Why “Cheating” In Exams is a Non-Issue

Hardly a day goes without some old idiot or old media article expressing regret about how “students today cheat more than before”.

Here is my counter question – Is it relevant?

When people perform jobs or work in real life, they use ALL available resources and information to get the job done. Nobody does complex and important things based on rote memory alone. At every stage we check and recheck the progress of the task through external inputs and information.

If tests are meant to ascertain how well students can perform previously taught stuff under real-life conditions, why insist on measuring their performance under highly unnatural conditions.


  1. February 8, 2011 at 10:19 am

    So, in that second article you cite, I actually stated cheating was “still” strong. Plagiarism and cheating rates have been at the high level I mentioned for at least three decades. Only the medium has changed.


    Your premise is incorrect – tests are not meant to assess how well students can perform under real-life conditions. You are mixing several concepts here. The purposes of tests is measurement – to assess knowledge gained, which can then be used for several other purposes.

    Are you suggesting that most university students are looking at anything other than a job ticket?

    Cheating hampers the test’s ability to accurately measure what it is intended to measure. The goal of the instructor is to impart knowledge; if there is no way to accurately assess knowledge gained, there is no way to know if that teacher was successful. Poor measurement of teacher success is arguably a major part of the problem with the primary and secondary school systems, and cheating plays a role there.

    Impart knowledge? You are measuring their ability to remember ‘facts’, as taught to them.

    What about critical thinking? problem solving ability? application to other problems? Or are you telling me that regurgitating bits of information and techniques is the be all of education?

    Now, for something like employment tests, this is less clear. If you can look up answers online for a job-related task, and could do the same thing on the job, then there probably is no (or at least, less) harm. But this is not the purpose of education.

    So what is the real purpose of education?

    Basing on what I see everyday, it appears that the purpose of education is to teach questionable ‘facts’ in an environment where students are nickle and dimed to feed the malignant growth of university administration payrolls.

    • February 8, 2011 at 4:48 pm

      University students should be looking for something other than a job ticket. That is a large part of the problem.

      The article I discussed was explicitly on the topic of online plagiarism. Writing is certainly intended to measure critical thinking, problem solving, etc. Cheating by stealing others’ thoughts and words and claiming them as your own nullifies this.

      The “real” purpose of education is to teach critical thinking and abstract reasoning within one or several specific domains. Many institutions fail at this, but that does not change the goal of it. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

      • anon@anon.com
        February 8, 2011 at 10:05 pm

        When your university doesn’t give a fuck about you, why should you give a fuck about it?

  2. February 8, 2011 at 10:39 am

    And how exactly would you prepare a student for adulthood, by never knowing whether that student is capable of critical thought?

    In case you haven’t noticed, our society is rapidly deteriorating into just this kind of mental & emotional anarchy.

    How’s that working out for us?

    • February 8, 2011 at 10:22 pm

      Anon –

      Because quid pro quo is a lame excuse when you’re trying to get ahead.

      You’ve probably already noticed that life ain’t fair. So what? Grow a brain; drop the attitude; get some functional knowledge, and then you’re a light-year ahead of those who aren’t bright enough to figure out that getting “learned up” is the only real leverage you’ll ever have.

      Or, you could sit around waiting to see of the cosmos is gonna deal you a better hand.

      Good luck with that.

  3. Mr.M
    February 8, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    Have to side with host here. The ability to efficiently research and apply said research is by far the most valuable professional skill.

    Typically, education doesn’t teach this. And it definitely doesn’t test for it.

    Actually, the only thing I learned in school that has served me extremely well in the professional setting has been written communication. Oh hey, look at that, every “exam” for a writing class was me researching (on my own time), applying said research, then communicating it.

  4. February 8, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    Mr. Richard Landers –

    I very much appreciate your contributions on this subject. Were I King of the world, I’d have your words shouted from the town belfry, just to drown out the counterfeit angst of the questionably bright.

    We likely ought not be surprised that fools might take the position that a world full of ethical agnostics makes for a happier place. My Dad used to say you can always tell when somebody has never been slapped in the face by their own nutty convictions.

    The egocentric, hair-brained bent of our youth is an ugly thing to behold. Here’s a concept these morally confused could be inking on their skin, rather than the body graffiti they now ape as terminally cool:

    “Character is what you do when nobody else is around.”

    Of course. “character” doesn’t get much airplay among teens & ‘tweens of infantile agendas.

  5. Blanchard
    February 9, 2011 at 9:11 am

    In your response to Mr. Landers you touched on it; problem solving, critical thinking, and application to other problems are things that are part of the testing process, for math based degrees. Testing allows for teachers to evaluate how well you’ve absorbed the course material. It partially has to do with efficiency, if someone didn’t learn the material properly it will take them longer to identify the problem, and use the tools that they need to solve it.

    The testing environment may be artificial, but so is the nature of the test. In real life you’re never going to be looking at problems one dimensionally as you do in a test. A thermodynamics problem is also going to involve materials, structural, and vibrations analysis. You’re never going to have to write out a program that only tells you if a user guessed a random number correctly, it’ll be part of a larger process.

    Even writing a paper has a purpose. It challenges a student to focus, research and write about something that they probably aren’t interested in, and don’t really care about. Which is likely to be very similar to what their real job will end up being. I did feel that my English final was a joke, asking me to write an essay about how some character felt in the 3rd chapter of a book I may or may not have read two months ago is pretty pointless.

    The education system is going to collapse anyhow, both the top and bottom aren’t stable. No fail elementary and middle school, and the factory like output of ‘ology’ and -studies degrees aren’t challenging kids to be strive or be productive.

  6. November 7, 2015 at 8:20 pm


  7. P Ray
    November 7, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    When people perform jobs or work in real life, they use ALL available resources and information to get the job done. Nobody does complex and important things based on rote memory alone. At every stage we check and recheck the progress of the task through external inputs and information.

    There is a corollary to this:
    the situation of a job that requires you to do things, based on rote memory ALONE, mandated by the employer: The employer is trying to fire you, but wants to do that without the chance of you filing a lawsuit – this is constructive dismissal.

    Lots of jobs now, after some months initially – devolve into this.

    Good thing I walked away with an interesting severance package … that should go on for the next 10 years at least 🙂

  8. Johnny
    April 4, 2018 at 4:12 pm

    Man academics seem like the biggest CON(cock)servatives around

  9. Johnny
    April 5, 2018 at 5:18 am

    “Life isn’t fair” = authoritative CON cockjerkers making it so

  10. Johnny
    May 2, 2018 at 2:32 am

    To add some “useful” input, it does seem like the hatred for “plagiarism” borders on an elaborate hazing ritual. I mean the academics are clearly not against re-using the same ideas hundreds of times but rewording them differently.

  11. Johnny
    May 6, 2018 at 7:28 pm

    “To make you look professional and not something the cat brought in. That is why highschool chattiness is not acceptable in a scientific paper. You are in the big school now, write as if you are.” – another ‘old idiot’ on Quora

    • Johnny
      May 7, 2018 at 6:27 am

      For all their academic cockjerking they clearly haven’t evolved beyond the stage of using analogies ripped from shitty children’s fables.

  1. April 15, 2011 at 3:58 pm

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