How do students use tech to cheat?

How do students use tech to cheat?

Summary: High-tech methods students use to gain an advantage or two in exams.

TOPICS: Security

Expanding digital networks are making the flow of information more easily accessible -- and that includes the methods a student can use to cheat on an exam.

Finding a method of cheating may have raised eyebrows in suspicion if you simply 'asked around' -- but now, all a student needs to do is go on YouTube for thousands of tutorials concerning the means in which a student can smuggle in additional information or communicate with an associate when taking an exam paper.

From using high-tech equipment to listen to pre-recorded MP3 files to printing fake drink labels with answers or formulas, it may not be that students are cheating more, just that the means in which they do it are becoming more sophisticated and difficult to detect.

Using such software? There are even tips available from suppliers to make sure that supervising staff do not realize you're using these methods.

So what are some of the modern methods of securing an A in that important exam?

See also: Gallery: eCheating: High-Tech ways to pass your exam

1.) Spy kits: Earpieces, signals and MP3 files

Several software companies, including IGIS electronics on, offer devices that can be shipped globally to enable the high-tech cheater. Under the 'Exam Cheat Equipment' section, the website offers invisible earpieces that can be connected to an MP3 player, or connect you to an associate who can relay answers to you.

For the bargain price of $145.00, each kit includes a tiny earpiece, an 'SOS' silent beeper button to communicate with someone, and the means to connect to a Bluetooth cell phone, and a microphone. The button is attached to a long wire that can be ran down a leg to be placed in your shoe, or for the braver souls, placed in your pocket.

One for Yes, two for No.

2.) Bluetooth pens

My Gadget Tree on Amazon offer a micro spy Bluetooth pen and earpiece set for the modern-day cheater.

For about $160, you can engage in a two-way conversation completely hands free. It connects to your mobile device and relays information from the phone to an earpiece, with the Bluetooth pen also functioning as a normal ball-point.

You can talk back to your accomplice through the pen's concealed microphone, making either an exam, presentation or test easier... as long as you don't ask questions too loudly.

Not all companies profit from selling these kinds of devices to desperate candidates; however. One firm named ExamEar, based in Toronto, was shut down after authorities investigated the $300 Bluetooth devices it was selling for students to be able to cheat on exam papers.

Click here for a video of this product.

3.) Image editing software

As students become more proficient in technology, it stands to reason they would also realize the potential that imaging software such as Adobe Photoshop may have in relation to editing seemingly innocent items.

If you scour YouTube, there are many tutorials available teaching students how to edit labels such as drink bottles to conceal any information you want for your exam but won't, or can't, learn in time.

4.) The 'watch hack'

The 'watch hack' is an interesting take on using editing software and a printer to secrete notes in to an exam room -- everyone looks at their watches to keep an eye on the time left, isn't that so?

This student demonstrates how writing the notes you need on your desktop can be transferred through a printout on to a watch -- although you need 'label' printing paper for the transparency.

To view: YouTube

5.) Storing data on calculators

Students are generally allowed to bring their own calculators in to exams, at least in Western school systems. In order to complete complex calculations or provide graphical data, these items are programmable.

In some cases, you can hold text, formulas, or even pictures -- which allows the device to work as a valuable storage facility for a cheater if they take the time beforehand to program it correctly.

Want to watch a How-to?

6.) Use camera phones to take snapshots of exams

Following from the use of a calculator, it has often been reported that students attempt to use their smartphones in exams.

Several popular cheating methods are:

  • Using the device to store or take images of notes before the exam, and reviewing them covertly;
  • Relaying information via Bluetooth in conjunction with an earpiece;
  • Taking an image of the paper to help friends who will take the exam later on.

7.) Hack a computer, steal a transcript

If you've not done well on your exams or coursework, why not go and change the grade?

That is what one student decided to do. Edwin T.Kim, 31, studying at the Temple University Ambler Campus in Upper Dublin, admitted hacking in to university systems to try and improve his academic records.

The student purchased keylogging software online, which is a means to capture key strokes on a computer — and therefore awards the owner access to anything that requires identification details and passwords.  By doing this, he was able to alter his grades from 'F' marks to 'A' levels.

See also: Keylogging student caught hacking college grades

8.) Group collaboration and wireless communication

Students are often encouraged to collaborate on projects in order to increase levels of student-centered learning and self-tuition.

However, it has been noted that some students take this as an invitation to collaborate on exam papers. Whether they use more 'traditional' methods -- such as hand signals, lifting a paper up to the person behind them, or eye contact -- or more tech-savvy means, it seems some students will resort to team efforts if required.

Some of the technology noted in 'team cheating' if that of wireless earpieces and sets, mobile phone communication and sharing the burden of revision -- where one student memorizes and reports answers on one section, another student will take charge of another.

9.) Invisible ink - for those either over 12 or taking an exam.

You may not believe it, but I recall many students at my old College using a seemingly harmless toy for kids to achieve better exam results.

An invisible ink pen is freely available for purchase, and a user is able to write 'secret' messages which can then be revealed via an LED light -- conveniently placed on the lid of the pen.

10.) Pay someone to take your exam for you

This may not be strictly technology-based, but the rising trend of students paying someone else to sit their exams for them does have to make you wonder whether students are cheating because they realize no-one is actually monitoring their movements... to the point that supervisors don't recognize a child.

When police in Nassau County, N.Y., on Long Island, arrested 20 teenagers at five schools in a SAT cheating ring, they were accused of taking SAT and ACT tests for other students, who paid up to $3,600 for the service, according to authorities.


Topic: Security

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: How do students use tech to cheat?

    A lot of these wouldn't even be an issue at most schools I've seen. I've yet to see anyone give an exam that actually allowed the taker to have an mp3 player or cell phone. Hell, a lot of them confiscated them til after the test.

    And I wouldn't really call anything you can do with an expensive calculator cheating. Any test that requires one of these won't really improve your score unless you already know how to do the problem. At best, they'll let you know if you screwed up and need to redo the problem, (cause, you know, math/physics professors care more about the paperwork than the answers). The only thing that might classify as cheating is if you use it to write down formulas...though requiring the memorization of formulas has always been a headscratcher to me.
    • RE: How do students use tech to cheat?


      Actually, not anymore. A lot of teachers in my local school who were teaching math got into trouble for making people 'show the work' on the paper, because it was unfair to the people with writing disabilities/who did the work in their heads and writing the 'work' down made them second-guess themselves.
  • RE: How do students use tech to cheat?

    Cheating would reduce if we didn't have to memorize damn formulas. In the real world, if we don't know a certain formula, we have the Internet at our fingertips. So much time is wasted just trying to memorize those damn things, that could be spent better preparing ourselves for the exams we're given.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • RE: How do students use tech to cheat?

      @Cylon Centurion - memorizing them helps preventing one from taking the time to look things up ("time is money", remember?) and makes The Company more profitable.
      • RE: How do students use tech to cheat?


        Well, until the company starts "hiring" Cylons, humans will be humans.
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • RE: How do students use tech to cheat?

        @HypnoToad72 This isn't the greatest argument because you WILL memorize the formulas most relevant to your job, entirely due to repetition. Memorization for the sake of memorization is a waste of time.
  • Why aren't you using the full word,

    Or is being trendy and hip more important than being grammatically correct?
  • RE: How do students use tech to cheat?

    With all due respect, the fact is that 'cheating' is another word for 'having access to information and not having to memorize/regurgitate stuff'', unless they actually have the answers to the test in the device in question.
  • Change the learning model

    If exams no longer tested what students memorized, but instead what they have learned to apply, almost all of this goes away. Let's move into the 21st century.