Is it okay to report classmates cheating on exams?

  • Is it acceptable or ok to report on students cheating? Many times during a test or an exam, I have seen students in front of me either passing notes, or otherwise collaborating whenever the professor isn't looking.

    I don't want to get into trouble, and I don't know if it's "alright" to rat on fellow classmates. Part of me thinks they deserve being caught out, by virtue of trying to cheat their way through the course. However, I feel like I would get found out by other students if they were caught cheating.

    What is the right course of action here? To be clear, I would never raise an accusation in the middle of an exam; it would only lead to me being ostracized by my peers.

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  • Amal Murali

    Amal Murali Correct answer

    6 years ago

    Honor is doing what’s right when no one is looking. If your institution's Honor Code requires you to report cheating, I'd suggest you report the action to your professor or a higher authority. This is good for multiple reasons:

    • You can prevent the cheating student from gaining an unfair advantage over his or her fellow students.
    • If they're caught (and punished), they might realize their mistake. If you never report the cheating, this student might sail through the rest of the term repeating the same mistake.

    However make sure the suspected cheater doesn't come to know who reported him/her. You can meet the professor after the exam and explain what happened. If you don't wish to reveal the person's name, don't. If you're not comfortable with talking to a professor about your classmates, you can send an unsigned letter, explaining in detail what happened during the exam and if possible, include some ideas on how to stop them next time.

    Before you do anything, think of the consequences. What if the other student discovers you're the one who reported the cheating? How would you feel if you confronted the cheater directly? If you can't imagine any of these situations, I suggest you let it slide.

    Note that the concept of an "honor code" does not exist world-wide.

    Also... "You can prevent the cheating student from gaining an unfair advantage": this is only true if students are competing against each other for grades instead of each one trying to learn for themselves. If that's the case, I would question if the institution is actually interested that everyone learns and probably just walk away and find another place to study.

    I don't agree with your suggestion to " send an unsigned letter". If the action is correct one should assume all its consequences. Allowing an unsigned letter may have drastic consequences.

    "If your institution's Honor Code requires you to report cheating" -- so honor only exists where codified?

    @cassianoleal: Not quite true: your grades end up in your vita. Assuming that many students (in one area) compete for the same set of jobs, cheating "just" for better grades (never mention passing at all!) *is* gaining the cheater an advantage.

    @Raphael: Nope. That was just an example scenario. The OP seemed confused. By talking about the institution's Honor Code, I was just trying to give a friendly push. It'd help if people didn't take things too literally :)

    @AmalMurali: Well, an "if" without the "else" branch has a certain meaning to a computer scientist. ;) Also, keep in mind that not every culture feels the need to write up codes of honour but rely on decent upbringing.

    @Raphael: that does makes sense. On the other hand, I'd probably be wary of working for a company that choose employees by their uni grades. Maybe that's because I'm in I.T. and many of the most brilliant colleagues I had never even graduated in a related course. :)

    _this is only true if students are competing against each other for grades_ — Or for jobs. Or for internships. Or for grad school admissions. Or for fellowships. Or for research opportunities. Or for anything else that depends on your grades.

    What is honor? And what if the inofficial honor rules oppose those written ones?

    Anyway, the word "honor" has very bad connotations for me, because it was (and still is, in many parts of the world) to justify the crimes and social unequality. However, +1 for the last paragraph: what if you get exposed as a reporter?

    @JeffE if the jobs or research opportunities or anything of finacial value depends on something so easily gamed like notes, the system is bad and requires fixing.

    _the system is bad and requires fixing_ — _Every_ system can be gamed. Moreover, every system _is_ gamed. That does not imply that you should tolerate other people gaming the system. (On the other hand, any higher-education system that requires solidarity among students _against their instructors_ is fundamentally broken.)

    @Name: "If the action is correct one should assume all its consequences." - I strongly disagree with that reasoning. If the action is the correct one, there should not be any negative consequences. The fact that in reality there may very well be negative consequences is precisely because a correct action does not guarantee a correct reaction. It is very possible that the cheaters decide to act incorrectly (again) by punishing the one who acted correctly (by speaking up about their cheating). Hence, anonymity to protect the one speaking up may be crucial.

    @O.R.Mapper Let me I ask you a question. If somebody writes an unsigned letter to a judge saying that "I testify that X has killed Y". Can the judge condemn X based on this unsigned letter? Does such a letter have a value from the legal point of view?

    @Name: The information found in the letter provides a hint on where to pay a bit more attention, as pointed out in various other comments and answers here, during the next similar occasion.

  • As an instructor, I want to know if there is an environment that allows cheating. Even if the student can't provide proof or only told me afterwards or anonymously, I can take action on future exams by better proctoring, exam versioning, and seating charts.

    So telling the teacher afterward would protect individual students but improve the quality of the course overall, which is a win-win.

    Also, if there are people cheating, and the exam is prohibitively difficult without cheating, if a portion of the class does a lot better than they would given the resources you have available to yourself, the instructor will not realize that the exam was not possible to do without cheating, and next time will make the exam just as prohibitively difficult, thinking that the normally high performers are just being lazy.

    @JFA: I share the general sentiment, but you should probably not assume that student cheat only if the exam is "too hard".

    @Raphael Absolutely. It was an if (a AND b) then: type statement :P Both conditions must be present initially.

    As @BoratSagdiyev suggested, just reporting "many people are cheating" without giving out their names would likely solve the problem and would not inimicate you anyone.

    @Lohoris What if the examiner then decide to scrap the exam and have it done again? You'd (indirectly) hurt n students where only k << n did something wrong.

    @Raphael that would be a pretty assy thing to do, and I would wonder if laws/rules would allow him to do that anyway. If he did so then he _would_ be sure he would be labeled as the asshole-professor and that would actually _encourage_ cheating during his exam (or picking other exams if possible). However he could simply have a deeper oral session, in order to try spotting who cheated during the written one.

    deeper/oral pun not intended

    @Lohoris I'm not sure they'd have a choice *not* to redo the exam! If you *know* mass cheating occurred, you have to abide by the (written) rules. I agree that the action depends on the rules, though. (Note that students may also learn not to cheat, or to report cheaters by name if they report. It's disturbing that the only reaction you can imagine is "cheat more", which solves *no* problem.)

    @Raphael consider you are not giving any proof. Do you really think a professor can undo an exam because an anonymous tip told him someone was cheating? If that was so, I would go around reporting all exams just to prove that this is silly.

    @Lohoris If you have (targetted) suspicion, you can often identify cheaters by what they hand in. (Of course, my advice to *teachers* would be to create exams that are hard to cheat. Go ahead, bring all your material -- I don't care.)

    @Raphael 1. you do not have _targetted_ suspiscion: as we were suggesting, the report would not name offenders; 2. if you _do_ have a target anyway, they you could void _his_ exam, not everyone's.

    @Lohoris Well, you were asking about proof that cheating happened. If you suspect, you can check, even for all attendees. That's a lot of work, sure, but not unknown to happen. If you find copied answers, you know cheating happened. I agree that a reasonable consequence would be to fail those that you can show cheated and live with the rest. If the ratio of proven cheaters becomes so high that you have to doubt the integrity of the whole exam, I don't know what happens. (It's certainly a gedankenexperiment.)

    Have you ever cheated in your school life?

    In my country, desks/tables are distanced far wide apart during exams. Distance prevents others from passing notes to cheaters. There are a variety of other ways to cheat. They can include hand signals, when it comes to ticking boxes on papers. Worst of all, corrupt professors/teachers can abet cheating. One teacher from my country did that: he told students to draw a symbol as a code for their classroom identity. As examiners, teachers see only students' ID numbers on papers, not names, genders, races, etc. That is supposed to lessen dirty grading.

  • As a professor for over a quarter of a century, I can assure you that your prof would like to know if cheating is going on. When I've been made aware of such nefarious activities, I've been able to catch the culprits on a subsequent exam, by giving the cheaters slightly different versions of the test. Although students engaging in cheating are ultimately cheating themselves, it's still nice when they are caught. This lessens the chance they will make it to Wall Street or Med school, or into government, where their cheating can have serious repercussions for us all.

    I wouldn't like to have you as a professor, and I haven't cheated in an exam since primary school. You seem to be more interested in punishing the cheaters than in ... well, teaching. That would certainly make me question if I want to learn anything from you at all. If students are cheating on your exams, you should probably ask yourself first what could you be doing wrong that's leading and allowing them to cheat.

    @cassianoleal, are you saying that you want to learn from professors who don't mind if their students cheat?

    @cassianoleal: The fact is that people attend universities that have no business being there. They start having trouble and look for solutions. Few realize they are the problem -- the others blame teachers, the system and/or cheat. That's largely independent of the didactic skill of the teacher (provided they uphold a certain standard).

    @cassianoleal Proctoring exams is not teaching, it is part of our job but not related with passing knowledge from the instructor to the students. In an exam we test what the students learned so far, I don;t see the connection between catching cheaters in an exam and teaching... The only link between the two is the fact that if one is effective at catching cheaters, one gets a more accurate picture of what the students learned so far, which can actually improve one's teaching abilities after the midterms.

    "lessens the chance they will make it to Wall Street..." -- and it increases the prestige of the qualification the questioner ultimately gets, if it's generally believed that cheats would be caught, not awarded that qualification. Of course there's a gulf between one particular act of cheating and the general reputation of the institution and its qualifications, but small things add up. In general if you didn't care about the prestige of your degree you'd buy it online (and if all you cared about was the learning, not the qualification, you wouldn't bother graduating after taking the classes).

    Excuse me, but I think that people who heavily cheat during studies would have better chance to get to Wall Street or government, and feel there comfortable. Those who find cheating unacceptable may end up like Snowden.

    As a high school teacher (briefly), I found it easier to *assume* some students would cheat and identified them by handing out slightly-different versions of a quiz early in the year. They get an F which doesn't impact their long-term grade (it's a small quiz), and it proves a useful deterrent for the rest of the year. Best of all, I didn't even have to accuse them of cheating, which any student would of course deny -- the F was earned by their answers.

    worse, the cheater devalues the effort of everyone else taking the exam, reducing effectively the market value of a degree from that institution as if unchecked underqualified people will get a degree and the market will notice that.

    1. This is a personal choice; there is no definite answer.

    2. What is "ethical" depends on the culture. In Russia reporting someone doing something wrong or mildly illegal is generally considered unacceptable, whereas in the United States it is generally considered acceptable.

    3. If you don't want to get into trouble, don't do anything.

    4. In most cases the instructor probably knows that there is some cheating going on. This is a part of life.

    5. Try to see both sides of the coin. Imagine a single mother with two children working two jobs and taking some classes at night. She doesn't really need this calculus anyway, and it is not even her major. Would the world come to an end if she unfairly gets a B- so she could graduate? Life is really a complicated thing... (As a full disclosure, as an instructor I used to be very particular about punishing cheating, even when no hard evidence was present. However, as we get older, we learn that the world is not black and white...)

    I upvoted this answer not because I fully agree. I think this is an opinion needs to be heard. I may not agree with you, but I must defend for you.

    I disagree strongly with the "Imagine a single mother..." argument. Yes, people who need extra help and support to succeed in higher education should get that support; no, this support should not come in the form of "look the other way so they can cheat on an exam"

    Fully agree. In some countries, reporting someone cheating would make you that "bad boy" who collaborates with the people in charge and brakes the solidarity, and could even severe your chance for academic career.

    @ff524: the question remaining for students who agree with what you say is, if they think their fellow students are not getting the support they "should" get, *then* is it moral to look the other way? I think I could argue either side of the case, but anyway ignoring all cheats because some of them might be cheating for a reason I support doesn't make any sense. Furthermore, I disbelieve that cheating on tests is a major source of social justice at any institution I've attended ;-)

    I'd argue that a culture that tolerates or even encourages cheating can profit from an academic system that teaches the opposite. But then, I'm not from such a culture. (Usually, cheating hurts the whole society one way or the other. That "obvious" for things like tax evasion but it also applies to academic fraud.)

    @Łukasz웃Lツ So people in these countries don't understand that by cheating in such a setting, you don't "show it" to those "in charge" but in fact hurt yourself and your peers? (I know that this is true for cheaters in my culture, it's just that they (have to) learn otherwise at some point.)

    @Raphael in my country, most people would be shocked, that some culture can tolarate, and even encourage denunciations. Yes, cheating is considered bad, but it's like spitting on the floor. Denunciation is considered something like thieft or assault - so morally much worse. If you haven't lived in the country where for centuries the government was your worse enemy, you could find it difficult to understand, why denunciators are met with such an ostracism.

    @Łukasz웃Lツ That's fair. Your loss, imho, but understandable. I think there's enough material on this page that demonstrates that cultures with "traditionally stable" systems seem to assign a higher "level" to cheating in academia. (Also, I'd never use "denounce" in this context. You denounce someone to an aggressive entity if they're doing something that's unlawful but not necessarily bad. You *report* a crime to a legal system. In this here case, nobody is going to be killed and maybe not even thrown out of university.)

    @Łukasz웃Lツ Note also how tolerating cheating only leads to more cheating, as people will *have* to cheat in order to remain competitive. I hope that we can agree on a rational level that an academic system which assigns degrees based on cheating is almost worthless. I believe a culture should support better systems. (But, of course, that's a tough process.)

    @Raphael and note that tolerating reporting can lead to more reporting, and the people will have to report the others (for real or fictious crimes) to remain confident. That's how it worked in socialist states. Your thinking can be inverted. It's the best to assume that **both** cheating and reporting is reprehensible, and choose the lesser of two evils in given situation.

    @Łukasz웃Lツ I don't follow. Why do I have to report non-cheaters? Maybe that's a mindset I can't get with my cultural bias. Of course, you don't want to encourage people to spout unfounded claims: wrongly accusing people of cheating (repeatedly) should have similarly severe consequences as cheating itself. (It's slander, after all.) Also, in a system inspired by a state of law (!= former socialist states) you can of course not punish a cheater unless you can prove it to a reasonable degree of certainty. For me, that goes without saying; it's important for the whole, sure.

    @Raphael the democracy can turn into dictature within a decade. The culture can't be changed so fast. I suspect the cultures that doesn't accept reporting are more immune to dictatures, and there may be a reason for professors to fight against cheating, and in the same time punishing people who report cheaters. But it's the question for history or politics, maybe I should ask it there...

    I think @Łukasz웃Lツ has a point in that unquestioning obedience to rules is a luxury of people who do not live in dysfunctional systems. Furthermore, even the noblest institution may occasionally have a few bad rules that must be opposed. Ethically, reporting is far from a no-brainer.

    @Sergey Also your point #5 is a variant of the "starving homeless man steals bread" dilemma. Most legal systems today would still prosecute and punish it as theft, although many would consider the extenuating circumstances. The fact that she feels strongly pressured to break the rule would not be usually taken to mean that the rule doesn't apply to her.

    @Superbest Actually, the U.S. (educational) system is the one that is dysfunctional in this context. Cheating shouldn't really provide such as incredible advantage so as to motivate so many people to cheat. I hardly ever cheated in high school/college, with only a couple exceptions, because everyone knew that grades meant nothing. In the U.S. there is so much formalism and so much competition, and the grades are so much more important than knowledge, that many people do cheat. Where is the boundary between being ethical and following stupid rules?

    @Superbest it goes even further, because it's hard to call a rule something that is neither written nor enforced, only wished (and only by some). Yes, many academics dream of world, where your position depends only on your intelectual abilities, but we have 'cooperative exam help', quotas, nepotism etc.

    Well, that's a whole different can of worms. What do grades even measure? Is it mastery of the material? But that's very unrealistic, in real life, people are allowed to look things up on the internet and ask friends for help (and closed-book exams would not test this crucial ability). Is it resourcefulness? Clearly the cheater is resourceful, he has applied a very original solution and cheated without getting caught. Is it capacity for tedious work? Why do we value people who insist on doing things the hard way even when an easier way exists?

    @SergeyOrshanskiy I like the last sentence. World is not black and white. Sometimes you need to let it go.

    Sorry, had to downvote for "If you don't want to get into trouble, don't do anything." - I consider lowering the value of my degree as "getting into trouble".

    @ff524: How about clear the fluff GE requirements away (there's about 6 GE requirements I had to take that were obviously absolutely worthless). If you can get that sold ... Gaa I can't believe I'm advocating ignoring cheating. Too wrongs so rarely make a right we ignore the possibility and make a proverb the other way.

    @Joshua If the requirements aren't doing anything productive, they should be eliminated for *all* students. Why should students who don't have exceptional life circumstances have to suffer through worthless coursework? If the requirements *are* productive, they shouldn't be ignored for *any* students.

    @ff524: Because the burden of improving society by filling out education (I'm looking at you Cultural Geography) shouldn't be imposed on those struggling to survive. It would be a different case if we could fix the demand to get unnecessary four year degrees to get a job that pays enough to raise a family.

  • Fundamentally, this is a question with no easy answer. Ethics would state that you should definitely report someone violating the "honor code" (or whatever equivalent of it your university has) by cheating on an exam. However, there are also some problems with this:

    • It may be difficult for the exam proctor to prove that cheating has taken place, even if you have observed the communication.
    • Reporting it after the exam is not really possible, because again it will be impossible to prove afterward.
    • Making an accusation during the examination could lead to disruptions for many students, including yourself.
    • If you publicly raise an accusation of cheating during an examination, this could lead to ostracism from your classmates, which may be counterproductive to your educational career (in the present class and in the future).

    So I think you need to set those two issues against one another and decide what is the better alternative for you.

    "Ethics would state that you should definitely report someone..." - not at all necessarily. It depends on your code of ethics.

    There's also the possibility that you aren't correct, or aware of the full situation.

  • I'm a college professor and I have very little tolerance for cheating. Yes, I would like to know if it's going on, and, yes, I expect students who witness it to tell me so I can take preventive action.

    I also used to be a competitive golfer. In a tournament every golfer is expected to monitor the actions of the other players in his group to make sure no one bends or breaks the rules. Since tournament officials cannot be everywhere on the course at all times, each individual is responsible for protecting the field by making sure that no one gets an unfair advantage over the field. That is a responsibility that competitive golfers take very seriously.

    The student, likewise, needs to assure that there is a level playing field for everyone. Reporting cheaters is one way of doing just that.

    Telling your professor that he did a bad job supervising the exam is highly commendable, but takes guts. Ratting on individual fellow students is however very, very low, and expecting students to do so is no better. University is not a golf club.

  • On my honor, I have neither given nor received any unauthorized aid on this exam.

    I had to write (and sign) this statement on almost all of my exams throughout my university career. My university had a very draconian policy with regard to cheating, as I mentioned in a comment: the default punishment for a first-time offender was expulsion, if the case came before the Honor Council. (Of course, not every case brought before the Council was determined to be an offender, in which case there was no punishment at all. On rare occasions, the punishment was something other than expulsion, usually suspension.) As implied by the statement above, it was against the university's policy both to receive (unauthorized) help on an exam and to give it: both the person passing the note and the one receiving it would get in trouble with the Honor Council, even if the former individual did all of the exam work himself. (You were not punished if someone cheated by looking over your shoulder, but they would slap you on the wrist and tell you to be more careful in the future.)

    The integrity of the university was very important in that micro-culture, and I think that if you asked this question of anyone there -- student or professor -- you'd get the same answer, "yes."

    This led many professors comfortable doing things like assigning take-home exams which were closed-book.

    All that said, the answer to this question does depend on the university's culture (and the culture of the country). For example, when I told an Italian friend of mine that I had a take-home exam and I was not permitted to use my textbook or notes while doing it, he assumed that everyone in the class would be cheating. When I then told him about the quoted statement above that I had to write and sign on the exam, his view of the situation flipped: if I had to write and sign something like that, of course nobody would cheat! I find the sudden shift in opinion an interesting insight into his own culture.

    In what country you have studied?

    @Łukasz웃Lツ, United States

    "You were not punished if someone cheated by looking over your shoulder, but they would slap you on the wrist and tell you to be more careful in the future." -- wait, what? During my exams I barely focussed more than two feet from my nose for three hours at a stretch. Now it's my responsibility to make sure the people behind me aren't peeking at my paper? I get that honor causes people not to cheat, I don't quite get that honor causes them to look around behind them during exams, just in case ;-)

    @SteveJessop, actually, not that I think it was my job, but I also had to be careful not to "let" other students cheat from me. Some exams, we got constant (every 30 mins and the beginning of the exam) reminders to "keep our finished answers face down" or "put them in to the exam folder". It's not as uncommon as you think :)

    @penelope: oh sure, I don't mind that the routine I followed involved some anti-cheat elements. It's just totally alien to me that I might have any awareness of what the person behind me is doing during an exam, or that *I* would be given a verbal warning for carelessness by a student council if they're doing something bad :-)

    @SteveJessop Well, in my case, it was not a student council. But it was very similar to the described situation, and especially since it's totally alien to you, I'm glad somebody made the community aware that such things _do exist_ :)

  • Academically, it is in your best interest to report it. If the class is curved, the cheaters are not only unfairly outshining you, but they are unfairly lowering your grade. Even if it's not curved, unless it's an enormous class, the professor's perceptions of who did well may still be influenced by who did how well. If a student that the professor expects to score low (based on their in-class participation) instead cheats and scores high, the professor may decide that the exam was easier than he originally thought, and value your honestly earned mark less.

    In the long term, if cheating is rampant in your school, this will soon become known. The value of your degree will drop even if you didn't cheat, because how can I know you didn't get your degree by being one of the infamous cheaters, and managing to avoid getting caught?

    In a class where all exams are multiple choice and grading is completely objective and not curved, cheaters have no effect on you (except for the long term consequences stated above). Only then you could say that pragmatically, neither reporting nor not reporting helps or hurts you appreciably, so you might as well not bother.

    But then there is also the ethical aspect. Cheating is bad, you are expected to not cheat and report cheaters by the instructor and school administration, and you probably even signed agreements and made honor pledges to this effect. So, it would be dishonest for you not to report it - not reporting isn't even a valid choice, it would be a dereliction of your contractual and ethical obligations. In practice, you will never "get caught" and be punished for failing to report cheating - but whether you get caught is immaterial to ethics.

    So, speaking in terms of your credentials in school and beyond, there is absolutely no reason not to report it, and strong reasons against not reporting (eg. you promised in writing that you would report when you enrolled). It would be extremely unusual for a professor to somehow punish you for reporting.

    But that's not the whole story: Like it or not, the people who you reported will hate you for it. They will tell their friends to hate you for it. If they are popular, you will quickly become very unpopular. Not all your classmates may have the same concept of integrity, and some may hate you for "siding with the establishment and betraying your comrades" (as they see it).

    Your classmates may one day end up being your colleagues. If you get a reputation as a "rat" who has dubious allegiances, and cannot be relied on to have his friends' back (even though the cheaters are probably not your friends, they are only united with you in their struggle to get good grades) against a perceivedly antagonistic and unfair institution, it may become difficult for you to be seen as trustworthy.

    Consider how in history there have been oppressive, unjust regimes which employed "informants" to report on people who try to circumvent or oppose the oppression. Clearly, this is not the same as reporting cheating: For one, academic cheating policies are clearly just, ethical and reasonable (unlike oppressive regimes). But the point is that following a rule is not automatically a just action. It is hard to definitively say what is just and what is unjust, so a lack of skepticism towards even apparently just rules is taken by some as evidence of inability to reject rules even when they are unjust, and generally lack of critical thinking ability.

    To answer your question, you must ask yourself: Are you an idealist, or a pragmatist? If an idealist, there is no question that you should report the cheating. But if a pragmatist, unfortunately, it depends. You must further ask, which do you value more: Your reputation among your peers, or your formal academic credentials?

    Also, note that reporting may not *necessarily* harm your reputation among your peers: If your peers happen to value this sort of idealistic adherence to rules, then you reporting is a win-win (but I feel like you would not ask the question if you believed that to be the case).

    Just a note: "speaking in terms of your career in school and beyond, there is absolutely no reason not to report it" is too idealistic, because many professors do cheat themselves, to receive funding etc. (just look on pharmacy), and they may not let you stay on the university if you'd have the opinion of a reporter. It's sad if you have to choose between your moral values and the academic career, but the decision for someone who loves science is no way obvious in that case.

    That's true - although I'm used to the Western idea of professors who are opposed to cheating, if you suspect that your professor is himself of poor integrity - he may indeed try to punish you out of solidarity with his "fellow" cheaters. But I would consider this option, as I noted, very unlikely - unless you do go to one of those few schools where this sort of issue with the faculty is very prevalent and obvious.

    You say that "you are expected cheaters by the instructor and school administration, and you probably even signed agreements and made honor pledges to this effect." Do many schools really have policies like this? It seems like bad policy to me. Anyway, promising to do something (like reporting cheaters) and then failing to do it is not necessarily dishonest; it may just be a change of heart or a lack of strength. Not every rule creates a moral obligation, even if there is a moral reason for the rule.

  • Maybe German culture is different in this regard but I would never report someone for cheating but instead talk to the cheaters personally. However in areas were people are in danger if the students lack knowledge through cheating (pilots, medicine, ...) I would tell them to report themselves or I would do it myself.

    In the areas like pilotry or medicine the competences of the candidate are independently prooved, so cheating during studies wouldn't affect the public security. Students tend to forget what they've learned, if they were learning hard, but shortly before the exam.

    @Łukasz웃Lツ Well, who's to say the cheater won't also try to cheat on the independent appraisal, since he/she already learned that there is no consequence to cheating?

    @Superbest because on the state exam the other participants are his/hers direct rivals? Or because the rules are enforced better? It's logically to assume they are, in countries where the examinators doesn't care about the just exams, in the cases, where your future career depends on the exam, they'd catch cheaters only to enforce bribes (and protect cheaters that bribed them).

    @Łukasz웃Lツ It would probably not be ideal to have your schools double up as training academies where cheaters can practice cheating on "easy proctors", and gain enough experience to beat the "hard proctor" at the final, important exam. But I agree that the issue becomes more complicated with career-deciding exams.

    I strongly disagree this stance generally represents "German culture" (without claiming that the stance of invariably reporting cheaters is any more generally wide-spread in Germany).

    @O.R.Mapper Maybe you come from a different part of Germany (east here)? In my area, someone who reported a fellow pupil or student for cheating would have a really hard time. Maybe that's because of our Stasi past that we are really fed up with people reporting on others.

    @KonradHöffner: South-West here. Possibly that explains the difference.

  • It strongly depends on the academic culture in your country. In most Western countries, the answer would be yes. The cheating is considered something unethical, and it's something one should be ashamed of. You should, still, do it (the reporting, not the cheating!) as anonymously as possible.

    However, in some other countries, the group solidarity is more important that the written rules and reporting to the officials the minor cases (where nobody is hurt) is considered unethical.

    For example, in Poland, I would strongly discourage anyone from reporting the exam cheaters to the proffesors, because if they get caught (the reporters, not the cheaters), they risk really serious social consequences in the student community, which may severe their future opportunities (even for accademic career). Even if the professors are actively against cheating, they may feel uncomfortable with someone reporting it, and they may share that information with collegues, which may end up being public in end effect.

    It's the professor's obligation to assure noone is cheating. Nowadays, thanks to Internet, it's quite easy to keep up with the newest techniques. If they don't do that, in some cases, it's even possible they don't mind when students use 'a little help'.

    Because of a lot of comments I'd like to express my personal opinion: cheating is bad. But the system that fights cheating by encouraging the students to report their collegues is bad too.

    You can always report anonymously. Also, one might want to think about with which other indicators this "group solidarity > rules"-mindset correlates, that is whether "written rules" maybe, just maybe should become implicit rules for the sake of betterment.

    @Raphael but you should be aware, you can't be fully anonymous. The other students will notice that **someone** have reported, and may found out, who that was, because the circle of the suspects is always limited. As a student, you have little to gain and much to lose. If you want to change the system, the best chance is to become a professor and enforce strong anti-cheating rules (which slowly happens).

    That's true (if sad) as long as your own success is not impeded by not joining in with the cheating (which I assume for the OP, otherwise the question would be hypocritical at best). Reasons have been given why this is not always the case. So, one option means you (maybe) lose socially while the other means you (quite certainly) lose w.r.t. grades. If we can agree that the third option (nobody cheats) would be best, we can work towards that.

    @Raphael I can't say for sure it's worldwide so, but generally the students are not in charge for changing the academic systems, that are the professors that do. I've just pointed out the risks, which are not worth the game of the pride of having a bit better notes (which has practically no importance in workplace), unless you're in the country where cheating is widely considered something bad (so, not only by professors, but also for students).

    @Łukasz웃Lツ In the U.S. there is much less connection between different students. There are not going to unite to find out, how is the suspect.

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