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Highly Intelligent Cheaters Share Their Stories

January 3, 2017

In this era of high-stakes test idolization, it would be foolish for one to believe that cheating is not alive, well, and thriving.

There are even forums to discuss (brag?) on the ways one has cheated. The site Quora has a number of cheating-related brag pages, including the one featured in this post, “What was the most daring/original cheat method you ever used during an exam/test?”

A number of individuals have submitted responses, and based upon the quality of the writing (and the sophistication of the cheating), it is obvious that these former (and current) cheaters are intelligent individuals.

Even the capable cheat– the “good students.” In fact, it seems to me that highly intelligent individuals make the best cheaters.

All of this, of course, seriously undermines the infallibility and trustworthiness of high-stakes testing.

One of the more recent entries concerns Thai medical students using cameras embedded in the frames of their glasses to transmit content of a May 2016 exam to an outside source, who then fed answers created in real time to a receiver in the cheater’s Smartwatch.

That makes for one smart watch. However, the students were busted by a smarter proctor.

Here is one of the more creative schemes, useful only if one has an identical twin– and a restroom:

Being an identical twin, I’ve always wanted to cheat on an exam by switching with my brother. Fortunately for me (or unfortunately?), we never did switch.

Although I once had a friend who is an identical twin who DID switch. It was for one of those SAT subject tests. One of them studied for one of the topics very thoroughly, while the other studied for another of the topics. During the test day, they each took their respective tests. When they went on break, they both went to the bathroom and switched clothes. They then proceeded to take the SAME test for the other brother. Turns out, they each did better on the test they took for the OTHER brother. Great plan!

The next instance is a cheater who is clearly intelligent (but chose to use his intelligence to cheat instead of honestly prepare):

Few years ago in one class we were quite often given exams that could be found on the internet. And they were 4-options ones. Since I and my friend were too lazy to actually learn all the answers we decided to transfer them into number. We already knew binary and to convert from base 2 to 4 all you need to do is take two consecutive bites and change them. We did the math at home and wrote down the number (for longer test it is preferable to use more numbers rather than one and longer). When I knew where I was sitting I just wrote down the number on the desk. No one did suspect anything because it was just a number, not letters. All I had to do then was to change base 10 number to base 4. 5 questions in base 4 are number from 0 to 4^5=1,000,000. I do not want describe whole conversion but I did it always right (It is easy to check because you always know some answers and mistake would reflect in whole result). This cheat is even better for True/False questions.

Here we have an engineering student who actually escapes being caught by doing some in-the-moment “engineering”:

Okay this one’s not so original but keep on reading because it got original the moment I was almost caught.

So in my first year of engineering we had a physics exam, the syllabus was massive therefore most of us resorted to methods like writing stuff on desks and calculators.

Writing on desks:

Pros- Lots of space to write and even if you’re caught you can always blame someone else who must’ve given his/her exam on that very desk.

Cons-Sitting arrangements are sometimes changed at the last moment thereby making all your hard work involving desk writing go to waste.

Therefore with a false sense of safety I wrote a number of things on my calculator.

The moment I saw the question paper I knew that I had fairly good chances of passing it if I use my “calculator knowledge”. So I started chewing a gum to tackle my stress, now of course invigilator had no problems with us using our calculator for “calculations”.

Then came the terror, I saw a team of 3-4 people coming in to check our desks and calculators. These people were infamously called as “flyings” in our college. I was sitting in the last row  and by the time they reached my row they had already caught a few chaps who were cheating. My adrenaline was at its full rush, my heart was pounding like crazy and my mind was in the process of devising new plans every second, and then came a brilliant move, I closed my calculator stuck my chewing gum on it and made it stick to the upper surface of  inside of the desk.

The flyings came to search me and my possessions but found nothing, they even searched my desk but there was nothing “lying” there simply because it was held on to by the adhesive forces of chewing gum.

It was definitely a battle of nerves and I was able to pass that exam.

How about just taking exams for others, including fooling a prof to believe that the cheater is actually the student enrolled in the course:

I’m sure this is not shockingly daring or very original, but you asked what was the most daring/original cheat method I EVER USED.

A friend of mine asked me to write a Calculus final exam for him. It was a big school and a big course with more than one lecture group and numerous lecturers. I went into the exam room [a big gym, actually], signed his name, wrote the exam, and handed it in under his name. This was easy because 4 or 5 different sections of the same course wrote at the same time, so if the prof or lecturer didn’t know you, he’d just assume you were in one of the other sections. I did this on two occasions.

The next two times, I went in and wrote for 2 guys at a time. I had to bring one of them with me because one thing I could not do was to sign the sheet twice. In these cases I had to be sure to sit beside the guy and stealthily swap papers with him after completing the first one.

On one of these occasions, I wrote one exam left-handed and one right-handed [no, not simultaneously]. I am not really ambidextrous but I did it anyway.

At another, smaller school a friend asked me to write his Psych. final. I had to use some psychology on the prof, and it worked. My friend, named Kelly, always wore a Greek fisherman’s hat.

So a week or so before the exam I went to visit the prof while wearing the hat. I identified myself as Kelly and asked him some silly questions so he’d remember me. When I walked in to write the exam, he saw me in the hat and when i waved to him I could see him sort of roll his eyes as if to say, “It’s THAT guy again”

Here’s a sleight-of-program from a computer programming student– “Not proud of it, but got an A”:

I am not proud of this, but hardcoded results in a lab exam to show my code was “working”. For some context, it was second year in college and it was supposed to be a advanced networking exam using C++. There was two parts to it. One was creating a socket and another was to write a program that consumed it and printed the output.

So I get to work and write the two parts. But for some reason it wouldn’t work. Spent two hours trying to debug and nothing worked. But time was up and the examiners called out 15 minutes and were going to be making rounds to look at the outputs. Desperate, I wrote a program that just outputted the values. Luckily the examiners didn’t look close at the code and ask me to show a different output. Since there were like a lot of people they had to cover, they asked for a printout of the code to look through later and left. So of course I print the code that was not working.

Best part is I ended getting an A in that exam.

Here’s a creative screen: Write a fake program to show that the calculator memory is cleared when in reality, the memory has all the answers one needs to cheat on an FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) exam:

Taking the FAA ground school exam, I programmed all the answers to the questions in my calculator (think 1988). I also wrote a small program that said, “Reset memory? (Y/N)” Which did nothing but display that.

They asked that I clear the memory, so I called up that program, and they were happy. “Memory cleared.”

So when I took the test, I had all the answers and the testers were sure my calculator memory was cleared. Gotta laugh. I still have the certificate from that, and no, I’m not a pilot.

Edit: Back then the test involved things like calculating take off distance using temp/humidity/elevation. There were graphs of very low quality, and if you plotted the answers on the graph, 3 of them could land on the same point. That’s why I cheated, the test was junk. Many of the questions were ambiguous also. The code stored in calc was: 23B, 24D, 25A, etc.

Proud to get a retro scholarship from this, the cheater, “Kevin,” had to really prepare his cheat:

Prior to the final in a film history course at New York University, I figured out what the likely questions would be and wrote lengthy answers full of details, then edited each extensively for structure and clarity. Then for each sentence, I chose one word that symbolized the sentence, then one letter that symbolized that word. Then I memorized the series of letters and practiced reconstructing each answer from these mnemonics.

When I got to the exam hall, I quickly wrote the letters down on a blank sheet and then expanded them to words to establish my cheat sheet, then cranked out my polished mini-essays as fast as I could write without having to pause to think.

Aced it, of course. My grades that semester earned me a scholarship that was retroactive to the beginning of the year.

Let me end this post as I began, with the wonder of technology in enabling sophisticated cheating:

This has been going on in my class for quite a while now. It is the age of smartphones and social networking & use of things like WhatsApp, so to make the best out of these a good plan has been devised.
Our exams are subjective & descriptive type mostly and this is how the system works-
Just 2 minutes prior to the start of every exam, a WhatsApp group us created & all the friends are added to it. Now as the exam begins, people start putting the questions on that group, one at a time systematically. Also in this group there are some friends of different batches, who aren’t appearing for the exam (instead are sitting in adjacent classroom or the hostel with the textbook open). Now with a perfect plan this goes on, the helpers take photos of the respective answers/paragraphs and upload. These are received by the different users and they just happily sit & copy from those photos.
The beauty of the plan is that everything happens systematically with no confusion whatsoever. Also the group is deleted as soon as the exam is done, leaving no trace behind and the whole scheme is just known to a bunch of people who are involved in it- doesn’t even come out in front of other friends or classmates. (Only weakness I found in this- need to be extra careful about invigilation and surprisingly no one was ever caught).
So full use of the advanced technology!! 😛
PS: I’m the only guy who doesn’t use this but knows about it!! 😀

All of these instances of cheating come from the Quora page, “What was the most daring/original cheat method you ever used during an exam/test?” There are numerous entries on this page; I have included only a few in my post.

Readers might also be interested in the following Quora pages:

“How Do I Cheat on an Exam and Not Get Caught?”

“What are Some Modern Ways of Cheating on Exams?”

“What Is the Most Unique Way of Exam Cheating You’ve Done?”

These are useful pages for teachers to read.

Think of it as professional development.

water-bottle-cheating  Answers on underside of water bottle label


Released July 2016– Book Three:

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of both A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

  1. Leigh Campbell-Hale permalink

    I don’t think what the history student did was cheating. He just came to class prepared. That’s what all smart students should do.

    • The student called his “reconstruction” a “cheat sheet.” For some reason, he considered it cheating. Then again, he is not clear about how he “figured out what likely questions would be.”

  2. I was hearing about even more inventive ways to cheat at Cal Tech in the 1960’s. One guy replaced the mechanism in his watch with a scroll which contained many useful items. He got caught because he seemed to be spending too much time “adjusting” his watch.

  3. booklady permalink

    Seeing the photo of water bottle label reminds me of 1970s, when students supposedly wrote key phrases on packs of Kent cigarettes, which had narrow horizontal lines. One could smoke in classrooms then. Don’t know if that was campus myth or real practice.

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  1. Mercedes Schneider: The Secrets of Highly Intelligent Cheaters | Diane Ravitch's blog

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