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Cheating in the Classroom:
How to Prevent It and
How to Handle It if It Happens



"We sometimes forget the seriousness of not preventing and handling cheating in our classrooms. If students can cheat on a test, it sends the message that they do not have to pay attention, do the homework, or study the subject you are working so hard to teach," says classroom management expert Howard Seeman. Besides, Seeman says, if cheaters get away with cheating -- and get higher grades because they cheat -- that sends a de-motivating message to the hard-working students in your classroom. Included: Seeman offers easy-to-apply advice for preventing cheating plus tips on dealing with cheating if it does happen.

Is cheating a problem in your school or classroom? Are you at a loss about how you can prevent it from happening -- or about how to handle it if it does occur? Professor Howard Seeman shares the following six tips to help you head off the cheaters before they strike!

Howard Seeman

Professor Howard Seeman is a former New York City public school teacher and professor of education at Lehman College, City University of New York. A national consultant on classroom management, Seeman has published more than two dozen articles on education, psychology, and philosophy, and has been a keynote speaker at many national education conferences. Seeman also teaches an online course, Preventing Classroom Discipline Problems. You can learn more about that course on his Web site,

Know When to Discipline

When is a discipline problem not a discipline problem? Learn the answer to that question and others in Know When to Discipline!. In that Education World e-interview, Seeman explains why knowing when to discipline can be more important than knowing how.

Dont miss that article and others in our Classroom Management Center.


Tip 1
When you give a test, arrange students' desks in neat rows and sit in the back of the room. When students can't see you well, they are usually more nervous about trying to cheat. Those who are tempted to cheat usually will try to turn around to see where you are. That makes it easy for you to spot potential cheaters.

Tip 2
Cheating is easier when you give a short answer test -- for example, tests with true/false, fill-in-the-blank, or multiple-choice questions. Try instead to give tests that require short essay responses. Yes, short essay tests might be more difficult to grade than the others, but it actually takes more work to design valid and reliable questions that are not guessable.

If you still prefer short-answer tests, create two sets of tests. On one set, type the questions from 1 to 10; on the other set, arrange the questions in the opposite order. Copy one set of questions on white paper, and copy the other set on yellow paper. Pass out the two versions of the test to alternate rows of students; students in the first row get the white version, students in the second row get the yellow test, and so on. Tell the students you have done this so that if they are tempted to cheat, they'll be copying the wrong answer. Another good thing about setting up the test this way, is that you can use one answer key to grade both sets of papers.

Tip 3
Don't take away the paper of a suspected cheater, or reprimand him or her in the middle of taking a test. Such an action will cause a disturbance during the test, and the disruption will give other students an opportunity to cheat. Instead, inform students before the test that, "If I suspect anyone is cheating, I wont say anything during the test If you get your paper back with points off, you'll know why." A statement such as that may often make potential cheaters too nervous to cheat.

Tip 4
Tell students at the start of the test, "During the test, cover up your answers. You might even let students know that any student who helps another cheat also will face repercussions. By encouraging students to cover up their own papers, you will probably be giving most students permission to do what they really want to do. But now, since you directed the action, they'll be able to do this without risking peer disapproval. Also, the students most likely to follow your "cover up" instruction are usually the ones who studied for the test -- and the ones who will have the most correct answers. Thus, you've cut off from view the major sources of correct "cheatable" answers.

Tip 5
Don't wait for the day of the test to tell students how you'll handle cheating. By then, it's too late to motivate students to study, rather than to try to cheat. Instead, give warnings about cheating a day or two before the test. By doing that, you might motivate a potential cheater to study instead.

Tip 6
Return test papers at the end of a class period -- not at the start of a class period. Doing that is helpful in two ways:

  • Students will be more likely to listen to a review of the test answers before they get their papers back.
  • If you return papers at the beginning of class, cheaters who lost points or got zeroes might vent their anger and disrupt your planned lesson. If they get back their papers at the end of the period, they can talk to you after class. Even better, they may go home to vent, and cool off by the time you see them the next day. They might even be motivated to do better in the future!

To learn more about preventing and handling cheating and other classroom management issues, see Preventing Classroom Discipline Problems: A Classroom Management Handbook.

Howard Seeman
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