Recent news stories about cheating on the SAT exam have once again placed a spotlight on the issue of cheating on tests and other instances of cheating in school among college students. With so much riding on success in college it isn’t surprising that cheating is a common practice among college students.
Easy to Cheat, Easy to Detect
Has cheating become rampant in college? It may seem that way. The proliferation of Internet technologies certainly makes it easier for students to cheat. Not only can a student find and copy information from a website, they can find hundreds of sites that exist solely for the purpose of selling students pre-written term papers, essays and even college entrance letters.
Matthew C. Keegan reviewed the data on cheating in his January 3, 2012 post for SayCampusLife.com titled, “College Cheating: How Widespread is it?” Keegan found that students entering college may not have a clear understanding of what is expected and may not see cheating on tests and assignments as wrong.
“Often cited as proof of cheating on the rise is a 10-year-old study from the Center for Academic Integrity that surveyed 1,800 students from nine state universities across the nation. That survey revealed that 84 percent admitted to cheating on exams and 52 percent said that they ‘copied sentences from a website’ without attribution,” Keegan said.
Along with technological advances in cheating have come the technologies to detect cheating. A prime example of such a service is TurnItIn where student papers are evaluated for cheating by comparing them with information in TurnItIn’s iParadigm’s database, which is derived from the web as well as thousands of other sources including books, newspapers, and other student work that has been submitted for review.
It isn’t only the new students who are cheating; it’s also those working toward their master’s degree in business (MBA), according to Rutgers professor of management and global business, Don McCabe. In his April 13, 2009 post for the HBR Blog Network titled, “MBAs Cheat. But Why?” McCabe discussed the results of a study about cheating among graduate students in the U.S. and Canada.
McCabe and his research colleagues found that MBA students cheated more than any other graduate student. The reason for this lies in the psyche of the business student who is driven to succeed at all costs. According to McCabe, the mindset of most MBA students is to get to the bottom line, which often means to get the highest grade point average (GPA) regardless of how it is achieved. Those with the highest GPA will likely get the most rewarding jobs. McCabe believes that cheating students are exhibiting the kinds of behaviors they think are necessary to succeed in the corporate world.
McCabe’s findings lead him to two conclusions:
- Today’s business students find it easier to justify cheating
- Teaching ethics and enforcing an honor code is an effective deterrent to cheating
“In Japan, cultural mores embed a sense of shame in cheaters. Will MBAs who rise to the executive ranks, in the absence of such cultural shaming, continue to believe that they can get away with things, and if caught cheating, that they will get off scot-free? As long as society accepts such behavior when it’s associated with strong stock performance, I’m afraid they may,” said McCabe.
Fear of failure, lack of time and lack of belief in one’s abilities may lead a student to cheat. Those students who haven’t taken the time to prepare for an exam or who lack study skills may see cheating as their only alternative. It doesn’t have to be that way according to Eileen Tracy. In her book, “The Student’s Guide to Exam Success,” Tracy explains how a student’s attitude can determine success.
“Lay to rest your fantasy of a ‘superstudent’ if you ever believed it. The fantasy is dangerous for two reasons. First, it may make you feel very depressed if you believe (as you should) that you can’t get stunning exam results on no work. I’ve heard many students grumble despondently, ‘Some people can, but I can’t.’ It’s quite uplifting to realize that in fact there’s no magic behind exam success,” says Tracy.
She adds, “The superstudent fantasy is particularly dangerous for those students who try to be superstudents themselves. To prove to themselves and others that they have supreme powers, these ambitious mortals put off working until the very last minute before their exams, when the harsh reality strokes them that they have set themselves an impossible goal.”