It’s economics, stupid


I was just browsing through The Times over lunch and found this story about students trying to cheat in an economics exam at the University of York.

It reminds me of my teaching days at UCLA, where, in my experience, cheating was rife (in the Chemistry Department at least – but I suspect elsewhere too). Sure, we’d check IDs, but also I’d often have two versions of an exam and alternate them along the rows of students. For multiple choice quizzes, all of the questions were the same, but the possible A thru E answers (yes, five options, not four) were re-ordered in one of the scripts. It was amazing how many times an exam was handed in, in which every single letter answer was wrong, but corresponded 100% with the letter answers on the alternate quiz.

The fundamental flaw that most cheats do not appreciate (or understand) is that they cheat because they are generally less intelligent than other students, which makes them a lot easier to catch… (as pointed out in The Times article above).

Anyway, at UCLA, unless you had videotape evidence and a signed confession, most students (not all, but most) got off with a slap on the wrist. So, it was nice to see how it was dealt with in this incident at York, as reported in the last line of the article in The Times: Each was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and ordered to pay £35 costs.


Stuart Cantrill (Associate Editor, Nature Nanotechnology)

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