Rethinking Assessment By Examination In The Age Of Contract Cheating

Lancaster, T. and Clarke, R., 2017. Rethinking Assessment By Examination In The Age Of Contract Cheating.


In this age of contract cheating, where students are paying and using third parties to complete their work, there are many educators who are advocating a return to assessment through tests and examinations. The standard argument is usually that the level of examination security is such that the student alone is being tested and that an external body cannot be used to provide unacknowledged support for this process. Some academics seem to be have the view that the traditional type of assessment by examination is valued by employers more than coursework. However, opponents of assessment through examination note the restrictive form of this type of assessment, that many examination papers focus mainly on recall and memory and that examinations provide little opportunity for students to develop extended arguments and portfolio pieces. Assessment through examination does not seem to be the sole solution to contract cheating.

This paper builds on previous work, mostly published in the form of presentations and blog posts, that looks at the methods of contract cheating that have been used in an examination setting. It includes examples of student contract cheating requests used in an examination scenario, including several taken from a collection of over 30,000 contract cheating requests developed by contract cheating detectives during their investigative process. Examples covered demonstrate susceptibilities in the way that many examinations are set and invigilated. These are vulnerabilities that leave exams open to external cheating and which need to be closed. An issue is particularly noted with examinations taken online and outside of a traditional supervised environment. Even within an invigilated examination, external support can be provided through new technologies, including smartwatches, cameras and earpieces. These allow a student to communicate to someone hired through a contract cheating process and operating outside of an examination room.

The paper argues that assessment needs to continue to evolve to ensure that this is secure, fit for purpose and ensures that a student who is cheating cannot receive a qualification that they do not deserve. It is stated that the use of mixed modalities of assessment is necessary to ensure academic integrity and authentic assessment now needs to be at the forefront of this process. Practical considerations for academics setting examinations are discussed in the paper to ensure that good practice is fed back into the classroom. |

Ghostwriters guaranteeing grades?

Lines, L., 2016. Ghostwriters guaranteeing grades? The quality of online ghostwriting services available to tertiary students in Australia. Teaching in Higher Education, 21(8), pp.889-914.


Ghostwriting is difficult to detect, it has the potential to be high quality, and universities do not currently have adequate policies in place to police it. Determining the quality of the ghostwriting services available to tertiary students is of vital importance because underestimating the potential for students to use these services to pass their courses affects universities’ ability to detect their use and counteract their prevalence. This study examines the service being advertised to students by the 30 top-ranked ghostwriting websites. The study examines the quality of the service being offered by purchasing 2 essays from 13 of these businesses, 1 undergraduate and 1 postgraduate. These essays were graded by three academics who believed they were grading real student papers. The results of the study are alarming because they imply that had these essays been submitted to a university, the majority of them would have passed without any plagiarism detected.

Can markers detect contract cheating?

Dawson, P. and Sutherland-Smith, W., 2017. Can markers detect contract cheating? Results from a pilot study. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, pp.1-8.


Contract cheating is the purchasing of custom-made university assignments with the intention of submitting them. Websites providing contract cheating services often claim this form of cheating is undetectable, and no published research has examined this claim. This paper documents a pilot study where markers were paid to mark a mixture of real student work and contract cheating assignments, to establish their accuracy at detecting contract cheating. Seven experienced markers individually blind marked the same bundle of 20 second-year psychology assignments, which included 6 that were purchased from contract cheating websites. Sensitivity analyses showed markers detected contract cheating 62% of the time. Specificity analyses showed markers correctly identified real student work 96% of the time. Our results contrast with contract cheating sites’ claims that contract cheating is undetectable. However, they should be taken with caution as they are from one course unit in one discipline.