Science - September 8, 2005

Students caught cheating again

Eight students were found to have notes in their dictionary during a resit of the Advanced Management and Marketing exam in August. The Examining Board is very concerned about the increase in the number of cases of cheating.

Lecturer Emiel Wubben of the Business Studies group decided just out of curiosity to check his students’ dictionaries during an exam resit. After reports of widespread cheating during exams that appeared in the national press earlier this year, he wondered whether cheating also went on in Wageningen. He started with a sample. ‘But when I noticed that three of the first six students whose dictionaries I checked had made notes in them, I decided to check everyone,’ explains Wubben.

In the end he found handwritten notes in the dictionaries of 9 of the 48 students. He confiscated the dictionaries and passed them on to the Examining Board. The board confirmed that cheating had taken place in eight cases. The ninth student had borrowed a dictionary, and the notes in it had nothing to do with the exam subject.

Dr Paul Berentsen, secretary for the examining board of Social Sciences that dealt with the case, confirms that students are cheating more frequently. In April three students were caught with notes in their dictionaries. Berentsen: ‘There have been an increasing number of reports in the last few years, but so many in one go is new for me too. I have the impression that copying notes is happening more often.’

Other examining boards are noticing the same trend. Dr Rienk Miedema, secretary of the examining board of Environmental Sciences: ‘We have seen a disturbing rise in the last four years. We have had twenty cases of cheating in this period. I am very disturbed that this is happening at a university. And the cases reported are only the tip of the iceberg.’ Miedema suspects that many examiners deal with irregularities themselves and do not report them.

Berentsen suspects that the increase in cheating during exams also has something to do with the use of dictionaries. ‘The number of subjects that are taught in English has increased considerably in the last few years. Everyone is allowed to use a dictionary, and these are proving to be a very good vehicle for copying notes.’

The cheating students’ (three Dutch and five foreign) resits have been declared invalid. They have been barred from attending the next resits as well. They will be allowed to take the exam again in April at the earliest. / JH

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