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From writing on arms to smartwatches: Hundreds of HSC students caught cheating in Australia

September 25, 2023

Original Article:

Students wearing smartwatches in exam halls, writing notes on their arms and using mobile phones during tests were among those caught cheating in Higher School Certificate exams last year.

New figures released by the NSW Education Standards Authority reveal about 680 students were found to have cheated in HSC school-based assessments and tasks in 2022, with almost 500 plagiarism offences reported.

Serious cheating offences in HSC exams have doubled in the past five years, with a record 65 students forced to front the Examination Rules Committee last year.

The exam breaches involved students smuggling banned smartwatches and mobile phones into exam rooms, concealing notes under chairs or hiding them on their lap and writing during reading time or after pens down.

The 782 assessment cheating offences recorded last year is a slight drop compared to the 854 breaches reported the previous year, but an increase of about 15 per cent compared with 2019 and up by a quarter from 2015.

For almost 10 years, all schools in NSW have registered misconduct cases in school assessment tasks. It was one of 20 recommendations made by the Independent Commission Against Corruption after a major investigation into cheating in take-home assessments in 2007, which also recommended the state government consider regulating the tutoring industry.

English, modern history and community and family studies were the subjects with the highest rates of cheating, including 157 offences reported across English subjects. There were fewer than 25 breaches in each of the physics, chemistry and maths extension 1 courses.

While the overall number of serious exam cheats remains low, the 65 offences represents a steady increase from 35 in 2019 and 26 in 2018.

Professor Phillip Dawson, from Deakin University’s Centre for Research in Assessment and Digital Learning, said the number of exam cheats was relatively small, and a key challenge was understanding whether cheating was rising or detection was improving.

“In higher education we are looking at increasing the use of interactive oral exams as another testing method, in addition to pen and paper tests. It’s a lot harder to cheat when you are having a conversation, and having a range of assessment types is ideal.”

Dawson said with the rise of ChatGPT – an artificial intelligence program that can generate human-like text – there would be even greater challenges ahead for detecting cheating in assessments.


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