Learning to Cheat: Quantifying Changes in Score Advantage of Unproctored Assessments Over Time

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The Bottom Line

The advantages gained from cheating increase over the duration of a course as students learn what cheating strategies work. These advantages are particularly evident for certain types of questions, suggesting that better question design can reduce the advantages gained from cheating.

Research Summary

This study examined the score advantages of proctored versus unproctored assessments of 510 students all within the same course at the University of Illinois. The study found consistent results with prior research that identified score advantages in unproctored exams relative to proctored exams. However, the study takes a novel approach by looking at how the score advantage evolved over time. At the beginning of the course there were no score advantages but by the end of the course the advantage had risen to 7 percentage points. The authors note that students not only increased their effectiveness in cheating but also the number of cheaters increased, all while students simultaneously decreased their time studying for unproctored exams. This study highlights that score advantages are more pronounced as exam questions increase in difficulty, are less randomized, and have higher assigned weights.

Key Takeaways

1. Students Learn to Cheat Over Time

Unproctored advantages increase as students learn to capitalize on cheating strategies. 

2. Specific Question Types Are More Prone to Cheating

Unproctored advantages increase as questions become more difficult, are less randomized, and have higher assigned weights.

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