Midterms week: Breeding grounds for rampant cheating


Minjoo Song

During midterms week, some students resort to cheating through sharing answers.

Minjoo Song, Team Leader

Midterms week: a notoriously stressful four-day week in late January packed with exams that determine up to 20% of students’ overall grades. The schedule administers exams each day of the week for a maximum of seven possible exams.

Is it really a wonder that such a high-stress week with a hectic, standardized schedule at an ultra-competitive school is plagued with cheating? The issues factoring into this problem are not hard to trace. First of all, the schedule is designed in a way that facilitates cheating–different periods for the same class take the same exams on different days, allowing students to find out information about the exams from their peers. Add standardized tests to the mix, and the predictable result: test averages suspiciously increasing with each subsequent period.

Another problem lies in the difficulty of the exams themselves, as well as the preparation leading up to test day. For many classes, students feel that adequate review time and materials are not given. Some departments even continue their lessons past the material that will be seen on the midterm rather than aiding students in their review. Due to this, some students resort to unethical methods in an attempt to stay on top of the exam and gain an edge over other students.

The poor structure of midterms week directly affects students across the entire department. Such cheating presents a problem in departments that intend to normalize the exam–students who earned their scores ethically suffer a lesser curve due to high scoring cheaters. 

The Jefferson Physics department in particular introduces midterms in such a way that’s practically an open invitation to cheat. During the week of Jan. 20, students came face to face with a standardized multiple choice exam, and evidence of student cheating soon surfaced. Pre-curve scores for a class ranged between 14/60 and 54/60, substantiating that students were not adequately prepared for the exam. Other departments that standardized their midterms include AP Macroeconomics and AP U.S. History–both of which saw similar inevitable integrity violations through students’ sharing answers beforehand.

This is not to say that the blame shouldn’t be placed on the students–at the end of the day, it’s the students’ prerogative to maintain moral academic upstanding; they’re the ones who ultimately make the unethical choice to cheat. Although students’ flawed mindsets may be the root of the problem, the environment presented by midterms week serves as an unnecessary pushing factor in students’ decision to violate academic integrity.

It should not come as a surprise that the standardized structure of midterm week combined with a stressful and competitive environment proves especially ripe with unethical endeavors. The problem lies within a system designed to facilitate cheating; simply warning students not to cheat isn’t going to cut it. 

While I acknowledge that a complete overhaul of the exam week system isn’t feasible, it’s more than possible to alleviate the current cheating issue. Eliminating standardization and providing adequate preparation would lessen both student stress and the resulting cheating problem, cancel out the need for an exorbitant curve, and subsequently eliminate the issue of factoring illegitimately high scores into the curve. The departments that craft and perpetuate this poor system are almost as much at fault as the students who abuse the system.