Cheating in Exams: Psychology behind It and How to Stop It?

Cheating in exams has always been an issue the world’s education institutions have been trying to eliminate. And only recently did it get that much more necessary to stop it, due to the technological revolution and the use of Internet.

To cheat, students use mobile phones, wireless ear-pieces, software, smart watches, etc. Further, some college students even use more subtle—though still easily detectable—ways in exams, like buying papers online or even copy-pasting from sample essays.

Cheating in exams: assessments

Cheating is a type of academic dishonesty. It includes assisting another student in an exam without permission by professor, getting access of a test, or using unauthorized material in a test. (Read how a perfect assessment boosts educational development.)

1. Is There Ever an Excuse for Cheating in Exams?

According to Dr. Donald McCabe and the International Center for Academic Integrity, 68% of students admit to written or test cheating. These numbers only include US students; however, they are shocking enough for us to take a moment and seriously think about them.

However the outcome is, to deal with something, we need to look at the reasons behind it.

Source: The International Center for Academic Integrity

So why do students cheat in exams? Let us take secondary grade students as an example. Every year, secondary grade students worldwide are exposed to unbelievable amounts of pressure due to education policies.

In fact, many people have argued that being 16-17 years old, or even younger, is too early. It does not qualify for taking a life-altering decision about a career they will have five years later at least.

That’s why some see cheating is a right of their own. They see that most worldwide educational systems are not right and it is their way of objecting.

Despite understanding these reasons, cheating in exams remains unquestionably an unethical act in need of a resolution. But before we start looking for ways to resolve it, let’s first take a look on the psychology behind it.

2. Psychology Behind Cheating in Exams

According to psychology Professor Augustus Jordan, “as intrinsic motivation for a course drops, and/or as extrinsic motivation rises, cheating goes up.” He goes on saying that “The less a topic matters to a person, or the more they are participating in it for instrumental reasons, the higher the risk for cheating.”

Once a student is truly and intrinsically motivated, it shows. They are excited to be at the top of the class by their own effort. And vice versa, if a student is only attending class for the grades they get with no interest in the subject. They most likely will submit to cheating, if they have tendency to it.

However, some see that this point is not valid, since students would only go to school if they knew there is a reward for them: grades. Grades are the only incentive students have to study: if a student didn’t have good grades and didn’t study well, they will have to cheat.


Furthermore, some scientists even tried to tackle cheating in exam from different perspectives. They argued that male students participate in academic dishonesty and cheating in exams more than females.

According to Tianlan Wei et al., Elias and Saulsbury et al. stated that “female students view cheating as more unethical than their male peers do.” This view might get us into unending gender differences debates.

Also, being married was found to be another predictor, according to Whitely, 1998. Whitely stated that if you are a married student, your chances of cheating in exams would be much less than other single students.

Categorizing all the reasons behind cheating in exams might be a good thing, although these theories would never deny the fact that cheating defies all concepts of integrity and responsibility. So how do we stop it?

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3. How Do We Stop It?

To eliminate cheating in exams, one should first delve deeper into the subjects taught. Once subjects and the strategies they are taught with are developed, a great percentage of cheating will drop. We will be giving students a better incentive, motivating them to study and work with integrity.

Connecting school and college subjects with the real world is the first way to stop cheating in exams. Moreover, educational institutions may need to consider encouraging the sense of awareness, responsibility, and integrity among students via different techniques and strategies.


Even though technology is why cheating in exams has become easier, it also is the tool different countries use to fight academic dishonesty. On the one hand, some countries used technology against cheating in exams in extreme ways.

Cheating in Ethiopia

For example, Ethiopia had about a week-Internet  blackout in June 2019 as a measure against cheating. However, a one-day blockage of the Internet costs the country $4.5m at least.

Test Malpractice in China         

In China, drones, facial and fingerprint recognition, phone-signal blockers, and wireless detectors are used to prevent cheating in exams.

China: cheating in exams - drones
Source: Dong Life/Imaginechina

Advanced Software

On the other hand, other countries have started using software programs to positively counteract cheating in exams.


Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have designed an AI-powered program, that detects with a 90% accuracy copied texts. The software, Ghostwriter, searches for elements like language, sentence structure, and differences that suggest a different person wrote the text.

Qorrect Online Exams Software

It is one of, if not, the best comprehensive assessment management software programs. The solution does an all-inclusive examination process without missing anything.

Qorrect automates the exam creation process using an automatic exam generation algorithm. The program fully prevents cheating in exams via multiple test forms and questions for the same exam, connecting them to the learning objectives.

What makes this software different than many others is that is not only allows MCQs but also MRQs, matching, true/false, fill-in-the-blanks, and ordering, as well as short-answer questions.

Though the program was only designed recently, it gained unprecedented success. It was used in a unified test in 21 faculties of medicine all over Egypt this year. (Read more about computerizing exams in Egypt here.)

Under the instruction of the higher minister of education and research, through the program all students were able to get the test results only a few minutes after the test.

Qorrect also provides detailed report and instant psychometric analysis for tests and students, respectively. Through these reports one can get accurate statistics of the overall performance and take reformative actions on them.

Yes, we must take restrictive, firm actions against cheaters. Yes, cheating prevention is not an easy undertaking. However, we must start doing this by advanced technology.

Qorrect was made and designed in Egypt. It’s a true success story of what advanced technology can do. It’s also a tangible proof of what Egyptians can do once they are given the right tools and education.

Check out our blog regularly to follow the best practices and the latest technological advancements in assessments. You can also check out our website to learn more about Qorrect Assess. 

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  1. How Students Use Technology to Cheat and What Faculty Can Do About It, Lisa Z. Bain, Information Systems Education Journal (ISEDJ) 13, 2015.
  2. University Students’ Perceptions of Academic Cheating: Triangulating Quantitative and Qualitative Findings, Tianlan Wei, Steven R. Chesnut, Lucy Barnard-Brak, and Marcelo Schmidt, Journal of Academic Ethics, 2014.

About Yasmine Nasr

Yasmine Nasr has been part of the content world since 2017. She has worked as a translator, content writer, editor, copyeditor, and English language instructor. She holds a BA degree in English, Translation, and Literature, plus a degree in literary and media translation from the American University in Cairo. Today Yasmine is a content writer interested in education technology, especially exams autograding, computer-based exams, evaluation & assessment systems, and LMS, in relation to academic accreditation with the aim to improve exams quality and student learning and experience.

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