Why is GCSE and A-Level cheating on the rise?

The number of students caught cheating in their exams has risen exponentially over the recent years, and there’s no surprise why. The shake-up to GCSE exams and gradings means that the pressure is on more than ever to perform and the ever-growing access to online resources and technology mean that help is never far away.

The internet is an expanding pool of user-generated content and students are now clocking on to how to use it for their academic advantage. One of the top offences seen in this malpractice is plagiarism (claiming someone else’s work as your own) and even school staff are being penalised for the lack of control in coursework and controlled assessments that take place inside and outside of the exam room.

The increase in online aid has resulted in the omission of the coursework section from the GCSE computer exam. The presence of student forums means that some of the tasks and answers for the exam are being shared online for others to use. This gave an unfair advantage, especially when the coursework accounted for 20% of the final mark.

It’s not just limited to GCSE exams; a student from Bournemouth Uni who wishes to remain anonymous talks about their experience of A-level exams:

“So much work due in at one time means that it is tempting to seek help and advice from people from who have already done it, especially if you have friends in the older years. When you look online and find whole answers written out and paragraphs from coursework, it makes sense to use it. If everyone else does and you don’t, you’d be the one left behind.”

So is A-Level cheating on the rise because it’s easier to do so – it would be impossible to try and control what is and isn’t posted online – or is it that it’s always been going on, but more people are getting caught?

Another point to look at is that all of the publicity around the extortionate levels of cheating could be based on misleading assumptions. Over 80% of the ‘cheating’ offences were due to students being found with their mobile phones on their person during exams. But just because you have the device on you doesn’t necessarily mean you plan to use it.

Although exam conditions are clear about the penalties of being found with a phone, it can be easy to forget since you’re so used to having it in your pocket. Plus, given the inconvenience of leaving it in your bag and the fact that chances of being found with it are low, it’s easy to see why students are taking that risk.


What are schools and exam bodies going to do about it? Well the coursework section of the computing GCSE is being scrapped… what other measures will be put in place to ensure that ‘controlled’ assessments are fairly monitored? Any ideas? 

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