Cheating in exams has been around since exams have been around. It’s simple to see why; for every situation where there’s pressure to succeed, yet success involves long hours and hard work, there’s going to be people that want to take a short cut.

Recently it was discovered that English and history students accounted for more than half the cheating attempts caught in the HSC – the final high school exams in NSW – possibly due to the importance of remembering key phrases in these subjects. In Victoria, 68 people were caught cheating in the final school exams, an increase on the previous year and the highest figure since 2012. Yet despite all this coverage and harsh punishments, students will continue to cheat.

The methods used in the past have always been creative, if a bit bizarre, but now there’s no shortage of amazing technology influencing our ability to cheat. We’ve all heard stories of people putting pages of study notes in the labels of water bottles, or writing important dates in the edges of a ruler, but students these days are asking Siri for answers to questions in their exams. You have students attempting to send photos of their paper to each other and using smart watches to hold useful information. One student even live-streamed an entire exam on Facebook – an Information Processes and Technology exam no less.

But better technology isn’t the only thing prompting people to cheat. Of course, the desire to do well in exams and thus the pull towards cheating is intrinsic, but there are some factors that influence this. Research has shown that students were more likely to cheat in classes that emphasise high grades and exam scores, and less likely to cheat if they thought their teacher emphasised the importance actually learning the content. With the entirety of students’ schooling here culminating in nationwide exams and being given a single score that determines what you can do after graduating, it’s easy to see which category our current system falls under.

What actually happens if you get caught cheating?

Each state has their own governing authority for education and regulating misconduct, so the specifics can vary. However, they generally lay out a scaling set of potential penalties depending on how serious the offence is. Minor breaches, such as having a phone out on the table, may be dealt with a warning or reduced mark, whereas more serious offences that are thought to give the student an advantage in the exam are referred to the state authority for review.

The NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) states that possible consequences include receiving 0 in that assessment, having that course withheld, being ineligible for the HSC, and your school imposing further penalties such as withholding your reference. In 2017, 61% of all malpractice offences in HSC school assessment tasks in NSW were penalised by giving a 0.

Is it worth it?

People cheat in exams because they think it’s too hard or they think they don’t have enough time to adequately study. The problem is, there are strict regulations in place to make sure any cheating students are caught. If you do get caught, then you’ve potentially wasted an entire year, getting nothing in return for your efforts. To sneak past undetected requires a lot of foresight, planning, and creativity – things you can put to good use by just studying anyway. Plus, the anxiety of possibly getting caught just isn’t worth it to your already stressed out brain. So instead, try out a new study method that might be more effective for you and give it your best shot, even if you’re disorganised or haven’t studied at all.