If you decide to dive-bomb your homework by cheating on the work, there is a new study out that clearly suggests you will flame out when tested on the cheated studying. If you don’t want to risk ashes, don’t tempt the fire.

A professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology devised a clever way to detect student cheating on homework in his introductory physics course–and found about 50 percent more cheating than students reported in anonymous surveys. And he discovered that frequent cheaters ended up bombing their exams.

The professor, David E. Pritchard, led a research team that analyzed student performance in an online homework system called MasteringPhysics.com during four different semesters. The researchers were able to measure the time spent on each question and look for suspicious work patterns. If a student took less than a minute each answering several complex questions and got them all right, for instance, the system flagged that as likely cheating. “Since one minute is insufficient time to read the problem and enter the several answers typically required, we infer that the quick-solver group is copying the answer from somewhere…”

When there is such clear evidence that cheaters do not do well on exams — why is there still the temptation to cheat?

There must be even clearer evidence somewhere that demonstrates that cheating does, in fact, get you ahead in some areas more often than not, and that actually studying and learning something isn’t all that important in the real world.

That’s why I always like to create exams that require real time associations by comparing and contrasting seemingly unrelated ideas, texts and modes of thinking.

Comparison and contrast requires double thinking.  You must first wholly comprehend each idea on its own terms and then you must denude the structure of the original mind that created each comparable to then create your own whole new understanding.

Students who do their homework have no problem comparing and contrasting and the cheaters are dead in the water from the start of the exam because they only stole the bits without comprehending the whole.

You can use comparing and contrasting in any exam — even in a mathematics exam — because you are not just testing one right answer, but at least two, and then weighing the differences in the results and analyzing the modes of thinking used to arrive at an absolute answer.

Cheaters are only as good as the poorness of their professors — and that’s why it is each instructor’s duty to challenge the student mind for not just the right answer — but to also require the demonstration of the logic and rationale for arriving at a sensible conclusion that can be right in one context and wrong in another, and the difference in the knowing, is all in the persuasive argument of the studious mind.


  1. It’s really saddening to see students act up like this. I would bet that cheating is somewhat based on people figuring out that if they want to pass a class they only need to ace all of their homework and with any ‘luck’, do poorly enough on their exams that they don’t fail the class.

  2. I guess it depends if you’re graded on homework or not. Most instructors prefer to give much more weight to exams done in class under a time restraint because the natural flow of what the student learned — or didn’t learn — comes out in its purest form.