
School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development – 1
School of Chemistry – 1
School of Mechanical and Systems Engineering – 1
School of Biomedical Sciences – 1
Form of assessment irregularity:
Possession of unauthorised notes– 12
Attempting to/conferring with other students during an exam – 4

Academic Year 2014/2015
Total number of cases where there was a case to answer – 54
Number of cases per school/subject area:
Newcastle University Business School – 16
School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering – 13
School of Law – 7
School of Marine Science and Technology – 4
School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences – 3
School of Medical Education – 2
School of Modern Languages – 2
School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development – 1
School of Chemical Engineering and Advanced Materials – 1
School of Biomedical Sciences – 1
School of Biology – 1
School of Geography, Politics and Sociology – 1
School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics – 1
School of Mechanical Engineering and Systems Engineering -1
Form of assessment irregularity:
Possession of mobile phones – 25
Possession of unauthorised notes – 20
Attempting to/conferring with other students during an exam – 4
Possession of unauthorised material (blank paper) – 3
Possession of unauthorised dictionary – 2
Possession of unauthorised text book – 2
Not following instructions – 2
Attempting to copy from another student – 1
Possession of unauthorised data stick – 1

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