Here’s something you might not know — the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) compiles annual data on how schoolchildren in the UK are cheating on their tests. They just released their eye-opening latest findings for students ages 16 to 18 in secondary school.
These are a the most common ways that students try to game the system:
- Bringing unauthorised material into the exam room. Bringing a mobile phone or other electronic communications device into the exam room accounted for 71% of the penalties in this category.
- Plagiarism, copying from other candidates, or collusion. 620 penalties were handed out to students who thought they could get away with looking over at their neighbour’s work or lifting answers straight from the textbook.
- Including inappropriate, offensive, or obscene material in the exam paper or coursework. The odd rude drawing on a desk may pass without punishment, but doing it on an exam paper just isn’t worth it kids.
- Disruptive behaviour in the exam room. Again, being the class clown is all very well and good during term time, but taking it into the exam room can lead to tears.
First the good news. British school kids are overwhelmingly honest, or excellent at not getting caught. The number of students caught in any given year is a tiny fraction of the total number of those sitting exams. In 2014 only 0.012% of the 22 million students who took public exams were found to have breached the rules.
Even better, since 2010 the number of penalties handed out for malpractice in GCSE and A level, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, other UK regions and overseas has fallen significantly.
The bad news? While the kids have been getting more honest, the schools carrying out the tests have been moving in the other direction. In fact there has been a marked increase in the number of penalties issued to school or college staff over the last two years.
For staff the most common charge was “giving inappropriate assistance to candidates”, of which there were 82 cases this year accounting for 69% of the total penalties issued.
While the number of penalities for schools has been increasing, they still represent only a tiny proportion of the 6,000 institutions that delivered exams. In the summer 2014 exam season, 217 penalties were issued, up from 140 in 2013. These were handed out for allowing students to sit exams at the wrong time or with a lack of supervision, providing assistance of candidates and (worryingly) for “a breach of security”.
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