Examining Your Examination Technique

, , , , | Learning | May 17, 2019

(I am teaching multiple sections of a class, and there is a common time assigned for all sections to take exams. Some people have been allowed to register for another class that meets at that exam time, so I arrange to give them the exam as a separate group just before the main exam period. After giving the exam to the small group, I notice that one exam contains a name that doesn’t look familiar. I check our online homework system, and the name is there, too. However, the name has never been listed on the class roster. After contacting the company that runs the homework system, I have the following exchange with one of my students.)

Me: “I’ve noticed that your homework account logs in, gives the correct response to every question on the first try, and then logs out within five minutes.”

Student: “I know the material very well.”

Me: “I’ve noticed a different account that immediately chooses the ‘give up and see the solution’ option for all questions, logs out, and then your account logs in one minute later. For every assignment.”

Student: “It’s a coincidence.”

Me: “The other account has the same IP address as yours.”

Student: “Someone must be stealing my WiFi.”

Me: “During breaks, your account switches to an IP address in [Hometown]. The other account’s IP address changes to the same one at the same time.”

Student: “They must be spoofing it.”

Me: “The company says that this other account was paid for with the same credit card as your account.”

Student: “They stole my credit card information.”

Me: “You are part of the early exam section. Somebody handed in an exam with the same name as this account then, and one with your name was submitted during the regular section.”

Student: “I just decided to come to the big section that week. I have no idea about the other exam.”

(Obviously, I failed this student, and he promptly appealed the decision to my department head. Then to the dean’s office. Then to the university committee. Then to the provost. I spent two months on hearings, summaries, and rebuttals which were a waste of everybody’s time. The student retook the class, graduated, and went on to medical school!)

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