SMS-based cheating on the rise on British exams

Although overall cheating is low, the numbers are on the rise, with mobile phones a key enabling technology. Can edcuation keep up?
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor

With British students' university futures hanging on how well they do on the A-level exams, it's no surprise to read that high-tech cheating has worked its way into the testing room. According to a new study, cheating on Britain's A-levels and GSCE exams increased 27% since last summer, and a quarter of those busted were using mobile phones.

"Over recent years we have seen a noticeable rise in the number of mobile-phone related incidents in examination halls across the country," said [Qualifications and Curriculum Authority] Chief Executive Ken Boston.

Jeremy Reimer at Ars Technica asks whether standardized test-taking can keep up with explosion of new technology into youth culture.

Cheating has been a problem for examiners as long as there have been exams, but does the rise of wireless technology present a special problem for education? Traditional mobile phones would not be much use for in-exam cheating, but being able to text or SMS your friend who wrote the same exam yesterday (or last year) would be a much more discreet method of cheating. However, educators can adjust in much the same way as they did to the cheating possibilities provided by programmable calculators: by simply not allowing them to be used.

Is the rise of mobile phone cheating indicative of a larger societal problem? Already there are some concerns about the fact that today's generation of gadget-obsessed kids may sacrifice concentration and accuracy to the holy grail of multitasking. However, the low percentages of cheating seem to indicate that the traditional examination is not under an immediate threat. What will happen to the education system when students get Google feeds directly implanted into their visual cortex is, of course, another question.

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