Common Ways Penn Students Cheat & Their Advice about How to Prevent Cheating

What follows is a list of advice from Penn Students that can give you a sense of common ways Penn students cheat and their own sense of how to incourage integrity. These tips are the result of conversations with the Center for Teaching and Learning’s Undergraduate Advisory Board and University of Pennsylvania’s Honor Council.

The Honor Council also has its own page of advice for faculty.

General Strategies to Encourage Integrity

  • Have clear guidelines about academic integrity set out for exams, homework, assignments, and papers. Put those guidelines in the syllabus, have TAs reinforce them, and remind students before assignments.
  • Explain gray areas (when is collaboration OK, when can students look at old copies of exams, or what is an acceptable paraphrase) before you give assignments.
  • Make your grading standards transparent.
  • Consider the student’s process in completing the task (exam question or paper) so that you indicate that you value the student’s work not just the right answer.
  • Show students that you care about academic integrity. If you see someone cheating, respond to it.

Strategies for Exams

  • Announce a clear policy on cell phones, laptops, or other electronic devices (ipods don’t just play music!) Many professors don’t let these things even near students’ desks during exams. The best policy is to tell students that ANY use of an electronic device during exams will be considered cheating. If students need a clock, use the projector in class to post websites that have the time like
  • Make proctors walk around the room (don’t let them just sit and read).
  • Be conscious of students who may be looking at answers written on clothing, hands, hats, even the labels of water bottles.
  • Check Penn Cards as students come into the exam to make sure that a student does not have a ringer take the exam for them.
  • Have students sit separately from each other so that they can’t look at each other’s answers.
  • Organize students according to a seating chart (so that they don’t sit near their friends) and avoid allowing students to sit on a diagonal (which makes it easier to look over someone else’s shoulder.)
  • Do not allow students to have written materials (books, notebooks and so on) sitting near their desks.
  • Change exam questions often.
  • Hand out different versions of the exam.
  • Create a consistent policy on re-grades. Do not allow students to ask for a re-grade unless they have used pen to take the exam.
  • Copy exams once students have turned them in so that students cannot erase their answers and ask for a re-grade.
  • For take-home exams, explain what constitutes cheating. Is it OK to use the book? To consult with other students? To work together on answers? Don’t assume we know what you think is cheating.

Strategies for Papers

  • Create specific paper topics, focused on the class. If you use vague and overly general paper topics (“write something about The Great Gatsby”), students can easily find papers on-line or recycle previously written papers.
  • Assign papers in stages so that you can that the student has done her own work.
  • Assign different readings each semester and then base the papers on those readings so that former students can’t recycle old papers.
  • Have reasonable expectations about the amount of work students can do and how well they can do it.
  • Give students a number of different assignments throughout the semester. If the whole grade hangs on one paper, we might be so anxious about our grade that we are tempted to cheat.

Strategies for Labs

  • Make students turn in copies of their lab data before they leave class. This way they won’t be able to use fake data later.
  • Have answer keys from past labs available so that you can check to make sure that students aren’t using their friends’ old lab answers. You might think they got really bad lab data when in fact they cheated by just copying an old lab.
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