Tips for managing exams

Preventing academic dishonesty in exams

It is clear that only a small percentage of students cheat, or attempt to cheat, during exams. It is the job of all faculty and teaching support staff to prevent and detect cheating, in order to protect the vast majority of students who are honest, hardworking and committed to their studies, and to ensure the continued integrity of Simon Fraser University degrees.

While the detection of cheating is important, prevention is more important.

  • Please ensure that students understand all the rules of the examination you are setting ahead of time (e.g., no cell-phones on desks; if a student wants to keep track of the time he or she should bring a watch). Please do not assume that students know what your rules are.
  • Please ensure your students know that, like the rest of the University, you have a zero tolerance policy towards cheating. If faculty and teaching support staff take academic dishonesty seriously students will do the same.
  • Examination questions should be prepared by the instructor alone. Do not allow anyone to see the questions prior to the exam and be vigilant to security issues when the exams are being duplicated. Most departments follow tried and true practices.
  • Most exam booklets available through Student Services are prenumbered, to ensure that prepared exam responses cannot be used.
  • Ensure there are empty seats between the students sitting the exam. Pre-assigned seating is also effective if you can manage to do this (hard to do for large classes).
  • Extra clothing, hats, bandanas and bags should not be brought into the exam room. If they are, they should not be placed under the desks or hung on the backs of chairs. Instead, personal items should be stowed at the front of the room where they are reasonably safe and cannot be accessed until after the exam. Tell students before hand not to bring valuables to the exam and that the University takes no responsibility for lost or stolen items if they insist on bringing things like laptops.
  • Do not leave the invigilation of an examination to your T.A. or T.M. no matter how experienced he or she may be. Invigilation is the instructor’s responsibility.
  • As a general rule you should have one faculty member or T.A. for the first 25 students sitting an examination, and another person for the next 50 students, and so on. Try to meet these targets to the best of your ability. The more pairs of eyes at work in an exam room the better.
  • Do not allow unauthorized devices on desks, or in the vicinity of a student. No cell-phones, blackberries, iPods, laptops, etc. Prohibit any device through which a student could receive information from outside the exam room.
  • Calculators will be necessary in some examinations. Examine them before use to ensure that their only function is calculation.
  • Prepare and administer different versions of your examinations to the extent possible.
  • Please take care to collect all unused examination booklets and question sheets at the end of the exam. There is a subterranean trade in exam booklets.
  • Ensure an orderly collection, and careful recording, of examination booklets at the end of the exam. As we all know, there is usually a mad rush to vacate the premises. It is at this time that a student may try to deceive the invigilator by deliberately not handing in a response to a question they could not answer, only to claim later that they did hand it in and that it must have been lost by the faculty member.

Detecting dishonesty during exams

  • Check the identifications of students before the examination begins and look for (and challenge) unfamiliar faces. It is a criminal offence to impersonate someone in an examination.
  • Make sure you either use signature cards or, better yet, circulate a class list and get everyone to sign beside their names. Signatures will help you detect impersonation fraud.
  • Invigilate the examination from the back of the room, not the front. You will find you can see all you need to see, especially if the room is tiered, while the students will not be able to see you.
  • Be vigilant; do not spend the exam time reading or grading. Students who want to cheat will observe your habits and take advantage of them.
  • Be especially concerned about students in the middle of the room as opposed to those on the edges and alongside the walkways. Those who plan on cheating will gravitate towards the centre.
  • Patrol at unpredictable moments using unpredictable routes.
  • Carefully inspect anything that is placed on a desk by a student. Even the most innocuous items may be used to cheat. Inspect water bottles, especially the backs of labels which may be read surprisingly well through water and plastic. Inspect spectacle cases, clocks, lucky charms, and so on. Human ingenuity is boundless.r T.A. for the first 25 students sitting an examination, and another person for the next 50 students, and so on. Try to meet these targets to the best of your ability. The more pairs of eyes at work in an exam room the better.
  • Regulate washroom use carefully. Consider dividing your exam into two parts, with a supervised washroom break in the middle. We also suggest that after the examination begins someone inspect the nearest washrooms (male and female) and scan them for hidden items. Notes may be hidden inside newspapers and magazines, tucked behind pipes, or stuffed into inspection hatches which students can open with either a small screwdriver or a quarter. Once a washroom has been cleared this is the only facility that should be used by students. Check the washrooms periodically during long examinations.
  • Identical incorrect answers that appear repeatedly on two or more exams should be investigated.
  • To prevent transfer of information, students must not be allowed to leave an examination until 30 minutes after the start time, and students must not be allowed to sit an examination if they are more than 30 minutes late.

Handling dishonesty during exams

  • If a student is seen, or suspected of, cheating handle the situation quietly and calmly. Under no circumstances attempt to remove the student from the examination room.
  • Take a note of what you see, stand next to the student, and record his or her name, and the offending behaviour. If the student is using an unauthorized aid (e.g., a water bottle with a label that has notes written on it) seize the object but do not get into a struggle with the student over possession.
  • Seize and secure the student’s examination booklet/s at the end of the examination and tell the student, in private, what you saw. You should then make arrangements to meet with the student to discuss the academic dishonesty following which you may decide upon a penalty. This procedure is set out in University Policy S10 Student Conduct and Discipline. Generally, at a minimum, a student who cheats should fail the examination.

General information

If you encounter any novel or interesting examples of examination cheating please share them with AIAC.

If you have any suggestions for improving the integrity of examinations please share these as well.

The University has developed an academic integrity website (http:// students.sfu.ca/academicintegrity) that has resources and links for students and instructors, including “You and Your Tutor: Knowing the Boundaries” and the “Short Guide to Academic Honesty and Plagiarism.”

Academic Integrity Advisors have been identified in each department, to provide support and information to instructors in the unit and work with staff in Student Services on broader education initiatives.

The Academic Integrity Co-ordinator in Student Services, Jo Hinchliffe at joah@sfu.ca or 25350, assists departments with incidents of academic misconduct to ensure that the process followed is fair to students and instructors.