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Cheater, Cheater

I showed up for an exam to a big lecture class, where there were probably 300 students. A boy I had other classes with made eye contact with me and said, “Did you study?”
I shrugged. I had, but I was still nervous. And, since this kid had never really talked to me before, I was wary as to why he was asking.

He then asked the person sitting beside me to trade him seats so he could sit by “his friend.” Yeah, he’d hardly ever talked to me; we weren’t friends.

As the test goes on, he tries to ask me questions. I ignore him. Somehow, he’s loud enough to disturb our neighbors, but not the professor.

Toward the end, he tries a plea, “I’m failing this test,” he whines, “Failing.”

I continued to ignore him. I was hesitant to even whisper, “No,” so as not to look like I was cheating.

In retrospect, the best choice would have been to stand up, march to the front of the classroom, and tell the professor that this kid was disturbing me.

In the moment, I was worried about my own grade. And I was enraged that someone would pretend to be my friend and expect me to risk my grade, my reputation, and my standing at the university by helping him cheat. 0916-11


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • MM 2 July 27, 2015, 7:17 am

    Ignoring him is still the best option. Telling on him would maybe have been more satisfying but in a timed exam, I just don’t think it’s worth to expend your time like that. I don’t know what would have happened? The test would stop? Only the two of you would have to stop to give “testimony”?

    Good job on not succumbing to his pleas. Most likely he was just trying to manipulate you. Ideally this would be a lesson for him on preparing for tests and that cheating is never the answer. And that you can’t just call someone a friend just to get some answers. Actually, the list of friends I would risk my academic record for is small. Actually I wouldn’t do that for any of my friends.

    Hope you did well on the test!

  • abby July 27, 2015, 7:37 am

    I don’t know that telling the professor would have been necessary, but if there was an empty seat somewhere in the lecture hall, I definitely would have moved the first time he tried to talk to me once the test was in session. Although you did nothing wrong, if other students told the professor what was happening, it may not have been clear that you were innocent.

    Entitlement is definitely in play here.

  • starstruck July 27, 2015, 7:43 am

    Good for u for ignoring him. This is what I tell my daughter . Just flat out ignore them. Its funny how the teacher/professors will not always here or see the cheater but when other person speaks up , suddenly teacher hears and lumps them in with the cheater . U did the right thing

    • Yet Another Laura July 27, 2015, 9:09 am

      I’ve noticed that dynamic all through grade school and into high school. Bully picks on kid. Kid reacts. Kid gets punished. Bully gets away with it. As the perennially picked on kid, I got punished for running in the halls while trying to get away from a kid about to beat me up. I got punished for talking in class when I was trying to refuse to let another kid copy off my test.

      Justice is warped in schools. You did the most effective thing.

      • Yet Another Laura July 27, 2015, 9:10 am

        Oops. By “you” I meant the original poster.

      • Bellyjean July 27, 2015, 1:35 pm

        I absolutely know how you feel. /sigh It frustrates me that it doesn’t seem to get any better with each generation, even with the anti-bullying, let’s play happy families campaigns.

      • o_gal July 28, 2015, 6:53 am

        This is exactly why we are singing up for online school this year (DS will be in 10th grade). You forgot to add that after they punish you for running away from your bully, you will be told that you must figure out why you made him bully you, and figure out how to not have them bully you in the future. And that after school activity that you love? You have to give that up because the bully is also doing it, so it’s up to you to stay away from the bully.

        • Jessica July 28, 2015, 12:55 pm

          EXACLTY I was bullied so severely by a large group of girls in my year when I was in year 10 that they told ME not to go to my formal (jnr prom) because it was easier than banning 11 girls…

          In primary school this girl who was smaller than me but nasty used to pinch my neck every time she walked behind me in class, try to cut my hair, stamped on my feet, punched me in the lower back. The school knew and did nothing even with begging from my mum (I have a condition where my skin is super sensitive to pain so even a pinch is agony) I had enough in the end and when she kicked me in the back I turned around and punched her in the nose. I was 10. I was so tired from being in pain all the time and the adults couldnt help me I was so fed up. Of course because I was bigger I was the bully and suspended on the spot. On the way home from school that day her father sped down the one way street our school was in and screeched to a stop in front of my dads car (who was picking me up from school) and tried to beat him up if he didnt control his fat bully of a daughter (me). We knew then where the daughter got it from. Mum home schooled me then until year 8 when I decided I wanted to go to uni I went back to high school and bullied severely because of my weight. I left in year 10 because I couldnt take it anymore and couldnt defend myself because I was blamed. I didnt go to uni until I was 26 and then I do it via correspondence I have 1 year left of my law degree. Bullies make education impossible and damage kids for life.

          • Vrinda July 28, 2015, 6:28 pm

            Jessica, there are no words I can use to describe what you went through. Awful doesn’t cut it. That the teachers continuously ignored this girl’s behavior, and that of the others who bullied you, and blamed you makes no sense. I hope that stupid brat and her dirtbag father got what was coming to them.

          • NostalgicGal July 29, 2015, 12:32 pm

            Jessica, I had it somewhat worse than that, trust me I feel for you. However I had to stay there, and nobody that mattered believed me. There was more than one antagonist, and they usually had friends… I had to learn to fight, and I had my own rounds with school board and parents (never got suspended-my parents gave me one chance to explain, and I always ended up having them back me up). (I didn’t start it but I’d end it, that was some of what finally stopped most of it). Your story reminds me of one of the last incidents…

            I hope you have talked to a professional about it. It might help
            As for banning me from prom, I’d have gone anyway. It was my right to go, and I’d call their bluff on it. Ban us all or ban nobody. Still, I hope you have talked to someone about it.

          • Softly Spoken July 30, 2015, 11:56 am

            Jessica –

            I feel your pain. Grade school was hell for me (I was stuck with the same kids from K all the way to 8th – nine *very* long years), and I was hoping to get a fresh start in high school. High school ended up being just more of the same, I was bullied for being fat and for my sexuality. I ended up having a nervous breakdown and dropping out. The silver lining was that, after some major therapy, I enrolled in community college and got both high school and college credit. I technically graduated high school even though a never set foot in one again. I am still trying to unlearn the unconscious defensive mechanisms I developed: not making eye contact, hunched posture, avoiding trying to talk to people and otherwise being “invisible.” I wish I had the tools and strengths I have now back then. Maybe I would have fewer scars. Here’s to us survivors. <3

          • NostalgicGal August 1, 2015, 9:04 pm

            @ Softly Spoken, take speech. Or join a Rotary group. It will help a LOT. The confidence and self poise you will gain, will really help. Hang in there. Not many are able to do performing arts, so speech is a good compromise. (also I had the same group from Kindergarten through graduation…)

        • KJR July 28, 2015, 2:36 pm

          That’s just wrong…I wish your son the best of luck. No one should be bullied out of high school!

          • Jessica July 30, 2015, 5:35 am

            Thank you, Im ok now over that, adult life has dealt a few blows that make it seem insignificant now. The worst thing was home schooling meant I spoke to NOONE my age for about 5 years, I had no friends except my sister who didnt like me much. I now work as a bouncer so I guess the standng up for myself and getting all the insults prepared me in a way, Im tough and I have heard it all before so I dont get as mad. 🙂

    • ally July 27, 2015, 11:20 am

      So true! I was worried this submission would turn out like this. Glad it went well!

    • AS July 28, 2015, 1:52 am

      I’ve been on both sides of this – being punished as a student, as well as noticing things as a TA. I think that the perpetrators are tactful enough not be obvious. But the defendant isn’t always as cautious. The onus should be on the teachers to figure out who is saying the truth. Unfortunately, that isn’t always so easy.

  • LeeLee88 July 27, 2015, 7:49 am

    He’s a massive turd, and you should have turned him in, but retrospect is always 20/20. He must not have been able to copy your work though, or he wouldn’t have been whining at you about how he’s failing.

  • MyWorld July 27, 2015, 7:59 am

    He was a jerk and you handled the situation just right! If you find him near you in a class in the future, quietly tell him if he ever pulls something like that again, you will go straight to the professor and let them know what he is trying to do.

  • girl_with_all_the_yarn July 27, 2015, 7:59 am

    They will never not exist. Wait until you get to the workplace and they managed to find someone who let them cheat for a whole lot longer.

    • Lerah99 July 27, 2015, 9:24 am

      I have a coworker who, I swear, must have cheated her way through school.

      She has a BA in Business Administration and is working on her MBA with online classes, yet cannot write a simple declarative sentence to save her life. She randomly capitalizes letters, writes in sentence fragments, seems morally opposed to proper nouns, can’t figure out the correct homonym to use, etc…

      She actually gave me meeting notes that contained this gem:
      “He said we don’t have the Resources for Unlimted Overtime. He argued because no raises last year. He Tabled discussion for later oneonone. She asked to be Include?”

      The meeting notes didn’t have any indication of who was present for the meeting, the purpose of the meeting, or who said what in the meeting.

      When I asked her for clarification so I could pop all the info into our meeting notes template and upload to the team’s sharepoint for her: she told me that since I wasn’t in the meeting I wasn’t authorized to know.

      I let her know that she’d simply have to do her own work in that case.

      She went to our manager and complained that I wouldn’t fill out the template and upload it for her. Then she was shocked that he had the gall to ask her why I was doing her work for her.

      She uploaded her notes in all their glory.
      Our division director and VP were in the meeting so they received an email notification with a copy of the notes attached.
      Suddenly one of my official duties became “proofreading all meeting notes, formatting, and uploading onto the team sharepoint”.

      • Cat July 27, 2015, 1:07 pm

        That happened to me at my high school. Too many of our employees were unable to write a memo in the English language so it became my job to proofread all memos.
        My vice-principal was amazed to discover that I was literate.

        • stacey July 27, 2015, 2:36 pm

          It is entirely possible that the lack of basic literacy was just an accumulation of sloppy habits and entitlement. It is equally possible that this person never learned to spell (and never will… due to untreated “fill in the blank with the correct inability-to-process label”. It isn’t always a character deficit… though the attempted cover-ups can be character deficits, certainly. I had an employer who was an industry VP for a computer manufacturer- who couldn’t spell to save her life! It caused no end of frustration and rage when trying to do research, process documents, or merely use a notebook… (her, not me, that wasn’t my role- happily).

          • Cat July 27, 2015, 7:59 pm

            I wish I could agree with you, but thirty-five years in the American school system has given me a different point of view. Yes, there are those for whom spelling is an enigma, but they are the exception, not the rule. Most of us are capable of using a dictionary.
            Part of the problem lies with those who teach English classes. Grammar and spelling are tedious subjects so many choose to teach other, more interesting things. I knew one English teacher who was teaching the movie “Glory” as historical fact. While it is a very good movie, it is about as historically accurate as the rhino and the elephants in “300”.
            The other problem is that few of us use proper grammar in everyday speech. My grandmother was unaware that “hiself” is not a word. The predicate nominative has gone the way of the Dodo bird.
            Unless you work in the school system and see the memos, lesson plans and job postings that are a wonder to behold, you would not believe that this is a school.
            I am always fascinated to learn that there is a job opening for a mentally handicapped teacher.

      • Lizajane July 27, 2015, 3:38 pm

        Do wé work together? I think I know her.

        • Lady Anne July 28, 2015, 2:48 pm

          I teach Colonial American Living at the elementary schools in this county. I once stopped to drop off some information at a certain school and the secretary asked a sweet young thing if she could locate Mrs. Jones for me.

          “I don’t know where she’s at, but I’ll check the lounge.”

          “Is that one of the aides?”

          The secretary, who was about my age, rolled her eyes. “No. She’s one of the teachers.”

          Heaven help us all.

      • AIP July 27, 2015, 3:51 pm

        If it wasn’t for the age, qualification and location, I would swear this was a boss I had. I’d have to correct her “corrections” constantly.

        • Lady Anne July 28, 2015, 2:51 pm

          I used to have a boss who grew up in a home where English was not commonly used, and he was hard of hearing, to boot. He wrote what he thought he heard. “Will” instead of “well”, and syntax to curl your hair.

          The things he gave me didn’t need to be edited, as much as translated!

  • another Laura July 27, 2015, 8:09 am

    I think what you did was the best way to handle this situation. You ignored him, you didn’t allow him to cheat off of you, and you didn’t contribute further to the disruption of your neighboring classmates. Well done!

    If you had done what you now think you should have, I think you would have blundered. In many such group dynamics, being a “snitch” or “tattletale” is viewed as a greater transgression than the offense being reported. Also, I highly doubt that your professor would have appreciated if you had “marched to the front of the classroom” and explained what had happened. That would have disturbed the entire class of 300 in the middle of an exam, and may have been viewed as melodramatic, and whiny.
    However, I am definitely NOT saying that the would-be-cheater should be let off. If your university or professor have guidelines for handling attempts at cheating, follow those. If there aren’t any, or you don’t know them, then my suggestion would be to approach the professor during his/her office hours or before or after class, and calmly and maturely, report the incident. Here is an example: “Excuse me, Professor X, during our exam on Monday, John P repeatedly and unsuccessfully tried to get answers from other students. I found this distracting. I would rather not be seated near him for the remainder of the semester.” It may still seem like “ratting him out,” but it won’t be in front of the whole class, and anyone who has made it to university should be getting by on his or her own merits, not sponging answers off of others. If he has a legitimate reason for not studying, he should be able to get an extension on the exam as well.

  • essie July 27, 2015, 8:09 am

    “I was hesitant to even whisper, “No,” so as not to look like I was cheating.”

    Whisper? No. Say it firmly and loudly. “NO! And leave me alone.”

    • Daphne July 27, 2015, 2:09 pm

      Exactly! This is what college is all about. The degree is only part of it, a big part of education is learning how to hold your own with all sorts of people.

      • J July 27, 2015, 7:50 pm

        Nope, that would not have been a solution, because then the innocent party would most likely have had his/her test taken away and earned a zero for talking during the exam.

    • Emmy July 28, 2015, 4:39 pm

      I think the OP did the right thing. I would have angled myself so I was turned away from him as much as possible and ignored until he gave up. I imagine if he was talking to the back of the OP’s head without a response, he’d give up before long. I can’t blame her for being angry. How selfish of him to expect her to do something morally wrong and that would endanger her education to help him on a test he was unwilling to prepare for himself.

  • Meegs July 27, 2015, 8:13 am

    I probably wouldn’t have told the professor but I definitely would have moved my seat.

    • crebj July 27, 2015, 8:51 am

      I agree.

      • Ulla July 27, 2015, 12:31 pm

        I don’t know, is moving seat really allowed without any explanation in exams? At least here it would have raised questions and one would have had to explain why you are moving, being effectively the same as just blaming him on cheating.

    • OP July 27, 2015, 6:43 pm

      Seems obvious, but actually there were no open seats anywhere. So frustrating!

      • Margo July 28, 2015, 6:56 am

        could you have raised your hand to attract the attention of the person invigilating the exam and requested a move, and explained why? That way, you haven’t spoken out of turn but you do get to move and to flag up the issue.

  • Lerah99 July 27, 2015, 8:58 am

    You are an adult at University.
    You handled this the best possible way by simply ignoring him.

    No need to create drama by stomping up to the professor.
    If this kid is that blatant, he will end up on the wrong end of the University’s ethics policy all on his own.

    Now that you’ve had this experience, you’ll know what to do next time.

    If some kid you barely know asks if you studied and then tries to sit next to you, get up and move to another chair. No need to say anything to him or make a big stink about it.

  • barbarian July 27, 2015, 9:36 am

    You did the right thing in this situation. As for the “cheater”, he will probably try something like this again in the near future and face the consequences for it. People like him will push their luck as far as it can go -and then some.

  • just4kicks July 27, 2015, 9:40 am

    I had a “friend” like that in high school…..She drove me bonkers!
    Our last names started with the same letter, so she always sat near me.
    The first few times she cheated off of me I didn’t even know it.
    Then, one day during finals, I tanked on our exam……And so did she.
    She had the NERVE to be pissed off at ME for “not studying enough, now I FAILED!!!”
    After everyone left the class, I didn’t rat her out, but asked the teacher if she could “move me closer to the blackboard” for the remainder of the school year.
    The teacher (to this day, one of my all time favorite teachers) winked at me and said, “Ahhh, you are a good friend, I was wondering how long it would take you to ask me…..seems you and Miss Jones always get the same grade on tests. However, you sit in FRONT of her….I know who the culprit is.”
    When we got back from winter break, the whole room was rearranged, and she sat my friend right in front of the teachers desk.

  • LovleAnjel July 27, 2015, 9:41 am

    As a professor who teaches very large introductory courses, I know I can’t catch everything that is going on. I can’t have all eyes on all students all hour. I have appreciated when students alerted me to cheating, even after the fact. It tells me to watch that student more closely during future exams. I’d say go to your professor’s office hours, or walk with them to the next class, and let them know what was going on. They’ll likely be able to do something to reduce future disruptions, even if it is just walking past their seat more often.

    • Susan July 27, 2015, 1:46 pm

      As another professor, I second LovleAnjel’s advice to let the professor know during office hours or by email. Staring out at a sea of students scribbling over their tests for an hour is boring. Even for those who can do it, we inevitably will be distracted by another student who has a question about wording or have to otherwise take care of some administrative detail that will our attention from the front of the room.

      Students should do this not just to protect themselves from being tarred as a collaborator, but, frankly, to protect or improve the reputation their institution. Many top tier universities in the US have honor codes in place where the professor isn’t even in the room during tests, after all.

    • J July 27, 2015, 7:54 pm

      This is what I always did. Although, even more than the cheating thing, I ended up reporting on attendance fraud. A professor would pass a sheet around, and you were supposed to put your name and student I.D. number on it so that you would be counted as present. I would watch people sign for their friends who weren’t actually there, and that was my pet peeve. I managed to drag my butt to class, I’m not letting people who didn’t get credit for it! lol

      I would always tell the professor immediately after class.

  • Michelle July 27, 2015, 9:57 am

    OP- I think you handled it fine under the circumstances. Telling the professor would have disrupted the class and maybe have gotten you in trouble, too. However, I do have a similar story to share…

    Flashback to ninth grade chemistry. A girl who had ignored me and sort of bullied me in middle school was assigned to sit at the same table/desk in chem class (we had the tables that sat 2 students). She consistently asked to copy my homework because she had been “hanging out” with her boyfriend all weekend and had not gotten it finished. I always said no and she would be pi$$y all week. I think she tried to copy my tests a couple time,too. After about 6 weeks of this, I slipped a note to the teacher before class one day and we got new assigned seats. She got assigned to sit with a Goth kid she didn’t like and would barely speak to. I admit I loved it because the Goth kid was super confident and nice and most people liked him; she and a few of her friends were the exception.

    I got assigned to sit with a kid who always did their homework. 🙂

  • Annie July 27, 2015, 10:39 am

    It’s always amazed me that some people don’t want the education they are paying for.

    • Lizajane July 27, 2015, 3:42 pm

      Brilliant. They want thé degree, thé éducation? Meh…

  • Ashley July 27, 2015, 10:42 am

    Ugh. I’m all too familiar with this situation. Growing up, I had a lot of “friends” who were only “friends” because they knew I did well on tests and tried to sit near me and convince me to help them cheat.

    I employed a variety of methods to stop them. I’d put up folders so they couldn’t see my paper (teachers were shown that they were empty before the test, because they knew people liked to try to copy off of me). I’d write as small as I could so it wasn’t legible to anyone trying to read from a distance. A few times I knew I was so far ahead of schedule that I could write fake answers, pretend I was done, then after the person who was copying off of me had turned theirs in, I’d go back and change everything to the correct answer. I wish I was exaggerating any of this, but some of these cheaters were relentless.

    In OP’s case, I think that ignoring the person was the best option. Anything else would have either eaten up your own time or made it seem like you were participating in the cheating.

    • Cat July 27, 2015, 1:02 pm

      The teacher/professor can prevent this by mixing up the test questions so that the next row would not have the same questions in the same order as those in the first row.

      • J July 27, 2015, 7:55 pm

        This is the way most of my large courses were. There were 3 or 4 versions of the test, and you had to write your version code on the Scantron. The odds that anyone near you had the same version were low, and not worth the risk of trying to copy.

    • Huh July 27, 2015, 1:06 pm

      “A few times I knew I was so far ahead of schedule that I could write fake answers, pretend I was done, then after the person who was copying off of me had turned theirs in, I’d go back and change everything to the correct answer.”

      Oh my! I thought I was the only one who resorted to doing this!

      • Ashley July 27, 2015, 5:05 pm

        I only ever used the full amount of time given on math tests…I was miserable at math but did well on everything else, so it was an easy method to use in classes where I knew I wouldn’t need all of the allotted time.

      • plainbelliedsneetch July 29, 2015, 6:39 pm

        Ha! I once realized someone was coping off me on a mid-term and wrote ridiculously wrong answers. We had a sketch of a skull and were supposed to name the bones. She would have been better off blindly guessing.
        I wonder what the professor thought when he graded a test declaring “gramophone” “zephyr” and “mesopotamia” were parts of the human face?

        • NostalgicGal August 1, 2015, 9:07 pm

          Love it!

    • Antonia Siemaszko July 27, 2015, 10:04 pm

      The one time I genuinely forgot my homework, I copied off a friend, and the teacher was sure she copied off me, so I had to confess that I’d forgotten mine. One and only time I ever cheated (I didn’t know the teacher was going to call for it to be turned in rather than read in class, and I just totally spaced on the fact that we had French homework.)

      We were both her top students so she gave us a “Do not ever do that again, you two,” lecture and let it slide.

      • Amanda H. July 28, 2015, 4:53 pm

        The only time I ever cheated was on a spelling quiz in 5th grade. I was busy writing down one word, delayed by trying to remember the spelling, and didn’t hear the teacher say the next word (and she didn’t repeat words), so I glanced at my neighbor’s paper to see what word I had missed. And noticed that my neighbor had misspelled it, so I made sure to write down the correct spelling. I never cheated after that point, because the situation stuck with me even if it wasn’t strict copying.

        • Lynne July 30, 2015, 9:11 pm

          I remember that same situation! But in second grade. The word was “balloon” — but my teacher noticed my eyes wandering over, and admonished me to keep them on my paper. Cheating? By the rules of the class, yes, but now as a teacher myself, I have to wonder: how great is the pedagogical benefit of insisting on speaking each word once only once?

          • Amanda H. August 1, 2015, 5:00 pm

            I know! At least go over the list one last time after you’ve said every word (and you can even go over it faster since most of the words should have been heard from the start) just in case some kid took too long figuring out one word to hear the next.

  • kingsrings July 27, 2015, 10:51 am

    I agree that telling the professor would have been too disruptive given that it was such a huge class in a huge lecture hall. Ignoring him was the best bet.

    This reminds me of when I was in the eighth grade and *I* was the cheater. I can’t remember why I did it as it was so long ago, but I used to sneak peeks at my neighboring classmate’s work. Finally one day she quietly slipped me a note saying, ‘Please stop looking at my papers’. Busted! I never tried to cheat again after that.

  • Ty July 27, 2015, 11:11 am

    As someone who teaches at the college level, let me tell you that you handled the situation perfectly. If he continues to pester you, then by all means, please say something to your teacher. However, your ignoring him (hopefully) sent a clear message.

    Students like this one are not at all uncommon. Many students slack off, thinking that if they whine and openly declare how much they are falling behind that the other students in the course will pity them and help give them a “boost.” Don’t trust these students. They’re users, and they’re merely trying to use other people’s pity to get ahead. At most (I daresay almost all) colleges, teachers are required to hold office hours, which means that students can visit and get extra help and clarification on material they don’t understand. Also, now more than ever, universities are offering a vast array of tutoring resources in many different subject areas, and at my university, all of these resources are free. My point is that there ARE resources available at most schools for students who need help, so the whining and complaining is merely an attempt to solicit undeserved pity.

  • DGS July 27, 2015, 11:22 am

    As someone who has taught a fair share of college classes, including in those large lecture halls…the instructor sees. The instructor knows. The instructor may not say anything in the moment, so as not to interrupt the other students, but that does not mean that after the test is over, the instructor may not speak to the cheater privately and fail him or her and turn him or her in for academic dishonesty. Discretion is very useful in those circumstances. The other students are nervous and had worked hard and studied hard to prepare for the exam – a public spectacle is not necessary to break their attention or concentration.

    And you did the right thing – do not engage.

  • Jennifer July 27, 2015, 11:22 am

    I think I am in the minority here. I would have finished my test then gone up to the professor and explained the situation.

    • mark July 28, 2015, 4:11 pm

      Depending on the university, you may be required to report it or face expulsion yourself. The university of Virginia comes to mind.

  • GG July 27, 2015, 11:35 am

    I also attended a big university with 300-400 students in a lecture hall. Maybe other schools are different but at mine, if someone tried to stand up and walk around the room during an exam (even to switch seats) they would have been kicked out immediately. When he started speaking to you before the test started, you could have moved to another seat but once is began the best course of action was to ignore him and angle your paper in a way where he would be unable to see anything.

    After the exam you have the option of speaking to the professor. During an exam many professors would be more annoyed at the student who loudly disrupted a room full of 300 students than the cheater himself.

    • Cat July 27, 2015, 12:59 pm

      I thought of that too, but would the professor just dismiss it as an irate girl friend trying to cause trouble or as a case of ” he said, she said”?

  • TightlyKnit July 27, 2015, 11:44 am

    I have never had anyone brazenly ask me for the answers, but I have had people sit close to me in an attempt to see my answers. The most important thing to remember is to not disturb the class. The minute you disturb the test session it is your transgression that needs to be dealt with, not your cheater’s. I would have ignored him, shifted in a way that he couldn’t see my paper and completed my exam.

    If it continued to bother you following the test, feel free to speak to a TA about getting a different room/specific seat to avoid further issues.

  • Kimberly Herbert July 27, 2015, 12:20 pm

    You should have reported him. Where I went to school, you would have been in violation of the Honor Code. You would have had to put a note on your paper that he was trying to cheat off you and you refused to participate at the very least. If you didn’t you could be put before Judiciary. On papers you had to credit your proof readers. In my 4 years I don’t remember 1 student going before Judiciary. A professor was dismissed for failing to maintain the required office hours

    • Devin July 27, 2015, 2:34 pm

      I was thinking the same thing. Every university I’ve ever attended has required every student to sign an honor code that not only states you will not cheat, but that you will notify the university if you have knowledge of cheating. Had another student overheard the attempted cheating and you had not notified the professor yourself, you’d be considered an accomplice in the cheating. I do know of several students who received failing grades due to cheating and had to go before the honor board.
      For several of my graduate courses, we had take-home exams. During our final class, I overheard several students discussing the exam (the whole front page of the exam was a copy of the honor code we had to sign with the exam). I sent an email to the instructor after the class simply stating I what I had overheard, but that I didn’t know the names of the students involved (large class). He asked if I would like to proceed with an honor code violation. If so he would assist me and if not he would be checking exams closely for similar work. Since I couldn’t identify each student involved, I declined.

  • AnaMaria July 27, 2015, 12:54 pm

    In higher education or even secondary school, I would be very, very suspicious if someone asked to switch seats and sit by “a friend” during an exam. It’s an exam, you think you’ll get a chance to socialize? Or are you not adult enough to go 45 minutes without sitting next to your best friend?

  • Cat July 27, 2015, 12:57 pm

    You could do what one of my high school girls did when a boy was trying to talk to her while I was explaining each of the wives of Henry VIII. She turned to him and, in a loud voice, said, “Will you please shut up! I am trying to listen!” I can’t recall him ever speaking again in class.

    Ignoring him is fine if the prof doesn’t catch him and take it you are giving him answers, getting you into trouble.

    I think I ‘d raise my hand, complain of a draft, and ask to be allowed to move to a new seat, if such things are allowed and if other seats are available.

  • Rebecca July 27, 2015, 2:05 pm

    Not fair for this kid to distract you during an exam by talking to you. And if you said anything such as “please don’t talk to me” you could get nailed yourself for talking during an exam. Best thing to do seems to be to call the prof or whomever is supervising the exam, and asked to move as the person next to you is bothering you.

  • Anna July 27, 2015, 5:59 pm

    I recently took a college course that was geared towards professionals (“continuing education”), so we were all adults, and you’d think people would be better behaved. But no.

    We had a take-home final exam, and this one guy emailed me asking what I got for questions 4, 5, 7 , etc. I responded saying that discussing the test was not appropriate, most especially via email (how stupid!!).

    He wrote back a scathing email about how wrong I was. I was so glad it was the end of the course and I never had to see him again!

    • JO July 28, 2015, 5:35 am

      I would have printed the emails and given them to the professor or college administration!

  • Jared Bascomb July 27, 2015, 6:06 pm

    I too would have ignored him. His test results will show exactly how much he got out of the class.

    The only times I “enabled” a cheater were in third grade and middle school.
    In the first case, it was obvious that the kid sitting next to me was copying my spelling test answers, so I deliberately misspelled many random words. The teacher (and everyone else in the class, including the cheater) knew that I was the top speller, so she caught on to what was happening. That, and that the cheater’s spellings – both correct and incorrect – were *exactly* the same as mine.
    The other time, I was essentially bullied/threatened into (ghost)writing a classmate’s book report on To Kill a Mockingbird. When he thanked me for getting him an “A”, I pointed out to him that the first letter of each sentence, spelled out BY JARED BASCOMB (with paragraph breaks between words) as well as a couple other little word games in the text to indicate who the real author was. The teacher hadn’t spotted any of it (who would?) but he got the not-so-hidden message and never asked me for a “favor” again.
    We weren’t being graded on a curve, so the cheat didn’t affect other students’ grades, and I’m sure that “A” was an anomaly on his own GPA for the class. I figured no harm, no foul, lesson learned.

  • NostalgicGal July 27, 2015, 11:15 pm

    Had one in 7th grade, realized she was watching on an orally given True or False to see what I wrote for the first letter. (watched my pen move) I figured this out after about six or seven questions so I made like I wrote the opposite of what it should be (T for F F for T) and she got the remaining remaining 43 questions wrong. THEN she had the nerve to yell at me after the class in the hallway for cheating and making HER bomb the test. I told her flat out I caught her waiting to see what I wrote for the first letter… and the class instructor had followed us into the hall and heard it (she was behind the girl that was literally spitting sparks and was about to tear my hair out) and that girl could NOT believe she got the iron hand on the shoulder and got marched down to the office. She and her cronies avoided me like the plague for a few weeks which was fine with me. One of the few times during that h*** that the stars aligned and someone actually caught the truth instead of me getting it for what I didn’t do.

  • Green123 July 28, 2015, 2:45 am

    Wow. I thought this tale was going to be about primary school – if the attempted cheater is behaving like this as a supposed adult at university there’s not much hope for him, I’m afraid. I expect he’ll end up in Parliament…

    OP did the right thing by ignoring him. However, I question whether the exam invigilators were doing their job correctly – here in the UK talking in the exam is a definite no-no, and even his whispers should have been enough to have him removed from the hall because, even if he was not trying to cheat, his behaviour was definitely distracting to other candidates. If I were OP, I would follow up with an email to the course tutor explaining that ‘Boy’ was whispering, chatting, and trying to attract your attention throughout the exam, and that you would prefer not to be seated next to him in future exams.

    And in future perhaps your Professor will decree that Boy can take his exams in isolation if he cannot be trusted not to distract other hard-working candidates to cover for his own laziness!

  • Lex July 28, 2015, 2:51 am

    If the test wasn’t invigilated and the desks/seats weren’t a prescribed distance apart then this is likely to be a non-formal test – especially if people were able to swap seats – in a formal exams candidates are usually seated by candidate number. I would suggest having a quiet, private word with the professor of the course and ‘Raise your concerns’ about this fellow students’ behaviour. I wouldn’t worry about your own conduct in the test as you did the right thing and ignored the disruptive student. You know what to expect in the future now so you know to move away from this individual. I don’t even think this is an etiquette question at all as it seems simple common sense to me.

  • JO July 28, 2015, 5:33 am

    Op, you behaved perfectly. Trying to move during an exam that size would have been disruptive, as would trying to tell him to stop. You refused to be manipulated and kept yourself out of trouble. Good for you!

  • Kate July 28, 2015, 6:31 am

    I once had someone cheat so heavily off my test paper that he wrote my name on top. Joke was on him though – it was a maths test and I was not a strong student in Maths after about year 7.
    I agree that you did the right thing, OP. Speaking out could have gotten you implicated in accusations of cheating as well.

  • Wild Irish Rose July 28, 2015, 9:26 am

    This reminds me of the time I was taking a state exam toward teacher certification in a foreign language. The exam took place in the state capital, which meant I had to drive there the night before and get a room so as to be at the venue before 8:00 the next morning, the scheduled hour for the test.

    All the paperwork that had been sent to those who signed up for the test indicated that the exam would begin sharply at 8:00, so you needed to be there early with the necessary supplies (i.e., several sharpened pencils) and ready to go at 8:00. The door would be locked and no one admitted after the exam began. Oh, and may I just add that this test wasn’t FREE–it cost around $100 to take it.

    Everyone was there on time, ready to go, except for one woman. The test proctor told us we would wait for her. We waited. Until nearly 8:15. She rushed in, breathless, unapologetic, and when the proctor said we needed to start, the latecomer said, “Well, I need to use the bathroom first!” So we waited some more. Oh, and she didn’t have pencils either, which brought on yet another delay.

    By this time, I was so rattled and angry that I’m afraid I let it affect my performance. I never learned my test results, but I must have done all right because I did get the certification. Nevertheless, I felt sufficiently undone that I wrote a letter to the state department of education complaining about this and requesting an opportunity to retake the test. I never heard back and no longer live in that state, but when it comes to taking a required test, I have zero patience for slackers of any sort.

  • Angel July 28, 2015, 12:11 pm

    In this case, ignoring him was the best option. It’s too bad you couldn’t just switch seats. That would send a very clear message I think.

  • Ms. Charming July 28, 2015, 12:20 pm

    WOW. I am surprised you were allowed to sit next to someone taking the same exam as you.
    I went to a very large Canadian university, and during exam time, no one sat next to anyone taking the same test as them. For example, they would have students from two different courses write the exam in the same room. I was an English Literature student, so I frequently sat beside people taking either a math exam or science exam. There was NO WAY you could cheat (not that I ever would). You were surrounded by people taking a different test. And even if you were beside someone taking the same test as you, the room was monitored heavily by the professor and several TA’s.
    I’ve heard stories of people being escorted out of the exam room for cheating. They ALWAYS faced the Dean. At the very least, you got a serious warning. At the very most, you were kicked out of the university for a year. Personally, I’d rather fail then get caught for cheating.

    • mark July 28, 2015, 4:21 pm

      I got the impression this was an in class exam. But I followed the same strategy in my university’s testing center. I would never sit next to anyone taking the same test. And it ticked me off when someone sat next to me taking the same test.

      • Amanda H. July 28, 2015, 5:06 pm

        Same. The OP’s story was probably in class rather than a testing hall, but my school too had a large testing center where just about every major exam in the university was taken, so the chances of sitting next to someone taking the same test at the same time were slim.

    • OP July 28, 2015, 4:45 pm

      Right. This was not a testing center. I was in a class exam; it was the same location we attended lectures in.

  • kat August 12, 2015, 2:00 am

    Someone started cheating from me years ago during an exam. I had a fun time circling all the wrong answers and watching him copy them. I had made small marks to indicate the correct ones and changed them after he was done cheating off my test and had sprinted triumphantly to the front. When we received our tests back, he couldn’t figure out how he had gotten a zero an I had received 100. Never cheated from me again.