Administering Secure Classroom Tests
(Includes 1992 Survey of Campus Cheating Trends)
Companies responsible for administering national test programs have traditionally placed a heavy emphasis on security, and provided proctors with extensive administrative protocols. In contrast, test administration resources for campus faculty are limited and it is not uncommon that exams are administered under less than ideal circumstances. Providing a secure test administration ensures that students have a fair chance to demonstrate what they have learned and that grades are based upon valid scores. During the spring semester of 1992, the Evaluation and Examination Service (EES) developed this technical bulletin to provide guidelines for classroom test security as a teaching resource for faculty.
The first step in writing this guide was to determine what activities students define as cheating and subsequently, what percentage of a selected sample admitted to cheating. To address these issues, EES administered The University of Iowa Survey of Classroom Cheating to a random sample of intact classes selected from a list of faculty who use EES scoring and duplicating services. The data set included responses from 1265 students, 49% male and 50% female. The sample was fairly representative of all undergraduate classes, with a slight over-representation of juniors and seniors. For this bulletin demographic information was not used to make comparisons between identified groups. A copy of the survey appears at the end of this bulletin (underlined numbers represent the percentage of the sample responding in each category).
Summary of Survey Results – Questions 1-17 (survey)
For items 1-17 students were presented with a list of activities and first asked whether or not they felt each activity represented cheating and, secondly, whether or not they had ever done the activity described while enrolled at The University of Iowa. The statements were taken from instruments used in previous studies and from a pilot administration of the current survey. It should be noted, the primary interest was in how cheating occurred, not how often individual students cheated.
Table 1 shows the percentage of the sample agreeing that an activity represents cheating and the percentage admitting to having committed that activity at least once while enrolled at UI. There are several observations to be made from this data:
These results are not particularly surprising and are in line with studies done on other college campuses. After responding to the checklist, students were asked to indicate activities or behaviors that they thought constituted cheating that had not been mentioned in the survey. The student list included:
Question 18 (survey)
Are students willing to tell an instructor if they know cheating is occurring in a class? Seventy-six percent of the students surveyed said “No”. When asked why they would not tell, their responses fell into four categories:
Question 19 (survey)
Why do students cheat? Responses to this question were related to typical college stress points: poor time management skills; pressure to perform; grade pressures; judgments made about the relevance of a course; and inability to understand the subject matter or instructor. Twenty-five percent of the sample indicated that they had never cheated or attempted to cheat in a college class. This small percentage is not particularly surprising since the intent of the survey was to find out how students cheat, not how frequently the average student might cheat.
Question 20-21 (survey)
Both of these questions were asked to determine how informed students are about either institutional or faculty policies related to cheating. Over half of this sample has read the University’s policies, however few faculty appear to be defining the issue or talking about cheating in the classroom. In the absence of a clear definition students can rationalize a very broad range of behaviors.
Question 22 (survey)
Slightly more than half of the sample felt it was worse to cheat in a major course than in a course used to fulfill a GER. The majority of written comments questioned the value of courses not related to a student’s major course of study or interest.
Question 23 (survey)
The last item asked students to estimate the percentage of their peers at The University of Iowa that they think cheat. Sixty-five percent felt that anywhere from fifty to over seventy-five percent of the students on this campus cheat.
The results of this survey parallel those from studies done on other campuses. Approximately 75% of the students surveyed admitted to having committed at least one act that they define as cheating. In no way do these results imply that academic dishonesty is a huge problem on this campus but should be used as a catalyst to provide students a positive test environment. Writing good test items is a difficult task and the effort spent in creating fair tests and providing challenging instruction should not be negated by poor test administration practices. For the benefit of students and faculty alike, as much effort should be put into providing secure test administrations as is put into test development.
PART II ADMINISTERING SECURE CLASSROOM EXAMS
This section of the bulletin contains suggestions and guidelines for administering secure exams. Some of the suggestions are quite simple to incorporate into your testing procedures; others require a great deal of instructor involvement. What will or will not work in your classroom is closely related to class size, room layout, and availability of help from support staff. If there are measures that you use in your classes that have been particularly effective please let the staff at the Exam Service know so that we can share your ideas with other faculty.
Let students know in a non-threatening manner what constitutes cheating in your course and the consequences of being caught. Discuss this information as part of the course orientation and include it in the syllabus. Previous work has shown that cheating decreases when students are reminded of instructor standards immediately before each test or assignment (Frary, 1981). Specify what can or cannot be done during each exam (i.e., use of books, notes, calculators, etc.). Give clear written and verbal warnings about prohibitive behavior. Some instructors will include a statement like the following as a part of each exam:
Please read the following and provide your signature:
“I understand that sharing information with another student during this exam by talking, looking at someone else’s test or any other form of communication will be interpreted as evidence of cheating. I also understand that if I am caught cheating, the result will be no credit (0 points) for this test.”
A statement of this nature can be adapted for any test format and serves as a gentle reminder of your standards. This method also provides the student’s signature should a question ever arise concerning impersonation. You should be familiar with your college policies related to academic misconduct.
If it is at all feasible, students should be randomly assigned seats for each exam. Random seat assignments circumvent prearranged plans for sharing information and help break up groups of friends. Frary (1981) found in a five-year study that only in rare instances is substantial answer copying absent in large classes with close seating and in which a single form of a test was used.
Remember, the number one concern expressed by students in the current survey was friends being allowed to sit together. Here are some suggestions for assigning seats:
Test Books and Answer Sheets
Things to look for while proctoring:
In some classes instructors may need to positively identify students who are taking exams. This is an issue more often in placement, certification, or proficiency types of tests administered through the Exam Service. If there is reason to believe that impersonation may be occurring in your classes, the only way to curb this problem is by requiring positive ID of all test takers. There are several steps that are used in national test programs that may be adaptable to your classroom.
Several statistical methods have been developed which estimate the probability of response similarity for pairs of answer sheets in a test setting. These methods provide indices for flagging sets of answer sheets in which response similarities would be highly unlikely without some information sharing by examinees. Most national test companies and a few universities routinely use a statistical program to monitor answer copying. It should be noted however that these indices should never be used as the sole determinant of cheating but as documentation to supplement direct observation by a proctor. References for these programs are given in the bibliography.
This bulletin is written as a faculty resource and is a developing document. As revisions are made we would like to include faculty experiences and practices which have been effective in classrooms on this campus. Please forward any comments or suggestions to the Exam Service at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Angoff, W.H. (1974). The development of statistical indices for detecting cheaters. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 69, 44-9.
Cizek, G.J. (1999). Cheating on Tests, How to Do It, Detect It, and Prevent It. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: Mahwah, New Jersey.
Cizek, G.J. (2003). Detecting and Preventing Classroom Cheating: Promoting Integrity in Assessment.
Collison, M. N-K., (October, 1990). Study suggests cheating at college is on the rise.
Frary, R.B. (Winter 1981). Cheating? Teaching and Learning, Items and Issues Related
Frary, R.B., Tideman, T.N. and Watts, T.M. (1977). Indices of cheating on multiple-
Haines, J.V., Diekhoff, G.M., LaBeff, E.E., and Clark, R.E. (1986). College Cheating:
Hanson, B.A., Harris, D.J., and Brennen, R.L. (1987). A comparison of several
Houston, J.P. (1976) Amount and loci of classroom answer copying, spaced seating, and
Houston, J.P. (1983). Alternate test forms as a means of reducing multiple-choice
Houston, J.P. (1986). Classroom answer copying: Roles of acquaintanceship and
Kibler, W.L. (November, 1992). Cheating: Institutions need a comprehensive plan for
Roberts, J. (February, 1992). Go ahead, cheat yur heart out. Dollars and Sense.
Schneer, N.J. and Dayton, M.C. (1987). Improved estimation of academic cheating
Singhal, A.C. (1982). Factors in student dishonesty. Psychological Reports, 51, 775-80.
Stevens, G.E., and Stevens, F.W. (1987). Ethical inclinations of tomorrow’s managers
Whitley, B.E. and Keith-Spiegel, P. (2002). Academic Dishonesty An Educator’s Guide. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: Mahwah, New Jersey.
The University of Iowa Survey of Classroom Cheating
We appreciate your honest responses to this survey. You will not be personally identified in any way.
Gender: 49% Male 50% Female
Class: 8% Freshman 29% Sophomore 23% Junior 36% Senior 3% Graduate
______ College Major Code Number (use the following list)
1 = Open Major 7% 4 = Liberal Arts 50%
Check the range in which your cumulative GPA falls:
0% less than 1.49 37% 2.50 to 2.99
How active are you in University or non-University activities outside of class (e.g., social groups, intramurals, athletics, clubs, fraternity, sorority, etc.)?
18% Very active 29% Minimally active
How many hours per week do you work?
38% do not work
You will be responding twice to each statement in items 1 through 17. First, put a check in either column “A” or “B” indicating whether or not you consider the activity that is described to be “cheating”. Second, put a check in column “C” or “D” to indicate whether or not you have ever done the activity that is described while enrolled as a student at The University of Iowa.
Remember: A = cheating C = You have done this at least once at the UI
41% 58% 71% 29% 1. Asking students in another section of a course for information about a test
82% 17% 60% 39% 2. Copying another student’s course assignment or allowing someone to
90% 9% 22% 78% 3. Using another person’s ideas or words without crediting the source
98% 2% 25% 74% 4. Copying from another student’s test or answer sheet during an exam.
Remember: A = cheating C = You have done this at least once at the UI
25% 74% 43% 56% 5. Not telling an instructor when an error has been made in your favor in
98% 2% 12% 88% 6. Using notes on a closed book test.
98% 2% 2% 98% 7. Taking a test for another student or having someone take a test for you.
94% 6% 13% 87% 8. Rewriting another student’s paper and turning it in as your own work.
40% 58% 36% 63% 9. Receiving help on a take-home test.
95% 4% 5% 95% 10. Buying a paper or having someone write a paper for you.
56% 43% 31% 68% 11. Telling an instructor a lie about illness or some other emergency when
24% 75% 28% 72% 12. Turning in the same paper for more than one class.
77% 22% 21% 78% 13. Falsifying or making up a bibliography.
89% 10% 13% 86% 14. Using a test that was stolen by another student to study for an exam.
79% 20% 5% 94% 15. Taking or attempting to take a test book or answer sheet that was
97% 2% 4% 95% 16. Exchanging answer sheets or papers during a test.
96% 3% 15% 85% 17. Working out a scheme with another student to share information during.
Please list any activities or behaviors that you think are cheating that were not included in items 1 through 17.
18. Would you notify the instructor of a course you were taking, if you knew other students were cheating?
19. Check any of the following that describe why you cheated or may have attempted to
25% I have never cheated or attempted to cheat 27% Not able to understand course material
43% Needed a better grade 30% Instructors who are hard to understand
47% Not enough time to study or prepare 10% Pressure to keep up with others who cheat
4% Influence of friends 7% Cheating is easier than studying
36% Work load too heavy 5% Parental pressure
24% Unfair test questions 9% Not wanting to waste time studying for a course
____ Other reasons why you may have cheated or attempted to cheat, please specify:
20. Have you ever read the University’s policies and penalties associated with cheating?
57% Yes 36% No
21. In the courses that you are currently taking, how many of your instructors have discussed what they consider
33% None 29% About 25% 16% Half of them 10% About 75% 6% All of them
22. Is it worse to cheat in a major course than in a course to satisfy a General Education Requirement?
57% Yes 35% No
23. What percentage of students at the University of Iowa do you think cheat?
8% Less than 25% 19% 25% 31% 50% 21% 75% 13% Over 75%
The University of Iowa