How to catch students cheating

Despite your efforts to promote integrity and prevent cheating, you will likely still have to respond to the occasional integrity violations. Although you do not have to speak with students before reporting them to the AI Office, if you feel like you want or need to, here are some recommended guidelines for doing so.

Don’t hesitate

Prepare for the conversation

If you choose to meet with the student, it may be helpful to think of three C’s in addressing academic misconduct with a suspected offender: clarity, compassion, and candor:

  • Be clear about the behavior you find questionable.
  • Be compassionate to the student who may experience significant distress but also great learning from this incident.
  • Be candid about your interpretations of the behavior and your feelings about the incident.

What to say

If you’re unsure about how to have a clear, compassionate, and candid conversation with a student:

  1. Begin your intervention with a statement. Example:
    1. “I have some concerns about your recent [paper or exam], and would like to engage in a dialogue with you about it. When can you come in to see me?”
    1. “Why don’t we start by you telling me how you’re feeling about the class/ this assignment?”
    2. “What was your process for studying/ completing the assignment?”
    3. “Are you satisfied with your learning/ progress in the course?”
    1. “I’m concerned because the information I have suggests that you may have _________________. Is that an accurate assessment? Why not?”
    1. Considering his or her answers and thinking further about your next step
    2. Reporting the incident to the Academic Integrity Office

    Remain Steadfast

    Student reactions may vary. Your student may cry, get angry, accuse or offend you, calmly admit to the misconduct, or deny the misconduct outright. In any event, proceed using your best judgment, knowing that it is your professional and ethical obligation to follow Senate Policy which states that you must report all suspected academic integrity violations to the Academic Integrity Office.

    Instructors can reduce the incidence of cheating by paying specific attention to how they communicate their expectations to students, how they prepare their exams, and how they administer their exams. The following sections provide guidelines on these three points.

    Advance communication

    • Whatever decisions you make regarding academic integrity, it is imperative that these decisions be fully communicated to students, TAs, and exam proctors.
    • You can communicate expectations by making a clear statement on the first day of class, by including this statement in the course syllabus, and by repeating it on the class day before an exam and again as the exam begins.

    Test preparation

    • Create a test that is fair to your students. Some students use an instructor’s reputation for giving “unfair” tests as an excuse to cheat. “Fair” means that the exam covers the material that you said it would cover, that students have enough time to complete the exam, and that its instructions are clear.
    • Help students control anxiety by discussing the test procedures and outlining the material to be included. Handing out old tests or providing sample questions also reduces anxiety.
    • Write new tests each semester, whenever possible; at the very least add new items. By doing this, students are less likely to use past students’ exams to gain an unfair advantage.
    • Prepare more than one form of the exam. You can have the same questions on each form, but (1) present questions in a different order on each form, or (2) vary the order of the response alternatives. Where calculations are involved, you can modify values within the same question on different forms so that responses are different.
    • Pre-code answer sheets and test booklets by using a numbering system so that the number on each test booklet matches the one on each student’s answer sheet.
    • To eliminate cheating after the exam has been returned to students, mark the answer sheets in such a way that answers cannot be altered; e.g., by using a permanent felt-tip pen.

    Test administration

    Most cheating on tests in large classes occurs when students are allowed to sit wherever they choose. It should be no surprise that cheaters choose to sit near each other. Cheating may be greatly minimized by using the following procedures:

    • Number seats and tests and then assign students to sit in the seat with the same number as the number on their test.
    • Systematically hand out alternative forms, taking into account students sitting laterally as well as those sitting in front and in back of each other.
    • Have sufficient proctors for the exam. Exam situations vary, but, in general, the following guidelines are advisable:
      • Have one proctor per 40 students if the proctor does not know the students.
      • If the proctor does know the students (i.e., the proctor is a discussion instructor), have students sit together by section. This minimizes “ghost” exam takers by making it easier for proctors to recognize and account for their own students.
      • Proctors should stay alert and move around the exam room. They should not be reading or involved in unnecessary conversation with other proctors.
      • Proctors should never leave the students alone during the test.
      • Have proctors look carefully at each ID and student.
      • Have an enrollment list or card file of names and signatures to be matched against the IDs (or signatures on exam answer sheets) that is to be checked off as students enter (or leave) the exam room.

      Handling cheating

      Charging students with cheating is never easy. However, the following suggestions should make it easier. If faculty members do not fulfill their responsibility for maintaining academic integrity, it makes it difficult to charge students with infractions of academic integrity. Here are some suggestions for handling cheating:

      • Be certain that you are acting fairly and objectively and that you have all of the facts.
      • Become familiar with Section 1-404 of the Code so you know the procedures to follow.
      • Keep written records of the description of the cheating incident and the actions you and others subsequently take.
      • Speak with (1) your department head or chair to learn about departmental or college practices, or (2) other faculty, especially those in your department, to see what they have done and what the results were when they charged students with cheating. Ask if your

      Procedures for enforcing the Code

      Once a student has been formally charged with cheating according to the Student Code, campus procedures for infractions of academic integrity are set in motion. When a student decides to appeal the charge, it is important to continually communicate with your department head as the appeal process moves through its stages. Knowing what is in the Code is essential. Listed below are some additional thoughts.

      How to catch students cheating

      When a student of mine copied material from a book and used it in her essay, it wasn’t my happiest day grading papers. She was honest when I asked, but her father was still angry that—as school policy dictated—she received a zero for her work after cheating in the classroom. He felt that his daughter “found” the information, and citing it was unnecessary.

      Not satisfied with my explanation of why his child received a failing grade, the parent went over my head to my director, who, thankfully, backed me up and the zero stood. I do believe she learned from the experience, as she never plagiarized again.

      Plagiarism and cheating in the classroom have always been difficult for teachers. In my twenty-two-year career, some of my most uncomfortable moments have been because I caught a student plagiarizing or cheating in the classroom. Yes, it’s awkward and problematic, but these incidents are also the perfect teachable moments for students to learn from their mistakes and not repeat them later in life.

      Creatively Dishonest

      I learned quickly that students can be pretty clever when cheating. Those who are absent will ask other students what’s on a test they missed. Older siblings pass down essays and test answers to their younger siblings. I usually create several versions of a test to eliminate this problem. I once gave my students a test on the Eugene O’Neill play, Long Day’s Journey into Night, where question #10 asked what two emotions were at the core of the play (the answer was “guilt and forgiveness”). When a student who was absent came to make up the test, I rearranged the questions. Question #10 was now “List some historical events which took place in 1912 when the play was written.”

      Imagine my surprise when this student—who was on the National Honor Society—wrote “guilt and forgiveness” as her answer to this question. She refused to admit she cheated on the test, but she didn’t fight the grade I gave her.

      No Bias Toward the Best

      My most difficult issue with plagiarism and cheating came after a few years of teaching Advanced Placement Literature and Composition. One day I gave my students the poem “My Last Duchess,” and I asked them to analyze its meaning in an essay. I told the students they could talk to one another about the poem, but they could not use the internet or other sources for help.

      It became clear when correcting the papers that several students had plagiarized—including the class valedictorian. Again, as was school policy, all students who plagiarized received a zero for the assignment. While most students accepted their fate, the valedictorian did not. He felt he wasn’t guilty of plagiarism because he was not the one who got the information online—his friend did—and even though the valedictorian knew the information came from the internet, he did not think he was at fault.

      How to Enforce Your Policy

      Teachers can avoid issues with plagiarizing and cheating without causing their students to rebel against them; all it takes is a more diplomatic approach to enforcing it.

      • Review what plagiarism is and isn’t, providing students with strong examples. Teach your students about paraphrasing and how to cite sources.
      • Advocate for a school-wide Honor Code, which clearly states the consequences for cheating and plagiarizing offenses. Be sure parents/guardians and students sign off on the policy.
      • Ensure students have plenty of time to complete research papers, and create due dates for collecting primary and secondary sources, writing outlines, introductions, and rough drafts. Students tend to plagiarize or cheat when they let an assignment go to the last minute. Staggering due dates eliminates this problem.
      • Create several versions of tests and essay prompts, and alternate them year to year. Trust me, the little extra work this requires will save you hours of aggravation if a student is caught cheating.
      • Consider software like Turnitin, PlagScan or DupliChecker, which has students upload their work to the site so that it can detect similarities to content elsewhere online. When my school used this program, plagiarism became non-existent. Students knew they would get caught, and the plagiarism problem disappeared. Use these tools responsibly, though; software can make it easy to misinterpret a student’s work, and you’re still the judge at the end of the day.

      Being upfront with your students about your expectations at the beginning of the year will help set the standard for consequences (and rewards) for work in the months to follow. Remember, be empathetic to kids who are under immense pressure from their families, peers, potential schools, and even themselves. Some plagiarism stems from laziness, sure, but there are also many occurrences that signal a larger problem of stress or awkward stages in their writing development. When a student submits unoriginal content, address the problem individually, you’ll see much more authenticity.

      How to catch students cheating

      There will always be a few students who try to cheat on exams and unfairly bump up their results.

      And with school pupils now carrying phones with them, teachers have got to be extra vigilant to spot those who might be tempted to turn to the internet for a helping hand.

      But one teacher has found a brilliant way to catch out their students, and the video has been watched more than one million times on TikTok.

      It shows a room full of pupils taking a test, with stacks of books piled on the desks to hide their answers, meaning it would be easy for anyone to sneak a glance at their phone without being seen.

      Get the news you want straight to your inbox. Sign up for a Mirror newsletter here.

      But the teacher is one step ahead, and simply walks into the room and quickly flicks the lights off – with one student's phone lighting up his face, forcing him to hand over the device.

      It racked up hundreds of comments as one person said: "This is so smart omg" and a second wrote: "I won't even be mad."

      It's not the first time a teacher has out-smarted their pupils after another became fed up of students leaving the exam to "use the toilet", knowing that they were really looking up answers.

      A student in the class explained that the teacher knew the website their classmates were using to cheat and put a question in the test that was illogical and impossible to solve.

      A month before the exam, he got a teaching assistant to pose the problem on the website, where he anonymously replied with an answer that was incorrect and "very unlikely that someone would make the same assumptions and mistakes independently".

      From the 99 exams handed in, 14 of them fell for the trick and gave the exact answer their own teacher had posted online.

      All were given an overall score of zero and reported to the university, while the students who didn't cheat were given full marks for the bogus question.

      In order to minimize the possibility of your students cheating on assessments in Canvas, we recommend that you take a few precautions while setting up your graded quizzes and exams.

      1. Set up your Canvas quiz settings before the quiz becomes available to students

      Set up your feedback settings

      Canvas's default feedback option allows students to see the correct answers for all questions both as soon as they submit the assessment and at any point after that. This default option makes your exam questions extremely insecure; it compromises the integrity of your exam questions for both the current semester and use in future semesters. For this reason, we strongly recommend that during quiz setup you adjust your quiz settings to reflect one of the following:

      1. Let students see their quiz responses only once after each attempt. This option is great for exams taken at the testing center; students will not be able to screenshot questions but can still view their results. Make sure to check the "only once after each attempt" box:
        How to catch students cheating
      2. Do not allow students to see their quiz responses at all. This is the most secure option. Uncheck the "Let students see their quiz responses" box:
        How to catch students cheating

      Recommended quiz access settings

      Require an access code

      We recommend that you require students to enter in a password before they can take an assessment. This will help prevent students from accessing the assessment outside of a proctored environment, such as your classroom or FSU's Center for Assessment and Testing.

      Availability dates specify the window of time in which a student may access the assessment.

      Time Limit

      Specifying a time limit will force-submit the quiz/exam once the specified time limit has been reached. Make sure to set up exceptions for students needing academic accommodations that include additional time on exams.

      Optional settings that enhance your assessment security

      Shuffle Answers

      This option randomizes the answer choices for each question. This means that no two students will see the exact same answer choice order for multiple choice and multiple answer question types. However, if there are multiple choice questions that include an "all of the above" answer option, then you may not want to shuffle answers.

      Use question groups

      A question group is specific to the quiz you are creating and randomizes the questions students answer in a Canvas quiz. It allows you to place multiple questions into a single group on a quiz and then select a specific number of those questions that will be chosen at random for students to answer. For example, you can choose to have students answer 5 questions from a question group containing 10 questions.

      If you want to use question banks to house assessment questions so that they are organized by topic/chapter or are easily reusable, you can combine the use of question banks and question groups. For example, if you have a set of questions specific to Chapter 2, you would need to make a question bank containing all of your Chapter 2 questions. Then, when you create your specific assessment, you will need to create a question group that pulls a specific number of randomly selected questions from your Chapter 2 question bank.

      2. Maximize security during the exam

      One effective way to increase security while your students are taking their exams is to arrange to have TAs or other instructors serve as proctors in your classroom. If in-person proctoring isn’t an option for you or any of your students, you may consider using the Honorlock online proctoring service which can be enabled on any exam in Canvas.

      Asking for help or cheating during an in-person is a thing of the past. In recent times, students have become smart and use innovative tactics to break the rules during an online exam. Due to the current pandemic, educational institutions replaced pen and paper examinations with online proctored exams. Of course, despite having an array of technologies, some students still manage to find creative ways to cheat in an online test.

      How do students cheat during an online exam – Some recent incidents

      How to catch students cheating

      How to minimize cheating during online exams?

      How to prevent cheating in online exams?

      1. IIT Bombay

      Incidents of cheating are on the rise, so much so that the authorities at renowned colleges like the Indian Institute of Technology (IITs) are becoming cautious. Most recently, IIT-Bombay had canceled an examination conducted on November 22, 2020, after reports emerged, students were violating the rules of an online test.

      According to an Indian Express report, there have been incidents of students sharing question papers on WhatsApp groups, talking on conference calls with peers, browsing the internet for answers on a separate device during an exam.

      2. University of Waterloo

      According to a report on student discipline that went before the university senate last month, cheating at the University of Waterloo doubled during the 2019-2020 academic year.

      Students were guilty of cheating 1340 times between September 2019 and August 2020. That’s up from 544 incidents of cheating during the 2018-2019 academic year.

      How to catch students cheating Lisa Yeaton Senior Specialist, Social Media Published 28 Jun 2021

      How to catch students cheating

      What? Where?

      Online learning has grown exponentially on and off of college campuses and throughout education. It has enabled students all over the world to gain certifications and college degrees without physically residing on or commuting to campus. Unfortunately, the system is vulnerable to abuse and it’s possible for some students to cheat. Providing proctors to monitor students taking online classes and exams from their personal devices in the confines of their own home can be very difficult. Preventing student cheating within the classroom is difficult enough.

      A survey conducted by the International Center for Academic Integrity found that 68% of undergraduates admitted cheating on tests or in written work and 43% of graduate students also confessed. The growing number of students taking online courses and their increasing technological savviness has contributed to the rise in cheating. This problem will only continue to grow if it goes unchecked.


      Students in general are not necessarily becoming less honest. It’s just become a lot easier to cheat with online courses, especially without proctors. Stressing out, fear of failure, professors who don’t crack down, and students thinking they won’t get caught have all led to increased cheating behavior. In her article, How to Catch Students Cheating on Online Tests, Katherine Krueger notes that one student calls online cheating a “victimless crime,” and this is why some students don’t have remorse for doing it, even though cheating on examinations actually deprives the student of learning. The same student summed up his case for cheating as “we’re not taught to learn the material. We’re taught to get the highest grade possible.”


      The internet enables all kinds of content to be shared. WriteMyPaper, CollegeTermPapers, HomeworkMarket, RushEssay, CourseHero, and other sites enable students to have others complete their work. Granted some of these sites such as CourseHero and Chegg are not meant to enable cheating, but rather act as online tutoring services; however some students use them for dishonest purposes and share answers to exams. The hundreds, if not millions, of websites that provide these services would not stay in business if there were not a demand.


      With cheating on the rise it’s not surprising that the business for deterring cheating is also thriving. calculates similarities between essays, i.e. detects plagiarism, but now there are also sites and programs that view and analyze the students themselves during testing to find cheaters. ProctorU , Respondus LockDown Tool , Faronics Insight , Safe Browser , ExamSoft , and Proctortrack , are examples of services that keep watch on students taking online tests.

      Respondus LockDown Tool restricts the student’s browser thereby cutting off students’ ability to communicate with outside sources during the test. A Dallas County Community College District Professor says, “I can’t imagine NOT using LockDown Browser! It has greatly improved my experience with online courses and testing.”

      ProctorU uses live proctors via webcams to prevent cheating. The test-taking student has to show the proctor their ID and the proctor takes a picture of the student to verify their identity. ProctorU ensures the integrity of the exam process by keeping an eye on the student via webcam and screen-sharing technology. The company has 700+ partner institutions and over 600 employees, showing strong growth over the 30 partners it had 5 years ago.

      Proctortrack verifies student identity with ID card, facial, and knuckle scans over a webcam. With continuous verification throughout the exam, ProctorTrack prevents students from receiving help from friends, unauthorized devices, textbooks, or notes and it blocks certain keystrokes and applications. Before installing and using these tools universities and schools should test them and make sure their professors are adequately trained. Each of these tools takes a slightly different approach to prevent or deter cheating during online examinations.

      Do they work?

      It’s important to note that these forms of catching cheaters are not perfect. For example, Turnitin compares a submitted paper to thousands of other papers to find similarities. Multiple papers might use the same quote as an example and the second and third papers to use it will be flagged as being partially plagiarized even if the student provided proper citation for the content in question.

      I have taken some online courses, but never with an online proctor. In my opinion this would cause added stress and anxiety to the student. When I take an online exam I have the pleasure of taking it at my convenience within a specified time period and I don’t need to feel rushed by other students, just the time limit. When I take an only exam I do my best to stay relaxed and might take a break for a minute or two to grab a drink or stand up. If a proctor was watching me via the webcam I would feel anxious and stressed and not sure if it would be ok to move around because the proctor might think I was cheating. Is it fair to put extra stress on individual students like this?

      Network analytics, such as Extreme Application Analytics , is a vital tool for educators, especially when students are taking online exams on campus. Analytics allows network IT personnel to constantly monitor network traffic to each student’s device through the school’s internal infrastructure, all the way to remote testing servers. It is a great tool to verify students are not accessing improper resources during testing and, if a worst case scenario strikes, IT can locate and resolve the issue immediately.

      Real life example

      The University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business, has eliminated cheating during exams without resorting to locking down student devices. Each student is given a different version of an exam, proctors constantly keep their eyes scanning student screens, and it’s fairly easy to tell if any screen changes when it shouldn’t. Student keystrokes are recorded, not so much to identify cheating as to confirm it. With these precautions, it is possible for students to use their own devices and still be confident that the test results are fair.

      How to catch students cheating

      It’s happened. You observe a student cheating on an exam. Or, you’ve identified that the student has committed plagiarism. What do you say to that student? What is your role in handling this situation?

      First, you need to gather information and consult with the UNT Office of Academic Integrity. Make sure you are familiar with the procedures and responsibilities for academic dishonesty at UNT by reviewing the UNT Student Academic Integrity Policy. You can find forms for filing for academic dishonesty here.

      Equally important is determining the most effective way to talk to student(s) involved about an issue like this. Teaching often tacitly invites a “Justice Ethic” that focuses on cultural rules or moral codes to be enforced with punishment of violations or a “Care Ethic” which views transgressions as mistakes that can be lessons leading to spiritual or personal growth. Every teacher wields a mix of both, which is why we recommend the following guidelines when talking to a student who you may suspect of academic misconduct:

      • ALWAYS give a student the benefit of the doubt, and properly treat them as innocent until proven guilty. Posture yourself as an advocate for student integrity, not a vindictive prosecutor.
      • It’s always better to frame an incident as a “lapse in good judgment” rather than a character flaw. Even good students can make poor decisions, so be empathetic. A defensive young student can quickly become a distraught and vindictive foe.
      • Always be fair and respectful. Treat every infraction as a problem to be solved together rather than an adversarial blame-game that emotionally escalates. Explore motives and focus on a shared solution instead of assigning condemnation.
      • Weigh and consider options for sanctions with a student so they maintain a modicum of choice in taking ‘the easy way or the hard way.’ This is particularly true for unintentional plagiarism. External review is usually harsher in punishment and will go on their permanent record. If you are perceived as helping the student to navigate an unfortunate lapse and primarily concerned with their education and well-being, they’re more likely to trust you for appropriate sanctions.
      • After a potentially contentious or sensitive meeting with a student, document it by e-mail with a summary of the discussion that objectively describes the incident and ends with agreed commitment to mutually solve or resolve the problem. Such a document, however, must be carefully crafted for both the student and a superior to review if necessary. It is not unusual for a desperate student to “go over your head” to superiors to gamble for leniency.
      • Be alert for signs of excessive emotional stress or disturbance, recommend counseling or other.

      For additional suggestions and guidelines, we recommend this list of tips from David Callahan, author of The Cheating Culture. After talking with many students from multiple campuses, he developed ten tips for talking with students about cheating. These tips address what Callahan considers to be the central question to deterring academic dishonesty: “What messages about cheating are most likely to change student attitudes and behavior?” He discusses messages such as talking about why cheating is harmful to students as well as others and provides ideas for talking about cheating in a context of world-wide injustice.

      Center for Learning Experimentation, Application, and Research. (2016). Teaching Resources for Engaged Educators [online training modules]. Denton, TX: University of North Texas.