Academic Integrity and Exams

Exams, especially in large lecture classes, often tempt students to try to cheat.   Here is some advice about ways to design exams to make dishonesty difficult and how to monitor students during exams. Creating a written policy (such as this one) that indicates how you intend to encourage honesty in exams will help students see how seriously you take this issue.   Presenting students with such statements the first day and before every exam will help reinforce that message.

Designing exams

1.  If possible, design questions that encourage students to apply information rather than just memorize.  Encourage students to record their thought process about the question as evidence that they did the work themselves. (You may want to give them and collect scrap paper as part of the exam.)

2.  Create different versions of multiple choice and true/false exams so that students cannot cheat by looking at each others' papers.

3. Change exam questions as often as you can so that students cannot "borrow" other students' work from the previous term.

4. If you use take home exams, give students a clear set of policies to guide their work. Here are some sample policies:

•  From Management

•  From Calculus

•  From Linguistics


1.  Separate students from each other while they take the exam.

2.  Regulate the use of electronic devices and/or have students leave their backpacks and other things at the front of the room.

3.  Limit students to  the use of four-function calculators only.

4.  Require that students show their Penn IDs.

5.  Annouce ahead of time how many pages and problems are on the exam.  Some departments even print that information on the first page of the exam.

6.  Have students sign a statement affirming they have not cheated. 

7. Make sure students do not have prepared answers in their bluebooks (either by handing out bluebooks yourself with marks to identify them as clean or by redistributing student bluebooks.)

8.  If you see cheating, respond immediately by collecting evidence or keeping records of other students who sat in the same area. 

OSC recommendations if you see cheating in progress

After the Exam

1. Make copies of the exams before you return them so that students cannot change their answers and ask for regrades.

2.  Have a clear consistent policy on regrades.

For more advice about designing questions and proctoring exams consult:

Cheating on exams at UC-Davis

Academic Dishonesty Detection and Prevention at Indiana University

Back to Academic Integrity

CTL Home

Updated: January 27, 2010