Exam boards monitor Twitter to catch pupils sharing exam answers with classmates

Posted on: 2018-07-26 12:00:00

Exam boards spend a “huge amount of time” scrolling through social media sites including Twitter to catch out pupils who share exam answers with classmates in the middle of tests.

Dedicated teams have been set up to look for students who post leaked exam questions online, as well as pupils who discuss the content of live tests on social media whilst still in the exam hall.

Social media, smart watches and phones have created new opportunities for cheating, the exam board chiefs said as they launched a new independent inquiry into malpractice.

The number of penalties given to students for cheating in GCSE and A-level exams rose by a quarter last year, the most recent figures show, and most were penalised for smuggling phones into exams.

Announcing the new commission, to be led by Sir John Dunford, Mark Bedlow, of the Oxford, Cambridge and RSA exam board, said: “Malpractice that is deliberate is still extremely rare. But we are seeing the occasional story pop up and it is getting profile and we are also seeing students increasingly use technology in different ways.”

He added that a lot of work is already done to combat malpractice, but more can be done to look at issues such as the role of social media.

“There’s all this technology change that’s going on. We spend a huge amount of effort and time monitoring social media, to look for signs and indicators of malpractice,” Mr Bedlow said.

He added that the board has people examining social media platforms throughout the year.

Alex Scharaschkin, of the AQA exam board, said: “One thing that is increasing is how students engage with technology. We are conscious of the fact there are different ways information can be shared, through social media and encrypted routes.”

Official figures on malpractice from exams regulator Ofqual show that last year, 2,715 penalties were issued to candidates, along with 895 to school staff and 120 to schools and colleges.

Last month, the Ofqual launched an investigation after an A-level maths paper was allegedly leaked online, one day before thousands of students were due to sit the paper.

However, exam boards insist that the inquiry was not launched in response to any particular issue, but instead as part of ongoing work to clampdown on exam malpractice.

The commission is due to begin its work in September, with a final report published next spring. The announcement comes just weeks before teenagers learn their GCSE and A-level results.

A spokesperson for the Joint Council for Qualifications – which represents the major exam boards – said: “The awarding bodies work together in a number of ways to detect malpractice in all forms including monitoring social media such as Twitter. 

“The commission will investigate the ways in which social media has the potential to allow a candidate to cheat during an examination.”

Source: Independent

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