Prevent Cheating on Exams

The following steps may help reduce cheating on multiple-choice and midterm examinations.

  • Draw your students' attention to the sections of the Handbook on Student Rights and Responsibilities that concern academic offences (Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures, Section III, Articles 15-19) and possible consequences for committing them (Articles 55 and 57). There is less cheating in institutions in which students are aware of official policies.
  • Explain to your students what cheating is. This is important for at least two reasons: It removes ambiguity. It also reinforces that you and the University care about academic integrity.
  • All multiple-choice exams with more than 29 questions written by more than 24 students per version are subjected to the Exam Security Computer Monitoring Program. Professors are encouraged to include at least 35 questions in multiple-choice exams, because questions for which many students choose the same wrong answer are excluded from the analysis. The program is run as a matter of course on multiple choice examinations submitted to Enrolment Services for grading. Students are officially notified of the use of the program in the University Calendar. However, to deter cheating, students writing a multiple-choice exam should be informed of the program on the exam itself or, at the very least, before the exam starts. The following will do the trick:
    "Responses on multiple-choice examinations are normally checked by the Exam Security Computer Monitoring Program. The program detects pairs of students with unusually similar answer patterns on multiple-choice examinations. Data generated by this program can be used as admissible evidence, either to initiate or corroborate an investigation or a charge of cheating under Section 16 of the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures."
  • Before the midterm, read the following:
    Students are reminded that cheating in any examination is considered a serious offence that could lead to expulsion from the University. Students are not permitted to have, in their possession, any unauthorized materials during an examination.
  • Use multiple versions of the exam, so that no one is seated next to, in front of, or behind a student writing the same version. With everyone in the room writing the same exam, four versions are needed. For example, use versions 1 and 2 alternating on odd rows and versions 3 and 4 alternating on even rows. Four versions can be generated by scrambling the order of questions and/or answers. Some scrambling software, such as Respondus, is free for McGill faculty and staff.
    Visit and enter Respondus in the Product Search box on the left-hand navigation bar to access this software.
  • University policy stipulates that at least two versions of multiple-choice examinations are required for midterm and final examinations. Four versions of multiple-choice examinations are recommended for large courses (200+ students) and where it is not possible to seat students in alternate rows. All instructors are required to abide by this policy. See the Policy on multiple versions of multiple-choice examinations [.rtf] for more information.
  • Students should return their answer sheet or exam booklet with the exam paper, so that you can check that they have entered the appropriate version number. Doing this is much easier if the versions are color coded and, therefore, easily sorted.
  • Use randomized assigned seating for midterms.
    Many classrooms have labelled seating; this makes it easier to assign students to random seating. The procedure is easy to implement by posting students' IDs and assigned seats outside the classroom shortly before the exam or possibly displaying them on the overhead projector as students enter the classroom. Another approach is to hand out tickets with seat numbers as students enter the room. Students seated next to strangers are less likely to cheat. Once students are seated, the invigilators use copies of the plan to verify that students are in their assigned seats.
  • Whatever method you use to assign seating, even if it is to let students choose their own seats, make sure to have seated students sign in, indicating their name, ID, signature, and seat number. Students should also enter their seat numbers on their exams and/or answer sheets/booklets. If the seats don't have numbers, simply pass one sign-in sheet down each row, have students fill in the relevant information; then, indicate the row number from front to back on each sheet. You must keep a copy of the seating plan / sign-in sheet. Without a seating plan, suspected cases of cheating identified by the Exam Security Monitoring Program cannot be pursued easily. Requiring students to sign in is an indication that midterm examinations procedures are taken seriously.
  • If you discover cheating, report the incident to the disciplinary officer in the student's faculty. (TAs should report the incident to the course instructor, who is responsible for reporting it to the disciplinary officer.)
  • Students can be reminded of the importance of honest work, and to aid in this, an academic integrity statement may be included in the assessment. Students can be required to acknowledge that they have read the statement.
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