Cheating is a threat to test result reliability, both online and offline.
In the business environment, it makes firms become inefficient and lose money.
Cheaters use materials, devices, software and other people to get a better online test score.
By learning their tricks, you can deter and detect cheating during remote assessments.
Online testing platforms help achieve excellent result reliability with their native light proctoring.
Cheating is a problem for both education and business. People have been asking themselves "how can I cheat on a test" probably for as long as assessments exist. Studying for an evaluation is hard and takes time. Besides, why would anyone bother doing it when you can simply use information, materials or devices which are prohibited, but helpful?
There are many strategies on how to cheat on tests and many definitions of cheating on online assessments. This kind of activity takes place in both businesses and schools. However, it is mostly done in an educational environment, so let's define it using a compilation of what universities write about it.
What is exam cheating definition, according to educational institutions?
The use of any sources not authorized by the assessment organizers. These might include writing papers, preparing reports, solving problems, or carrying out other assignments before the actual test takes place.
Coming into possession of test content or other materials belonging to a member of the university faculty or staff.
Engaging in any other kinds of prohibited activities during the test.
The whole purpose of assessments in business and education is to evaluate respondents' skills and knowledge. This process has to be fair and impartial, as otherwise, the results would inaccurately reflect the actual abilities of respondents.
How to cheat on a test online and get good grades without studying?
Easy ways to cheat on a test included getting a 'helping hand' or preparing some cheat sheets beforehand. A helper could be anybody, a fellow student, a sibling or paid expert, but cheating always happens by those people dictating answers to the respondent.
A cheat sheet could be a concealed, tiny printout of the most important topics for the assessment. Or the most important facts written on the back of a hand.
Hiding a cheat sheet up the sleeve is still very popular on offline assessments
Cheating became a technological matter when tests went into the internet. At the beginning of the century, new computer technologies and higher broadband speeds changed the situation. They made a switch from downloadable assessments to fully online ones possible. Cheaters got into a new, digital environment and started adapting.
One problem to solve was how to cheat in an online exam with the video recording on. The goal was, of course, not to get caught cheating. Even on proctored tests, when security was tight.
Proctoring technologies feature:
The lockdown mode, which makes using copy-paste and looking up the answers online impossible.
The use of two cameras, one on the main device (desktop or laptop computer), and the other on the mobile or tablet giving proctors a side view of the workstation.
In less strictly secured online proctored exams, for example, using no second camera, cheat sheets seem to be a possible option. The software used to detect cheating will likely identify the use of gadgets, electronic devices and other people in the room.
Things look much better for the cheaters when there is no live video recording or human proctors. Even if the browser is in lockdown, little will stop them from looking up answers on your mobile devices, talking to someone with more knowledge on the subject of the assessment, or even covering all the walls with cheat sheets.
However, combining non-invasive, light proctoring methods with video supervision (for example, the Honest Respondent Technology with assessments in the Microsoft Teams environment), solves this problem for a fracture of the cost of strict proctoring solutions. It's also a non-intrusive method that doesn't cause additional test anxiety.
Simple live video feed supervision is a great method of deterring and detecting dishonest behavior
Searching for the best way to cheat in exam
There are two main kinds of cheating on online assessments, by technology, materials and other people. Below you will find our analysis of cheating methods in an exam environment.
1. Cheating with technology and gadgets
The digital environment and mobile devices took cheating to a new, higher level. Tablets, smartphones and software make dishonest behavior easy and require modern countermeasures, such as online proctored testing.
One of the first online assessment cheating methods was simple but effective. Every browser comes with developer tools that allow users to analyze the content and resources of any website. One of the available options is 'inspect'. It revealed the code and allowed respondents to see correct and incorrect answers.
Even some 5th graders know programming well enough to be able to find the correct answer in the code
One platform that is widely used for remote assessments that encountered this problem was Microsoft Forms. But just like other online tools, they quickly fixed the problem. Microsoft Forms no longer includes any answers in their code anymore. You are also unlikely to find this kind of loophole in any of the major testing platforms.
Cheating with mobile devices
Why should dishonest respondent study hard when they can look up the answers online and cheat on a test with a smartphone or a tablet? All it takes is a cleverly hidden device, which they can access during the exam. Even if test organizers require respondents to switch their cameras on, the mobile can rest against the computer screen, invisible to the proctor's eyes. That's all it takes to know how to copy during online exams.
But it does get even better! Sometimes cheaters don't have to type anything, and their smartphone can stay hidden in the bag. A short 'Hey, Siri' or 'OK, Google' is sufficient for a mobile phone or a tablet to find the correct answer and read it out loud.
Cheating with earphones
Respondents who know online exam cheating tricks often choose earphones. We are talking about wireless models, of course. People with long hair are especially fond of these, as hiding the use of gadgets is easy in their case. Bluetooth devices range from ordinary Apple Airpods-style to small, very hard to detect, practically invisible ones.
Earphones facilitate two-way communication with other persons who can look up answers to test questions online. A typical device has a battery life of about 2 hours, which is enough for the duration of a majority of assessments. Bluetooth range is up to 10 meters, sufficient for a respondent to be able to place a paired smartphone in another room.
Cheating with software
Remote access and control software, such as Team Viewer, is another popular way of getting good online test results without studying. A 'helping hand' can read questions and dictate the correct answers via earphones or other means of communication. They can even access the respondent's exam and do it on the test taker’s behalf.
Another popular option is to use a virtual machine to create within your computer an environment that some proctoring features won't be able to detect and block. Although it appears complex and difficult, this method is popular even among older primary school students.
The never-ending supply of new gadgets and tricks
Where there's demand, there will be supply. Cheater enjoys continued support from many companies who claim that their devices are 100% efficient and undetectable. In fact, like those in the video below, they are ridiculous and easy to detect, such as gigantic glasses or a ring you're supposed to talk to.
2. Cheating with materials and other persons' help
These are the classic methods used for decades and centuries that are still relevant today.
Using cheat sheets
An old-school method and probably still the best way to cheat on a test. Cheat sheets have been around for a very long time and are still in use today because they are easy to make, conceal and pass on to another person if needed.
Cheat sheets are now popular in both offline and online test cheating
Test respondents used to hide those small pieces of paper with useful information. Some put cheat sheets in their clothes, others on pens and even water bottles, when these were allowed during a test.
Now that most assessments are online, those cheats sheets appear behind the computer screen or on the desk next to it. During high-stakes exams when online proctoring solutions and human proctors oversee respondents, things are a bit more difficult.
A fun fact about cheat sheets is that some teachers consider them a way of studying (even if a bit twisted) because to prepare cheating aids, you have to actually read the topic. And many students admit that they learned something in the process.
An even funnier fact is that many teachers decided to allow their students to use cheat sheets rather than try to fight them. But at the same time, they made some changes to their assessments. Test questions become more in-depth, requiring more complex, analytical thinking, and that is something you can't copy from any aid prepared before the test.
Taking a bathroom break to cheat
How to cheat on any test, online or offline? Getting assessed is stressful, and can result in an urgent need to use the bathroom. When you leave the room, nothing can stop you from googling all the correct answers. The longer the remote assessment takes, the more likely proctors are to let respondents use the toilet.
Unfortunately for them, on high-stakes exams, there are usually no bathroom breaks. If someone is a notorious test cheater, proctors might not let them use the bathroom just in case.
Cheating by knowing test questions beforehand
The best way to answer all the questions correctly is to know the content of the test. It is difficult, but not impossible. There have been numerous examples of 'leaked' questions before high-stakes exams, such as the end of school or professional development for doctors or lawyers.
When respondents obtain the answers before the test, the results are no longer reliable
The downside to this method is that usually, respondents have to pay some sort of insider to leak the test content. And as that is a crime, even if they manage to find someone willing to do that, test questions won’t be cheap.
Cheating by impersonation
Impersonation is a fancy word for another person taking the assessment for you. It might be a colleague with more knowledge or a paid expert who makes his living taking online tests for others.
This method is suitable for both offline and online evaluations and became widespread during COVID-19. At that time, it was easy to cheat at school and university tests or business assessments. Today impersonation is still prevalent for low-stakes exams, but high-stakes often use remote proctoring.
Its features, such as ID verification by Artificial Intelligence or human proctors, make this way of cheating impossible.
A, B, C or D? How to cheat on online multiple choice tests.
How to cheat on multiple choice test? Is 'C' the most common answer on multiple-choice tests (MCTs)? It is an urban myth. Common mistake rookie cheaters make. It is based on the premise that answers in multiple-choice tests aren't randomized. In reality, most assessment tools can randomize both the order of questions and answers.
William Poundstone, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate and the author of books such as 'Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?' researched probability on tests. He looked closely at the case of multiple-choice and true/false questions. Let's start with the first ones.
A, B, C
Tests with 3 options available (for example, A, B, and C) had each answer equally likely to be correct - 33,3%.
A, B, C, D
In the case of questions with 4 possible answers (A, B, C, and D), B was correct slightly more often than the others, with a 28% probability.
A, B, C, D, E
With 5 choices available (A, B, C, D, and E), the last one was correct most often - in 23% of all cases. At the same time, C was correct the least often, with a 17% probability.
Also, if a respondent really doesn’t know which multiple-choice answers are correct for a number of questions, the best solution is to stick to the same letter (A, B, C, D, etc.). Statistics show that if the test is not randomized, this method will give about twice as many points as blind guessing would.
But that is all without randomization, as with this feature, for one person the correct answer might be 'C', but for the person next to them, it will be 'A', 'B' or 'D'.
If your assessment has a random order of both questions and answers, there is absolutely nothing respondents can do about it. There is no way to cheat on a randomized test with the above-mentioned methods.
Here, it is all about blind guessing, and there are no magic tricks available to get a better score. Respondents can, however, increase their chances if they have some knowledge about the test subject.
When making a guess in a problem with 4 answers, there is a 25% chance of success. That is not enough to pass even the easiest assessments in education or business. But there is something that can be done about it.
To make the situation look a bit better, it is worth trying to remove the answer which is obviously wrong first. By excluding 1, the success chance goes up to 33,3%. When a respondent can phase out 2 answers, they have a 50% chance of blind-guessing the correct answer. Teachers often use this method to promote independent thinking.
Another type of question you can find along with multiple-choice is a 'yes/no' or 'true/false' (T/F). How to answer true/false exam questions?
In a T/F problem, whatever you choose, there's a 50% chance of success, right? That's elementary. Well, not really. Studies show that in assessments made only of that type of question, you can find correct answers more often than false ones.
William Poundstone, who investigated this subject as well, found that the ratio was 56% true to 44% false. Based on nearly 2.500 questions, he explained it with our natural alignment towards the truth. In other words, it is easier for test authors to write a true statement than a false one.
As a result, if a respondent has no idea about the topic of the true/false assessment, they should choose 'true' every time to very likely exceed 50% of the total possible points. And in this case, question randomization makes absolutely no difference.
So, test organizers, listen up! Make sure your online assessment platform can randomize questions and answers and try to replace true/false problems with open-ended questions. This simple trick will greatly increase your result reliability.
Online resources - the best way to cheat in exam?
Cheating is much easier when a respondent has to take an assessment that is not custom-made for them or their group. There are a lot of popular online tests with questions and answers that are easy to look up on the internet.
Also, people often associate online cheating with education. They wrongly assume that dishonest behavior is limited to school and university students. Unfortunately, firms suffer from this practice too, especially when a promotion or a raise is at stake.
Online test cheating can occur in the business environment too
Dishonest behavior happens very often during online certification processes. Below is one significant example.
Let's look at the Google Academy
They offer online product training and certifications that hundreds of thousands of people use to elevate their skills and stand out in the competitive job market. Google's assessments are challenging, so it's no wonder that many turn to the internet for answers.
As a result, you can now find an astonishing number of websites full of Google Academy questions and answers. And even though Google periodically changes the content of the problems that their respondents have to face, you can usually google new correct answers within days.
Also, the Academy doesn't use any online proctoring, so there is no problem with how to copy during online exams and not get caught.
Wikipedia - every cheater's source of knowledge
Wikipedia is the new bible for cheating. In its early days, teachers and scientists belittled it as an 'encyclopedia written by amateurs'. Today, it is a legitimate source of knowledge, backed by thousands of volunteers, called Wikipedians, many of whom are acclaimed academics.
This grassroots movement created one of the most extensive and detailed sources of knowledge about... pretty much anything and everything. It is perfect for cheaters, as the answer to almost any question is practically a few clicks away.
Beating the clock. How to cheat on online timed test.
For those taking a timed online assessment, the ticking clock is the main enemy. Most test authors know well that to curb cheating time limits should be tight. Only then respondents are in such haste that they can't afford a moment to look up answers online, even if they want to.
The solution? Make time, literally. Respondents can find multiple video tutorials and websites that explain how to cheat on a timed online test. The key to this method of cheating is to access a remote assessment platform's code and change timer values. It adds extra time for attempting a particular question or the whole remote assessment.
It is necessary to add that all the major web browsers, such as Edge, Safari, Firefox, Chrome and Opera, feature this 'Inspect element' option we mentioned before. Does that mean anyone can cheat on any online test merely by tweaking the timer?
Fortunately for the test authors and, unfortunately for the less-than-honest respondents, it's not that simple. Remote assessment platforms have known about this problem for years, and many have taken steps to stop it.
It is now possible to have a countdown timer run on the server hosting the platform. In this scenario, it is still possible to use the 'Inspect element' to add more time within the browser. It will not affect the clock ticking on the server, though.
The good news for the dishonest characters, at least at first glance, is that many remote assessment tools still don't have server-side timers. However, this outdated, client-side technology is used rarely and mainly for low-stakes tests, such as remote homework or quizzes. High-stakes, on the other hand, use leading platforms with server-side timers and are impossible to tweak with the browser's developer tools.
There are many different ways of how to cheat on any online test. Dishonest respondents can use technology or helpers and even try to outsmart the assessment author. The methods we described in this article offer various chances of success, but most of them are available to any remote assessment respondents. Even primary school students.
The optimal way to curb online cheating for the assessment organizers is to use native security features of remote test platforms. Light proctoring methods, such as the Honest Respondent Technology, do a great job of preventing dishonest behavior online and detecting it when it happens.
Strict online proctoring methods increase evaluation security and result reliability too. But using Artificial Intelligence and human proctors to oversee assessments is expensive and stressful for respondents. Make sure you read our other blog post, where we talk about how to prevent online test cheating.
Make your test-takers actually study, and prepare for your tests by informing them about the security features you're going to use. If you want to use solutions such as the Honest Respondent Technology, let them know. They will be less willing to cheat when they know and, as it is a light proctoring, it won't cause unnecessary anxiety.
The list of cheating techniques described in this article is by no means complete. Cheaters are incredibly creative people, so if you know of a method that we don't, let us know by using our contact form or on social media.
When it comes to online test proctoring, there are two schools of thought. Some people believe that it's a much-needed security measure for businesses. Others, that it's an overused measure that can do more harm than good.
August 26, 2022
9 min read
Ensuring a cheat-free remote test environment is crucial for firms that expect reliability and actionable results. Here, we cover various online exam cheating types and propose simple but effective tips to handle this problem.
August 02, 2022
12 min read