Exam cheats beware

27 May 2011

This summer a new weapon against those who attempt to get away with cheating in examinations will be deployed.

Detailed marks from paper-based GCSE, International GCSE, AS and A Level examinations, offered by Cambridge Assessment's UK and international exam boards, that are marked online will be statistically screened for signs that might indicate malpractice.

Although most cheats are caught by vigilant schools and colleges, other candidates and examiners, Cambridge Assessment - the University's international exams group, is always looking for ways to tighten the net further. Sophisticated statistical analysis is already widely deployed by assessment agencies to catch cheats in multiple choice tests, where the answers are machine readable and marked by computer.

OCR's Head of Compliance, Stephen Hunt, said: "Another weapon in our armoury is always welcome. This new screening service fills a gap in our ability to detect malpractice and will be a handy addition to the resources used to maintain the integrity of an exam. The electronic screening of scripts for similarities is another of the benefits derived from the online marking of scripts."

Cambridge International Examinations' Compliance Unit Manager, Ben Sennitt, said: "Cambridge does not tolerate cheating. The great majority of Cambridge students share this view and work very hard to do well. We use a wide range of methods to detect and prevent malpractice during examinations. Students who cheat or assist others to cheat risk having their examination entries voided and their grades withheld.”

The latest advance, developed by researchers at the exam boards' parent, Cambridge Assessment, adds additional detection measures for exams on paper. In many cases papers are now scanned and marked online by examiners and the new screening service uses the detailed marks that are now captured.

The process starts with the assumption that when two or more candidates have been colluding or copying from each other, their marks will be similar. These marks are fed through an advanced pattern matching routine which flags schools and colleges where marks are so similar that they warrant further investigation. Malpractice investigators can then call up the flagged papers and visually inspect them for signs of collusion or copying.

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