Teachers Share The Most Genius Act Of Cheating They’ve Ever Seen
The phrase “cheaters never prosper” has been used by adults for decades. When it comes to the classroom, however, many students throw that out the window. Over the years, the number of students that freely admit to cheating has been on the rise. For teachers, having to deal with cheaters can be tiresome. Over time, the ways to cheat in class have become increasingly creative and sophisticated. It’s not just simply passing hidden notes around anymore. In order to catch students red-handed, today’s teachers have to sharpen their skills.
These teachers shared some of the most intriguing ways students have tried to fool them in class. Some of them gave the students credit for trying to pull a fast one. Others simply failed the students on the spot. Whatever the outcome, these students all eventually learned that cheating goes nowhere.
#1 Work That Skirt
One of my students wrote notes on a sheet of paper and stuck it on the inside of her skirt. Now I knew, but it was for math and I teach English, so nothing happened. I just heard her talking to her friend about it in class. Personally, I thought it was pretty smart because no one is going to tell you to pull up your skirt in order to check.
#2 They Call It ‘Self-Directed Learning’
I was a TA, and one of my students was doing exceptionally well on tests. I knew he was up to something. Turns out, the sneaky guy would read the whole textbook over course of the semester and solve all the questions at the end of the chapters; even the additional ones. You know, the ones that are there but never ever get assigned or looked at. What a devious guy.
#3 Code Of Silence
I was supervising a final chemistry exam along with another coworker. Not 15 minutes in, a hand slams down on a desk and I turn around expecting the worst, only to see my coworker angrily shouting at a pair of really frightened 10th graders. Amidst the shouting, I caught the words, “Morse code.” The guy proceeded to take them to the office. I called a hallway supervisor to take over and ran after the group.
Apparently, the kids were silently tapping the answers amongst themselves in Morse code. Not even with their fingernails, just their fingertips. I never heard a thing, my coworker happened to catch “B” in Morse code or something. I honestly thought he finally went crazy solely because of his appearance. Picture Robin Williams in Jumanji going, “WHAT YEAR IS IT.” I’m 100% sure that if this coworker weren’t in the room, they’d have gotten away with it for sure.
#4 Made From The Best Stuff On Earth
Some high school kids recreated a Snapple label where the nutrition panel on the back had all the answers, formulas, etc. They only got caught because I’d never seen the flavor before and wanted to see how much sugar was in it.
#5 Getting The IMAX Experience
For this particular math exam, I told the students they could only use one side of a 3×5-inch index card for equations. One of my students wrote in blue and red ink then pulled out a pair of archaic red- and blue-lensed pair of 3D glasses. When you look through the blue lens, you could see the blue writing, and when you see through the red lens, you only see the red writing. Definitely creative, but I told him he couldn’t use it.
#6 Wrap It Up
There was one kid in my class with gum. He took the gum wrapper, “dropped” it and the guy behind him picked up. This went on for like eight more people. I did see this and gave them all zeroes, but also congratulated them for that (the reason it went on so long was that I couldn’t stop laughing).
#7 Play It By Ear
During a keyboard harmony lab exam (a room with 28 keyboards), one devious student had previously recorded another student’s perfect performance of the exam piece on MIDI. The cheater played the recorded piece on MIDI but used all the right-hand motions on his keyboard at the back of the room to try to fool me that he was actually playing it in real-time.
Unfortunately for him, the student he recorded happened to be my piano student, and I recognized the distinctive playing immediately. I didn’t embarrass him during class by calling him out on it, but dealt with the problem privately; a lesson he told me later that would stay with him for the remainder of his life. I’m just glad I could help.
#8 A Familiar Scene
One kid wrote the answers to a history test tiny on a piece of paper and rolled it into a clear blue pen only visible from maybe a foot away. I only caught him because he wasn’t playing it cool trying to read the pen. Also, it tipped me off because I did that once in high school.
#9 Play Your Cards Right
I taught kindergarten. There’s a cognitive development period that occurs between the ages of 5 and 7 where children become much more aware of the perspective of others, and therefore, they learn how to deceive their peers. I could always tell a student was a little ahead of the curve when they would cheat during games or activities.
I caught one student during a math game deal out all of the low-number cards to his peers while he kept all of the high-number cards. He kept winning every single round. I walked around the classroom and stopped to watch these two students. The student who was dealt the low cards had no awareness that he had been dealt a bad hand and was happily playing while the other student won every round and was cheering. I had to stop the game to scold the student who was cheating, but in the back of my head, I was just impressed that he was smart enough to cheat.
#10 Backup Plan Gone Wrong
I used to have students leave their phones at the front of the room so they couldn’t cheat. Twice, I caught students with second phones. It was so dumb because they used their second phones to go to the course site and I could see who was on the course site. There was even a record of the exact time and exactly what resources they looked at. Both claimed it was a misunderstanding.
#11 Smoke And Mirrors
Someone came to the test room early and taped a sheet of notes underneath the desk. I thought it was odd that he was there so early. He wanted to make sure that he sat in that seat. He hid a small mirror in his lap so he could read the notes underneath the desk.
However, in the age of smartphones, anyone who continuously looks down at their lap is always on the proctor’s radar. I saw the reflection of the lights above him on his face, found the mirror, and he got a zero on the exam.
#12 Send Me A Signal
A couple of students made a system of hand signals to communicate answers during a test. Your hand in a fist on the top-left corner meant the answer was A, palm down was B, etc. To be honest, if they were smart enough to come up with such an elaborate system of cheating, they should have just put in the effort on the material for the class.
#13 Needle In A Haystack
One student used a sewing needle to gently scratch answers into the yellow paint on a pencil without breaking the surface of the paint. It was almost invisible unless you turned it at a certain angle. You’re able to cram tons of information on there if your dexterity with a sewing needle is good enough. Pretty inventive stuff, and all for an A.
#14 Every Day I Write The Book
We allow our freshmen to use a 3×5 handwritten notecard on their final exams. One sneaky kid took a razor blade and sliced the notecard almost completely in half so it was a book and wrote more information on the inside. Not quite cheating, but almost. I let him use it (points for creativity, basically), and now I’m explicit about how they can modify their card.
#15 Getting Those Nails Done
I had two students work together in my AP Microbiology class. The day before the test, one student asked me to go print something out. While I was gone, he must’ve swiped a text. The other student wrote the answers ON HER FINGERNAILS. I was only tipped off because she was dumb enough to answer every question correctly and finish in eight minutes.
This girl was already failing the class. Additionally, the class average was 73, and only half-finished within the time period. That was my first year teaching AP. I had only ever taught standard up until that time, and I wasn’t used to students caring enough to cheat. I have learned, and now every test has three different versions.
#16 Call Her For Your Free Reading
I once failed a student for cheating on an exam. She later complained and wanted to know why she had failed. When I explained that she had cheated, she informed me that she was in fact psychic. She had apparently foretold the exam questions and memorized a description verbatim from Answers.com. I calmly informed her that was still plagiarism and she still failed because she hadn’t cited and quoted the source material. I strongly encouraged her to take it to the Dean of Students where we could discuss her psychic abilities before the rights and responsibilities board. She never took me up on that.
#17 The Exorcist
Not exactly smart or creative, but the conversation after definitely was. In a third grade classroom, the students had weekly homework packets that were due on Fridays. Two or three Fridays go by where students who always would turn their homework in, for some reason did not. They would argue that they did turn it in, but we couldn’t find a packet with his or her name on it.
I was student teaching so I offered to check homework on Friday. I noticed that a student, let’s call him Ben, had erased the original name on the packet and written his own (it was very obvious, half of the original student’s name was still clearly visible as his name was short). I showed my supervising teacher this and we realized he had been doing it for weeks to other random students (probably whichever packet was on top of the pile when he arrived in the classroom).
When we sat Ben down to show him we knew what he was doing and talk to him about, we asked him why he did it. Ben said that the voices in his head told him to do it. He said that there were two voices in his head and he tried to listen to the good one but the bad one was louder sometimes and he couldn’t help it. We also found really weird and creepy books in his backpack. His parents did not speak English (my supervising teacher spoke Spanish) so I’m not 100% sure how the conversation with his parents went. I wonder what he’s doing these days.
#18 Always On Time
I was teaching time in Grade 5. I started every class with heads down on the desk. I’d say go and the kids had to put their hands up when they thought 60 seconds were up. Some were early, some were late, but one kid was right on 60. The next day we did it again, and it was the same thing: he raised his hand right on 60. The third day in a row, he did it again and I thought he just had the perfect pitch of timing. A few months later, I was talking about how using all the resources available to you in the room wasn’t cheating. Some kid piped up and says, “Like when Kevin was listening to his analog watch during the timing contest?” Yep. Like that.
#19 A True Businessperson
I was a TA for an English class. I noticed that a student in the back would periodically tap the student directly in front of them during a test. The student in front (let’s call them X) would never turn around or say anything, aside from shrugging off the person tapping them. I thought nothing of it, just one student being annoying to another.
A couple of weeks later, a different student was sitting behind X, also tapping them randomly during a test. At this point, I thought student X was being harassed by a group. I asked X and the student behind them to stay after class. Before I even opened my mouth, the student who was doing the tapping yelled, “It was all X’s idea! X offered! I needed a good grade!”
Turns out that X noticed the tests were all multiple choice and all the same version. He approached students who were really struggling in class and charged them to sit behind them to cheat. X would teach the students to tap the question number on them with one hand, and the letter number (A is 1, B is 2, etc.) with the other hand. He would “shrug” them off when they got to the right letter. The more they paid, the more questions they could ask. This is how they made sure the tests didn’t come out with the same grades and answers. This student was a serial cheater for profit.
#20 One Way To Beat The Clock
I used to teach a basic computer skills class twice a week at a local university that lasted three hours each night. One year, I had almost the entire school baseball team in my class. The class was mostly book work and was, admittedly, useless and boring as heck. About a quarter of the semester in, I noticed when I wasn’t “paying attention” that the baseball players were taking the pink rubber erasers off their pencils and throwing them at me.
One of the players hit the analog clock above the board and I suppose he noticed it inched the time forward about a minute or so. After that revelation, the players would try every so often to hit it so as to move the clock forward a few minutes. Some classes they would get out 15-20 minutes early. I pretended not to notice and let it happen all semester. At the end of every class, I would take and pick up all the erasers on the floor that had hit the clock and put them in a box in my desk.
Towards the end of the semester, I decided to take my revenge. The team had qualified for a national tournament but their participation was dependent on their passing all their classes and exams. I made the test extra long and extra hard for good measure. The night of exam came and I told them they had three hours to complete the exam and that tonight, I’d be using the clock on the wall to time the baseball team and my watch for the rest of the class.
They were confused. About five minutes into the exam, it was dead quiet. I rolled my desk drawer open and took out the box of erasers I’d been collecting all semester and put it in my lap. Then I rolled my chair about 15 feet from the clock and spun around to throw the erasers at the clock…
#21 The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword
I had a high school student print on a sheet of paper and cut it to size so she could roll it onto a bamboo skewer. After it was rolled, she hid it inside of a Pentel RSVP pen with a decorated barrel and replaced the skewer with the ink. I had wised up to cheating at this point, so the kids had to put all of their belongings in their bags and place their bags against a wall.
If they didn’t have a bag, they got to leave phones, watches, water bottles, etc… with me. I had literally minimized the ability to cheat down to only allowing them a writing utensil. She still figured out how to cheat. I only discovered it because the pen was in her hand when I checked for watches and the Pentel RSVP pens are my favorites. I hadn’t seen one with a decorated barrel, so I asked to look at it.
She kind of tensed up and I thought that was super weird. I then realized that the barrel was meant to be clear (apart from the decoration), but I couldn’t see through it. Since she hadn’t technically cheated, I had her sit out the test and gave her a personalized exam the next day. Instead of the 50 multiple choice questions, she got three mini-essay questions (one for each story I was testing on) worth 25 points each and she had to take around 10 characters from across the stories and tell me how they were like a specific celebrity. She got a B, which really ticked me off because it proved she didn’t need to even attempt to cheat, to begin with.
#22 Fake It ‘Til You Make It?
A middle school boy doing poorly intercepted mailed grades in the mailbox from a naive mother created a digital template for printing false documents, and inflated grades, and comments. Strong forgery! The scheme lasted about three quarters before parental phone calls and teacher emails triangulated on disinformation. The boy eventually was told to log on at school to access grades, melted under pressure. The gig was up!
#23 The Power Of Love
There was a couple in my Chem 111 class. On test day, she would always sit in the chair directly in front of the boyfriend. She would wear a sheer, see-through-ish top, and a sheet of answers would be taped to her back. If he needed an answer, he’d lightly kick her seat, she’d lean forward, and you could just barely see words through her shirt. Worked pretty well for them until they broke up and she snitched on him.
#24 When They Think They Got The Answers…
Not the smartest, but I once had a student whose test day was delayed because he was ill. We allowed note pages, so he went to his classmates after their test and copied down the answers to the questions they could remember. Too bad I changed the test for his re-sit AND required him to submit his notes with his test paper. He’d put the answers to the previous test all over his completely different test. He played himself.
#25 Secret Of The Ink
College physics—a girl with a really intricate tattoo on her leg wrote formulas in between the tattoo lines. Even looking closely, you couldn’t tell unless you knew what you were looking for. You could tell it was test day because she wore shorts.
#29 ChaCha Real Smooth
This was a while back but had a kid with a phone using ChaCha. He was skilled enough to text without even looking at his phone, and just typed in the questions to the exam with the phone in his pocket. He then had it rigged to process the answers via a text-to-speech engine, and broadcast it to the wireless earpieces of him and three other students.
#30 Time To Pretend
The proctored exam required a proctor to log in, then watch the student take the exam. The student-built a fake login screen website that captured the login information. He pretended to take the test and submit it but actually went home, logged in with stolen proctor credentials, and took the test at his leisure. We think he did this many times. We caught him when the proctor saw him pretending to take a test.
#31 Using A Lifeline
I had a student cheat by presumably phoning a friend using a very small Bluetooth earpiece covered by her long hair. I never noticed her speak during the test, either. She didn’t take it out when she turned her paper in at my desk. That’s when I noticed it in her ear.
#32 Don’t Cough Up A Lung!
The “Cough method.” Two students of mine once devised this cough method of telling each other or helping each other with answers of multi-choice questions. A was one cough, B was 2, C was 3 coughs. It took me and another teacher a while to catch on, but the coughs just seemed too patterned and methodical to be genuine coughs. The coughs also seemed to magically go away when they were sat in separate rooms, too.
#33 Getting It All Wrong Together
As a very experienced teacher, I’ve found some intricate ploys amongst my students. For my class, I give them access to their notes, Google, and whatever notes friends would have transferred before. The problem is the exam is timed and if you have to search for answers you won’t make it. I catch cheaters because they all make the same mistakes on the test.
When three people sit next to each other, they have the same six mistakes. Some admitted they had copied and pasted the exam into a Google doc that was shared and used the chat to answer the questions together. If you want to cheat, don’t use friends. They will rat you out or make you fail. The problem is really bigger. To me, if you want to cheat on the test, then the test itself is a failure. Examination under the form of written tests should die. It makes no sense.
#34 Slipping Up In Class
I used to teach University in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Some students wrote answers on their erasers which were stored in a cardboard sleeve. My favorite though was a student who wrote a ton of answers on the inside of her slip-on shoes. She’d lift her heel up for her and her friends to peek at. If she hadn’t been such a good friend I’d never have caught her. I only noticed because one of her friends nearly fell out of her desk trying to look at her foot. It was creative enough that she should’ve been rewarded for ingenuity.
#35 Videos Don’t Lie
I have a Chrome extension where if you had edit permissions on a Google Doc you could replay how it was typed. It showed information about time, author, and characters per minute, I think. The kid submitted his work. I played the video and you could see characters appearing slowly… then disappearing… then reappearing slowly with a timestamp of him being in class. Jump to 11:30 that night and huge blocks of text just appeared instantly. Some are tweaked a little. Hmm, I wonder what happened there? He failed is what happened, after I played the video for the class and he declined to resubmit.
#36 Teamwork Makes The Dream Work
I am a professor, and I never reported this. There was an older professor in a pretty boring field who was getting surprisingly high student enrollment numbers. I was talking about it with some students who clearly trust me when one said, “You don’t know? We set up an Airdrop across the class—one student engages him in a discussion, and another moves their phone over his desk to take a picture of the answer key. Everyone gets 100!” I was really impressed with the teamwork.
#37 Simply Lending A Hand
I had a good one the other day while subbing 2nd grade. A student came up to me and said another girl had taken someone else’s half-finished math sheet, erased the name, and put her own. When I talked to her and asked her why she told me, “I was just fixing it for her.” Nice try, but that’s definitely not what happened.
#38 Traces Of You
I had a 10-year-old student use a clear piece of tape to trace over his parent’s signature from an old assignment before moving the piece of tape to the new assignment which also required a parent signature. Obvious cheating, but very creative.
#39 Couldn’t Calculate This Disaster
Not creative, just stupid. I had a student ask if she could borrow my calculator for the test (I was the professor). I loaned it to her but told her that I may need to temporarily take it back from her during the test if anyone else’s calculator failed out. Sure enough, that happened, and when I went over to get the calculator from her, I saw her trying to hide her iPhone in her hand under her desk. I immediately failed her in the class.
#40 Got Something To Hide?
I was grading a written assignment that had a 1,000-word minimum and one particular paper just felt really short to me despite Word telling me it was roughly 1,100 words long. On a hunch, I hit CTRL-A and sure enough, after the paper concluded, there was a lot of white nonsense text on a white background.
#41 The Buzz Kill
A student crafted a case around her smartphone to make it look like a TI-83, then used it to search for the answers online. We were using parts of public exams from 15-20 years ago, so it wasn’t too hard to find which one. He got caught when I had to shut the lights off to stop a buzzing sound. And no, a TI doesn’t produce light…
#42 Obtaining All The Secrets
A student in my class (in which I was the TA) convinced the publisher of our textbook that they were the TA and purchased a professor’s copy of the book with all answers and translations. We started to suspect something was up about halfway into the semester and started using slightly alternative questions and translations (it was a Latin class) to try to catch her. She never missed a beat and still got an A. I took her aside and asked sometime later how she did it. She said she managed to learn the language far better by having the answers to work through.
#43 A Dent In The System
I was a TA. The professor I was working for would have scantron tests. One student would mark the top side of the scrap paper and place it underneath the scantron, then press down super hard and make dents in the scrap paper underneath during the exam. He would then give this paper to the next student and the dents will be used underneath the next student’s exam, and they would fill in the dents. It’s an interesting way to communicate and share answers.
#44 New Soundcloud Rapper?
My student got hold of an answer key. He recorded all the multiple choice answers onto a track that he then uploaded to his Soundcloud. I allow my students to listen to music while taking tests. So he and a few of his boys were just sitting there taking the test bumping to the answers “A, then B, C, C then D!” and I was none the wiser. The song had 300+ streams so there’s really no telling how many kids cheated on that test. Just had to take the loss and tip my hat. I wrote his college recommendation letter a few months later.
#45 Note To Self
American History teacher. College level. In my finals and mid-terms, I include an essay question that I give the students with the study guide. Passing responses are 500 words of which they type using Blackboard. This response is a quarter of the exam grade. Fail the question and you likely fail the test. My students are allowed to have their basic response in note form with them so that they don’t have to spend time fabricating the verbiage or their responses. The note can only be a single side, single-page note.
I’ve found students try to sneak other items on their note page that aren’t related to their essay answer. A bit of competitive edge for the rest of the exam. Usually, it’s just a few phrases here and there with trigger notes. Sometimes, it’s actually full information. I now ask for the note page and if the notes reflect directly on the answer itself, I actually give 1-3 bonus points for being thorough but not taking advantage.