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Real-time cheating
March 1, 2011 1:05 PM   Subscribe

Cheating at exams is hardly new, but last week a user on Yahoo Chiebukuro in Japan (Yahoo Answers) audaciously posted questions online during university entrance exams and received answers before the exams were over.

The exams took place at Kyoto University, Waseda University, Doshisha University and Rikkyo University, and the identity of the students behind the user still hasn't been discovered. It's speculated that the intention wasn't to get into university, but to disrupt the entrance exam system...
posted by adrianhon (59 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well! Anything Yahoo Answers can do, AskMe can better, I'm sure.
posted by Wolfdog at 1:08 PM on March 1, 2011


people can get away with anything these days during exams. anyone with a smartphone and a clueless teacher can get a 100% on any test put in front of them. :)
posted by NotSoSiniSter at 1:08 PM on March 1, 2011


It's just a matter of time before testing centers have portable signal jammers.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:12 PM on March 1, 2011


How is babby formed.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 1:15 PM on March 1, 2011


I wasn't aware they were teaching Intro to Babby Forming at Kyoto University.
posted by cmfletcher at 1:15 PM on March 1, 2011 [23 favorites]


Damn you!
posted by cmfletcher at 1:16 PM on March 1, 2011


In the future tests will probably be conducted from inside Faraday cages. And everyone's IQ will drop by 30 points while inside.
posted by JHarris at 1:17 PM on March 1, 2011


1. B
2. D
3. A
4. The Picard Maneuver.
5. True.
6. Really true.
7. "OHMIGOD YOU GUYS"
8. The Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 1:19 PM on March 1, 2011 [12 favorites]


If you have a test that requires an artificially restrictive environment, you really should reconsider what you're testing. The skills you are looking for are probably not applicable to an actual career where resources are available.

On the other hand, an entrance exam is testing people's abilities to deal with exactly these sorts of tests, which are common in universities. So maybe it is a valuable test is this particular case.
posted by yeolcoatl at 1:23 PM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


9. Alan Burr
posted by Monday at 1:23 PM on March 1, 2011


I've heard that the Japanese version of Yahoo Answers is actually useful. I don't know if that's true or not, though I do know that their version of Geocities is still going strong. Or at least still going.

What I do know is that while we got How is babby formed, they got When I Get Home My Wife Always Pretends to be Dead. This seems exceedingly unfair.
posted by KChasm at 1:28 PM on March 1, 2011 [7 favorites]


9. Alan Burr

10. Aaron Burr.
posted by explosion at 1:41 PM on March 1, 2011


Well! Anything Yahoo Answers can do, AskMe can better, I'm sure.

Here, you can audaciously post questions online during university entrance exams and have your question deleted and get a stern email from me or jessamyn before the exams are over.
posted by cortex at 1:52 PM on March 1, 2011 [7 favorites]


10. Aaron Burr.

11. Raymond Burr
posted by MustardTent at 1:55 PM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Classmate of mine, second semester freshman year of college ('94), called me and asked me how to do a relatively simple integral. I told him how to do it. Then it occured to me that he was one of the few people I knew with a cell phone...
posted by notsnot at 2:20 PM on March 1, 2011


Is this where I get to say that Yahoo Chiebukuro is an amazing translation resource? Seriously, where JEDICT, ALC, and even Kojien have failed me, Japanese people asking for explanations of this or that kotowaza or neologism or just an obscure grammar point have saved my ass more than once.
posted by pts at 2:20 PM on March 1, 2011


This is going to be really useful for those exams that feature a personal essay on the topic of Edward vs. Jacob.
posted by NoraReed at 2:21 PM on March 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


12. Ghostbusters 2
posted by troll on a pony at 2:40 PM on March 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


yeolcoatl: "If you have a test that requires an artificially restrictive environment, you really should reconsider what you're testing. The skills you are looking for are probably not applicable to an actual career where resources are available."

Do we want to make entrance to professions simply for sale? Because if you allow people to "phone a friend", all that's being examined is the strength of their social and fiscal network. Unlike professional knowledge, these things tend to vary over time. And I don't think anyone who would buy fraudulent credentials intends to keep hiring help once the scrutiny is gone.
posted by pwnguin at 2:46 PM on March 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


13. Go on, eat it.
posted by pompomtom at 3:06 PM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is a pretty huge deal over here, and the news has lead with the search for 'aicezuka' and if they'll be able to catch them. As mentioned above, the exams aren't really testing for creative, independant thought, they are testing to see who actually spent the last six years duly memorizing facts they were told, and who will continue to do so for the next four years.*

The open secret is that, once inside, Japanese universities have been (for quite some time) a joke, a four year vacation/reward for studying in high school. The university I taught at was rare in that there was an attendance requirement. Most students passed simply for showing up.

Now, combine that with the fact that simply graduating from Tokyo, Kyoto, or Waseda University essentially gives you a pretty easy career path, or that some ungodly percent (something close to 90, I think) of politicians and high ranking bureacrats come from those three schools, and it's surprising that there hasn't been more cheating.

For the most part, the English sections of the university entrance exams are god awful. Many of the questions read like an English test from pre-WWI, and the answers are set, so even if a student has a better answer, or an equivalent one, they'll often be marked wrong. Gaaaaaahhh
/English teacher in Japan

posted by Ghidorah at 3:07 PM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


people can get away with anything these days during exams. anyone with a smartphone and a clueless teacher can get a 100% on any test put in front of them.

Sure. I gave an open-book, open-note, open-laptop exam in my class 3 weeks ago. The class average was a 62%.

You should have an addendum to what students need to get a 100% on an exam. They need to have a functioning brain in addition to the smartphone and the clueless teacher.
posted by King Bee at 3:08 PM on March 1, 2011 [8 favorites]


The other thing, in response to the clueless teacher idea, is that these tests are usually taken in lecture halls, with large numbers of students. On the other hand, there are, on average between four and five proctors for the tests, whose job is to hand out the tests, take them back, and make sure people aren't cheating. I'm willing to bet some jobs have been lost because of this.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:14 PM on March 1, 2011


Sure. I gave an open-book, open-note, open-laptop exam in my class 3 weeks ago. The class average was a 62%.

I just finished a marketing statistics class (weird but true). All of the tests were open book and take home AND multiple choice.

People still got poor grades! Someone boggled at me like I was a genius after the first one when I said I had just went to the index and looked up the key term in the question to get the answers! This was a crying shame to me.
posted by winna at 3:15 PM on March 1, 2011


@pwnguin I think you're missing the point. People can phone a friend in their real jobs, but they don't. Because the questions they need to solve can't be answered by phoning a friend. Or they do, because the question requires expertise from both people. Either way, the kinds of questions they're answering are not the kinds of questions that can be answered by just copying an answer or asking Google calculator. They're answering questions that require a real human being to actually understand something important. On exams, we need to ask better questions. Questions that reflect the reality of technology today, instead of the reality of technology six decades ago. I'd argue that anything that can be answered on Yahoo Answers might still be important to know, but is not important enough to put on a test at the professional or soon to be professional level.
posted by yeolcoatl at 3:42 PM on March 1, 2011


I'm not saying we need to 'allow cheating.' I'm saying that if our test questions had any real substance to them, it would be much harder to cheat.
posted by yeolcoatl at 3:54 PM on March 1, 2011


14. Oranges, unicycles and the Pythagorean theorem (respectively).
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 4:01 PM on March 1, 2011


Won't anyone think of the exam scripters?
posted by biffa at 4:04 PM on March 1, 2011


I'm amazed at the stuff students plagerize. I recently heard about a case where a student copied a personal essay/journal style essay from a random blog. The assignment was the equivalent of write 5 paragraphs on your plans for spring break. The teacher felt the writing style was a bit off from other work by the student and ran it through some plagiarism detection software.
posted by humanfont at 4:21 PM on March 1, 2011


15. Just like chicken.
posted by ob at 4:31 PM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


I dont want to get into a kind of borderline racist debate here, but my time in Asia has shown me that Asians have very different standards about what is "cheating" and very, very different standards for how they expect to be graded, especially in higher education.

A quick example: I had a friend who attended a Chinese university. He complained that often his classmates simply plagiarized huge sections of essays they were writing. In their mind this was not a major offense, it was just a kind of shortcut. And often they'd get away with it.

Here in Korea I have friends who teach at the University level and if a student gets a B or a C, they'll often threaten to call in parents and there's often pressure from administration to simply hand out the grade and keep things quiet. Even at the Elementary level if my kids are caught cheating they're rarely punished- Teachers call them 'cunning' or 'clever' and kind of give them a slap on the wrist.

Of course, this stands in extraordinary contrast to the simply ridiculous amount of actual work they do, studying until lunatic hours and cramming like robots for entry exams. There might be a correlation there, but I think the two actually live happily side by side. Where in Western Culture cheating and honesty are sort of polemic opposites, I think they have a very different relationship in Asia. I'm nowhere near well versed enough in Asian cultures to make that assumption, but anecdotally it suggests something.
posted by GilloD at 4:38 PM on March 1, 2011


Both Chinese and Koreans are well known in Japan for copying cultures... but plagarism in Japan is exceedingly rare.
posted by shii at 4:52 PM on March 1, 2011


16. D
17. T
18. M
19. F
20. A
posted by pompomtom at 4:57 PM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


On the other hand, shii, I've heard textbook writers complain about copyright and copying of textbooks in Japan. It's a little different, but supposedly you can copy up to half of a textbook and hand it out in class, without paying for it.

In the classes I've had, I've seen students copying homework (both for my classes, and others), and they usually seem mystified when I tell them not to do it. The goal, unfortunately, is to hand in the work/score high on the test. How you get there (including copying answers) is not really the focus.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:04 PM on March 1, 2011


21. Drink
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:12 PM on March 1, 2011


A quick example: I had a friend who attended a Chinese university. He complained that often his classmates simply plagiarized huge sections of essays they were writing. In their mind this was not a major offense, it was just a kind of shortcut. And often they'd get away with it.
A lot of it might have to do with the old Chinese examination system, which ran for thousands of years and did not discourage plagiarism. The whole goal was to have people who thought the same as Confucius and other scholars so if you just memorized what they wrote you were fine.
posted by delmoi at 5:18 PM on March 1, 2011


Ghidorah: I just searched Japanese Google for "textbook copyright infringement", and the top two results were from Yahoo Answers: (1) "I want to put commentaries on a textbook on my wiki, but this is copyright infringement, isn't it?" (2) "If I ask for the answers to university math questions on Yahoo, is that infringing on the copyright of the textbook author?" (Answer: Yes, it is, even if you change the equations involved.) So I guess I can't confirm your anecdote. I work in a middle school, by the way.

And BTW, I agree somewhat with delmoi. I don't think the Chinese or Koreans are thieving bastards, I just think they haven't been exposed enough to the difficult Western concept of intellectual property. Copying is how culture propagates and develops.
posted by shii at 5:28 PM on March 1, 2011


A lot of it might have to do with the old Chinese examination system, which ran for thousands of years and did not discourage plagiarism.

Plagiarism in exam answers? What an interesting idea.

No sarcasm intended. With our society's obsession with 'originality' I'm surprised I hadn't come across that before.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:29 PM on March 1, 2011


Plagiarism/differing attitudes to IP have nothing to do with this, though -- it's about cheating on an exam. Everyone of school age in Japan (and I assume China and Korea as well) knows how formal exams work and that cheating is wrong. This is not a good-faith cultural misunderstanding; it's just unusually dumb and public cheating.

Now, like Ghidorah says, getting into one of these major schools is your ticket to lifelong Success (barring unforeseeable tragedy or unforgivably poor judgment at some point) so in this and similar cases you might run into some ends-justify-the-means talk at some point. But even then the argument would be "Breaking these minor rules is necessary for my invaluable future contribution to society!" rather than denial that the rules exist in the first place.
posted by No-sword at 6:53 PM on March 1, 2011


22. Like a 9 volt battery
posted by troll on a pony at 7:04 PM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: A mixture of wheat and chaff
posted by quiet coyote at 8:14 PM on March 1, 2011


23. A baby's arm holding an apple.
posted by Kinbote at 8:24 PM on March 1, 2011


King bee, you're exactly what I'm talking about (in a good way). That sort of exam is the future.
posted by yeolcoatl at 8:25 PM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


people can get away with anything these days during exams. anyone with a smartphone and a clueless teacher can get a 100% on any test put in front of them. :)

Then how come my students aren't getting 100% on their homework assignments?
posted by madcaptenor at 8:44 PM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I give open note, open book, open universe online quizzes, "take-home," with a week-long window, entirely on points I lectured about in class that are also in the reading, and people STILL fail. And sometimes the answers are MADE-UP multisyllabic words. So the student doesn't find the answer in their notes or reading, looks at the four choices, and instead of googling each one with "Socrates" stuck on the end to see if any of them turn up a page about Socrates, they pick the made-up words answer! Which a quick google would show did not include actual, real words!

Sometimes when I run out of multiple-choice-writing steam, one of the multiple choice answers is "toaster." (The software used to require a minimum of four answers, and sometimes I wanted two or three answers because of how I structured the question.) People pick "toaster" all the time. Sometimes I put "THIS IS NOT AN ANSWER DO NOT PICK IT" and explain the "placeholder" answer in advance. Students still pick it.

I give a syllabus quiz wherein one question is, "The correct spelling of the professor's name is ..." (I threw it in to get to a round number of points). It is the most-gotten-wrong question on the quiz.

And yet somehow they all passed the DMV's closed-book written test and became licensed drivers. The mind boggles.

(Also, I don't bother with plagiarism software -- a bit of a knack for picking out "statistically improbable phrases" and google will turn up the correct source virtually every time.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:03 PM on March 1, 2011 [8 favorites]


And yet somehow they all passed the DMV's closed-book written test and became licensed drivers. The mind boggles.

Well, it's more obvious to them why they should work hard to pass the driving test than why they should work hard to pass our tests. If they pass our tests they just get to take more, harder tests. If they fail enough of our tests we won't let them take tests any more.
posted by madcaptenor at 9:09 PM on March 1, 2011


I probably couldn't spell "Eyebrows McGee" without copy and paste, either.
posted by yeolcoatl at 9:43 PM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


yeolcoatl writes "I'm not saying we need to 'allow cheating.' I'm saying that if our test questions had any real substance to them, it would be much harder to cheat."

How the heck do you stop cheating with substantial questions if you allow test takers to send copies of the exams to experts and receive answers back?
posted by Mitheral at 10:28 PM on March 1, 2011


(Also, I don't bother with plagiarism software -- a bit of a knack for picking out "statistically improbable phrases" and google will turn up the correct source virtually every time.)

So true. It kind of blows my mind that adult EFL learners would not at least be aware of the existence of stylistic writing. It exists in their mother tongue, right?

So I read through a typical intermediate level paragraph full of short simple sentences, and suddenly the style morphs into a witty guy, working in a bunch of ocean metaphors? WTF?

The Googling is purely a formality.
posted by Meatbomb at 1:49 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here in Korea I have friends who teach at the University level and if a student gets a B or a C, they'll often threaten to call in parents and there's often pressure from administration to simply hand out the grade and keep things quiet..

This doesn't sound much different from my sibling's experience teaching neuroscience to college kids in the US, honestly. I don't think it's an "Asian" anything.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 1:51 AM on March 2, 2011


I give open note, open book, open universe online quizzes, "take-home," with a week-long window, entirely on points I lectured about in class that are also in the reading, and people STILL fail.

Exactly this. This is why I don't do a whole hell of a lot to try and prevent "cheating". Only the particularly idiotic students actually try to cheat, and when they do, they suck so badly at actually cheating that they do worse than they would have done if they had just tried to learn some of the topics we've discussed in class.

A colleague of mine once said that he could pass out an exam to the class with the solutions to all the questions already filled in, and someone would still find a way to fail it.
posted by King Bee at 3:59 AM on March 2, 2011


That link to the questions is all Japanese to me.
posted by dougrayrankin at 4:15 AM on March 2, 2011


I'm amazed at the stuff students plagerize. I recently heard about a case where a student copied a personal essay/journal style essay from a random blog. The assignment was the equivalent of write 5 paragraphs on your plans for spring break. The teacher felt the writing style was a bit off from other work by the student and ran it through some plagiarism detection software.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 7:02 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


24. Raymond Massey
posted by davidmsc at 7:04 AM on March 2, 2011


King Bee: "Only the particularly idiotic students actually try to cheat, and when they do, they suck so badly at actually cheating that they do worse than they would have done if they had just tried to learn some of the topics we've discussed in class."

Yes, I've seen bad cheaters too. But assuming that's the entirety of the problem is how we end up with graduate level classes you can't pass without cheating. Even if you're a smart person, there's only so much you can read / write / think / solve in a given time period. Cheating helps you get there faster, but corrupts the feedback loop and eventually the new workload becomes undoable without cheating.

My favorite anecdote is an algorithms class I took. The stated goal of the class is to teach students to devise and analyze algorithms, so all the homework problems are roughly two steps: apply the technique presented in the chapter in a novel way to produce an efficient algorithm, and then prove it's runtime efficiency. Proofs are trivial, but every last damned one of the optimal algorithms was someone's PhD thesis or journal article 40 years ago. You can imagine what the majority of students did, and that this was against the stated rules of the class.

If you just Googled statistically improbable phrases, you're likely to run into someone explaining the problem and solution, because it's way harder for professors to come up with hundreds of original problems that match a specific algorithmic approach. Lois von Ahn's technique is to transform a couple problems to unique phrasing and terminology, and then set up a Google Trap. Anyone Googleing for the phrase is logged and reprimanded.

I don't think von Ahn goes to this level because his students are bad at cheating. Smart undergraduate freshmen know how this stuff works, and take pains to change their programs. Sometimes effectively, sometimes not. Perhaps it's less an issue in the humanities, but for anything that teaches problem solving, plagiarism is a challenge.
posted by pwnguin at 8:25 AM on March 2, 2011


If you have a test that requires an artificially restrictive environment, you really should reconsider what you're testing. The skills you are looking for are probably not applicable to an actual career where resources are available.

I come across this attitude all the time, and I have to disagree with it. It would only be true if the test could be a faithful simulation of real world working conditions, including asking a problem of sufficient depth and scope. Nobody is expecting a future physicist to calculate the trajectories of the major bodies in the solar system without access to reference works and appropriate software, but you can't test that for practical reasons anyway. If on the other hand the student can't figure out a basic differential equation with paper and pencil and without looking at their notes, they are pretty much doomed.
posted by Dr Dracator at 8:39 AM on March 2, 2011


My favorite cheating story from my years teaching freshman composition is the guy whose girlfriend agreed to write a short personal essay for him. It was supposed to be a little thing about your own life. It didn't occur to either of them that she should write it from his point of view, so he turned in an essay about his time as a (female) high-school cheerleader.
posted by not that girl at 8:44 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mitheral writes How the heck do you stop cheating with substantial questions if you allow test takers to send copies of the exams to experts and receive answers back?

(At least) Three ways:
1) Substantial questions require thinking, and people are lot less likely to help someone cheat when it means they actually have to work to do it.
2) Experts got where they are by not cheating and they don't help other people cheat. Peers do help people cheat, but they can't answer substantial questions without running into problem number one.
3) Read King Bee's posts.

Also, one clarification. Substantial questions don't stop cheating, they dramatically reduce cheating. Cheating can never be stopped entirely.
posted by yeolcoatl at 9:25 PM on March 2, 2011


While many students are so apathetic that minor increases in effort would reduce cheating and we should be trying to eliminate that low hanging forbidden fruit the stakes in this and many other exams are high enough to be motivating. Lots of my courses over the years have had 50-75% of my final mark determined from the final exam. The course I'm in now essentially has a boolean result final exam after four years of study; either you pass and can start working or you are skiing for a few months until you can take the exam again.
posted by Mitheral at 9:46 AM on March 3, 2011


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