Examinations are in full swing and students are either preparing to pass their exams fairly, preparing to cheat, preparing to fail or failing to prepare. I have never had the desire or need to cheat in an exam. If I’m not prepared, then I accept the possibility of failing. Unfortunately not all share this view as attempts to cheat in exams at UWI is ridiculously frequent. During my undergraduate years I never thought it was possible to effectively cheat. Exams are carefully monitored as invigilators search students upon entry to prevent the smuggling of electronics, paperwork etc and vigilantly walk around during the examination. Students are also not allowed to write on ny part of their bodies before or after starting the examination and are not allowed to leave the room unchaperoned once the examination has started. This sounds like a pretty solid cheater proof way of conducting exams. But students still attempt to cheat, most, unsuccessfully. It was not until I started invigilating exams that I realize how clever some students are with regards to cheating.
How Medical Sciences Students Cheat
It is well-known that the medical sciences (MBBS) program repeats the multiple choice papers yearly so incoming medical sciences students can benefit from having all the answers ahead of time. Some students memorize the questions and answers and record them then pass them down to the newer students the following year. In an attempt to minimize new students having the questions ahead of time, no student is allowed to leave the exam room with the question paper. I don’t believe that passing on the questions to newer students is cheating! It is the duty of the lecturers to make changes to the examinations yearly. That would solve a simple issue.
So how do they cheat in examinations? Well one of the duties of an invigilator is to chaperone students who need to use the bathroom. It has been noted however that med students use the bathroom significantly more than any other group of students on campus. At times one student will use the bathroom as much as 6 times during a 2 hour examination. Ridiculous! It has been determined that this is done to have the invigilators distracted to allow classmates to collude and quickly share answers. Very clever.
Last week I caught red-handed a student who has mastered the art of cheating in examinations at UWI. A student sitting the course “PHTH****” used the strategy that would easily fool any inexperienced invigilator. At the start of the examination she saw me approaching her desk and asked me if I could throw away her apple remnants. Not pleased with her request I requested that she wait until I could get some paper towels as her saliva and my hand would certainly not make direct contact. While she waited I signed the receipts I had but she couldn’t wait so she asked another invigilator. By the time I was done signing I noticed her unnecessarily ‘doing her hair’ while she peeked over at her colleagues multiple choice paper. I figured it was a ‘one-time-peek’ so I ignored it. I noticed she kept asking invigilators to do things for her whenever they were nearby and as soon as they left she would take another peek. I went to her area to monitor the situation and that was when another invigilator told me he saw her looking at her classmates paper while she ‘fixed’ he hair. She saw me close by and still made attempts to copy. For the duration of the exam her question paper was fixed on one page, yet she was answering all the questions. Strange! She saw that I was a potential threat and wanted me out of her space. She called me and reminded me that she had asked me to throw away her apple remnants! Mind you, another invigilator had already taken care of this! It was at this point I decided to make permanent residence in her presence and stood between her and her classmate, blocking the path to her future, covering the light at the end of the tunnel, crushing her hopes and dreams. This didn’t make her happy so immediately she had a flu, forcing a sneeze and trying to unblock a stuffy nose. She asked me to get her some paper towel. I stood firm as I told her to wait. I had another invigilator take my place after a quick nonverbal update and I went for the paper towel. I then had her moved to another seat and suddenly she could answer no question on the paper, she was the first person to leave the exam room.
Upon further inquiries I found out this wasn’t her first attempt to cheat. In another exam two weeks ago she brought a sanitary napkin in a clear plastic bag along with her stationery. During the examination she asked a male invigilator to take her to the bathroom. She took out the sanitary napkin in the exam room and took it to the bathroom where she ‘made the change’. The time taken to make the change, the sound of paper in the bathroom and her refusal to wash her hands (even after it was noted) led us to become suspicious of her actions. Who changes a sanitary napkin in the middle of a 2 hour exam? Not before, not after, during!
These events have led to planned changes which will prevent this, but her effort to cheat was the most significant I have seen in a UWI exam. It takes too much work to cheat though, it make more sense to invest efforts in preparation.
Aldeam Facey 2017