Prevent Cheating in College

Academic dishonesty is not a recent problem in the educational sphere. Despite the development of new advanced proctoring solutions, the number of cheating students remains extremely high. A study conducted by Dr. Donald McCabe revealed that 95% of the respondents admitted to cheating in some form.

College cheating can turn out to be a disaster for a student, coming with a huge number of consequences such as penalties, stains on academic reputation, revoked scholarships, suspensions, or even expulsion. In this article, we will outline the main reasons that push students to behave dishonestly and offer you the best strategies to prevent cheating in college and engage your students in the academic process.

Why College Students Cheat 

To develop a robust anti-cheating strategy, it’s crucial to understand the motives that make students choose this unethical path. There are a great variety of reasons; let’s have a look at the most significant ones.

  1. Pressure to succeed. Modern education concentrates more on performance rather than the learning process itself. The constant pressure from parents, peers, and educators can result in increased student anxiety, stress, and, finally, unwillingness to maintain academic integrity.
  2. New technologies. Rapid technological development has provided students with easy access to information. It’s possible to find answers to tests or home assignments on the Internet, use various gadgets to communicate with other students when taking an exam, etc.
  3. Poor time management. This is one of the most common reasons for cheating. Many students find themselves running out of time for a certain assignment, and thus decide to choose an easy way to get a good grade.
  4. Lack of interest in the subject or assignment. Modern students are career-oriented. They try to spend time in college preparing for their professional life. Thus, the chances of cheating behavior increase significantly if students don’t see or understand the value of a particular subject for their working career. 

How Do Students Cheat in College?

Academic dishonesty combines various forms of misconduct. Here are the most common ways college students cheat.

  1. Plagiarism. Plagiarism is a popular form of academic misconduct. It means that students copy the information written by other authors and present it as theirs. This type of cheating is not always committed intentionally; many students don’t clearly understand the concept of citing or simply forget to cite their sources. Moreover, as mentioned before, technological development and the Internet have made information more accessible, which has negatively affected the value of its ownership.
  2. Helping or getting help from other students. Copying answers from other students is a form of cheating. Moreover, assisting others during individual assignments is also considered a type of misconduct. Thus, both students who copy and ones who let others copy can be accused of cheating.
  3. Using prohibited resources. It’s usually forbidden to use any notes, books, phones, or any other additional sources of information during an exam or test (open-book examinations are an exception). Thus, if students are hiding notes or trying to find the answers on the Internet using their phones, they will be regarded as cheaters.

What Are the Best Strategies for Preventing College Students From Cheating?

Once you understand the reasons why your students cheat and know the ways how they tend to do it, it’s time to develop a robust strategy that will prevent them from dishonest behavior and involve them more in the studying process. Here are the best techniques you can employ to reduce the number of college cheaters.

Develop Academic Culture

Teachers need to discuss the concept of academic dishonesty with their students. Although it may seem unlikely to solve the problem of cheating, educating students about ethical academic behavior will help you remind them about integrity in the classroom. What’s more, educational institutions can come up with honor codes and establish honor councils, where the students will be the ones to spread the ideas and principles of academic honesty.

Teach Digital Responsibility

Worldwide digitalization has significantly affected the educational sphere. On the one hand, it has become much easier to find information, gain extra knowledge, prepare for classes, etc. However, on the other hand, such accessibility often encourages students to cheat. One possible solution to prevent this problem is to schedule some regular classes devoted to digital responsibility, where educators can explain to students the importance of academic integrity and show them how to use online tools without breaking the ethical code. 

Make Different Versions of the Test

It’s reasonable to prepare two or more versions of your test, especially when it comes to major examinations or assignments. However, that doesn’t mean that you need to recreate the questions; it would be enough to mix them or mix the responses. This technique will prevent students from cheating off their neighbors.

Use Different Types of Assessment

To reduce academic dishonesty, teachers are advised to implement various assessment styles. Some of them include:

  • Diagnostic assessment can be done through short quizzes, student interviews, team discussions, diagnostic tests, etc. The main goal of this assessment style is to understand the knowledge of your students and involve them more in the educational process.
  • Formative assessment involves team projects, progress tests, unit tests, etc. Its main aim is to keep track of the students' progress and find out how well they know each part of the course.
  • Summative assessment is usually represented by an end-of-course test or final exam. Its main goal is to evaluate the students' knowledge attained during the whole course.

Assessment can be considered a learning instrument. It efficiently engages students in the learning process and helps them develop analytical, problem-solving, and other crucial skills. Thus, it’s often recommended to conduct regular assessments of different types.

Build Trust With Students

To eliminate cheating behavior, it’s crucial to build good relationships with students. If they feel trust towards their professors, students are less likely to cheat, since they want to live up to the teachers’ expectations. What’s more, it’s reasonable to encourage collaboration, so students will see an educator not only as a person who evaluates them but also as someone who can teach them something new or answer their questions.

Manage Access to Personal Devices

One of the most common tools of a modern cheater is a smartphone. Thus, if you still don’t have particular rules about personal devices during an exam or test, it’s high time to introduce them. Some professors ask students to switch off their phones or flip them over, others provide them with a special box or area where they must leave their devices before proceeding to their desks. Regardless of the method you choose, be aware that some students will try to disobey, so you will still have to monitor the classroom and confiscate phones if you spot any of them out.

Change Your Language

The way teachers define academic success has a direct influence on cheating statistics in the class. Educators, who praise only good grades without paying attention to the students' progress are risking seeing even high achievers cheating. To prevent such situations, it’s recommended to use language that will underline the importance of students' achievements and efforts rather than their performance.

Change the Structure of Your Test

Apart from widespread tests with multiple-choice questions, try to use other structures. It’s possible to add open questions that will help students to develop problem-solving skills and critical thinking. You can also include true/false sections, questions where students need to create their examples, etc. Such assignments usually gain more appreciation from students since they allow for expressing their opinion.

Reduce Student Overload

Many students turn to cheating simply because they don’t have enough time or energy to prepare for the test or other form of the assignment. In this case, it’s advised to analyze your course program to find out if there are any repetitive tests, home tasks, assignments that are not relevant anymore, etc.

Monitor The Students During The Test

Even if you are sure of your students' honesty, keep track of what they are doing during the test. In case of conducting an exam with a large group of students, make sure you have the necessary amount of invigilators who will help you monitor the classroom. When it comes to online exams, it’s recommended to implement different types of online proctoring solutions, such as live remote proctoring, automated proctoring, etc. 

Create an Atmosphere of Asking Questions

Encourage your students to ask questions both during the lessons and exams. This will help them feel more comfortable and relaxed, thus more engaged in the learning process. Moreover, this strategy develops students’ critical thinking skills as well as their confidence in expressing their opinion on a certain topic.

What Are The Penalties & Consequences for Cheating in College?

Although many students consider cheating harmless, it can turn out to be disastrous. Not only does it reduce students’ self-confidence and leave stains on their academic reputation, but can also lead to severe consequences and penalties, including expulsion. Let’s have a closer look at some of them.

Cheating Can Lead to Class Failure

Different colleges come up with their own penalties for cheaters. However, in the majority of cases, students who are caught cheating during various types of progress assessments fail those particular assignments. If they cheat during an important examination, there is a risk of failing the class.

Cheating May Cause Legal Consequences

College cheaters may face the risk of legal consequences, especially for breaking copyright laws. If the true author finds out that their work has been stolen, they may sue the student for copyright infringement. Although the possibility of such a scenario is not very high, it’s better to keep it in mind.

Cheating Leads to Suspension and Expulsion

Suspension and expulsion are among the most severe penalties for cheating in college. They are usually applied to students who flagrantly violate the rules of academic integrity. While suspension implies that students cannot attend classes for a certain time, expulsion means that they cannot continue their studies in that educational institution.

Cheating May Harm Academic Reputation

Cheating students may face many difficulties in their college and professional life. Suspension or expulsion may become severe obstacles if they want to enter the university or go to another college. Moreover, cheating may jeopardize students' future careers.

Cheating Prevents Progress

When opting for the easy way, students don’t dive deep into subjects, and they don’t prepare for classes or exams. As a result, they don’t gain the necessary knowledge, and thus don’t make progress in their studies. This can not only harm their learning process but also prevent them from having skills that can be vital in their future life.

Cheating Causes Stress

Cheating may have a considerable impact on a student’s personality. Cheaters tend to suffer from constant stress and anxiety, which can result in depression, low self-confidence, and other severe psychological consequences.

Cheating is a Form of Disrespect

Cheating is a severe form of disrespect to professors who devote a lot of time to making their subjects more engaging and preparing students for their professional life. What’s more, it’s a form of disrespect to other students who do their best to gain knowledge in contrast to cheaters who get better grades by choosing the easy way.


Cheating is a serious problem in modern education. Some students opt for dishonesty simply because they are overloaded with numerous assignments, while others lack interest in the educational process.

What is important when trying to prevent students from cheating in college is to know the reasons why they do it. Knowing that, you can choose the strategy that will fit best in your situation. However, a universal way to reduce unethical acts is to build trustful relationships with your students and explain to them the consequences of academic dishonesty.


How can I stop cheating in college?

Firstly, it’s important to think about the consequences and penalties that cheating can result in. College cheaters can be suspended or even expelled for acting unethically. Moreover, it’s important to understand that cheating prevents students from gaining the necessary knowledge, and thus may hinder their professional lives.

What should I do if a student is cheating?

To prevent your students from cheating, it’s crucial to understand the reason why they do it. Some of them may have lost interest in the subject, while others can’t manage their time or feel pressure to succeed. If you understand the reasons, you will be able to develop a suitable strategy to establish integrity in your class.

Do honor codes reduce cheating?

Developing honor codes and establishing honor councils is an efficient way to prevent students from cheating. This way, not only teachers spread the ideas of academic integrity, but also students themselves.