Cheating by HSC students is up more than 25 percent

“Some researchers have said that teacher-student relationships and their interaction can protect against cheating,” he said.

“It was a very difficult time and research suggests that people in desperate circumstances have a harder time resisting the scam.”


Craig Petersen, chairman of the NSW Secondary Principals’ Council, said while it was positive that the offenses had been caught, the figures showed how high-level exams and assessments continue to put enormous pressure on students.

“There is tremendous pressure on students to do really well in HSC and that can create an environment where cheating occurs. But we’re also getting better at detecting fraud and becoming more sophisticated in detection technology, which could also be a factor,” he said.

The data is based on a misconduct register that all schools with HSC candidates are required to maintain for school-based assessment assignments.

The registry was established in 2014, seven years after the Independent Commission Against Corruption investigated take-home exam fraud.

Fraud offenses in 2021 were recorded in 216 schools, compared to 220 in 2020 and 222 in 2019.

There has also been an increase in serious crimes involving HSC exams 41 students for 43 fraud offenses before the authority’s examination board. This was more than 28 students in 2020, 35 in 2019 and 26 in 2018.

Among the 2021 exam scammers were a student caught referencing notes, another seen using a mobile phone and a candidate wearing earplugs.

Penalties ranged from a zero score to expulsion from the subject.

In a further 215 cases, students were found not to have made a serious attempt to take an exam, such as giving an obscene answer or just attempting multiple-choice questions.


Academic integrity researcher Cath Ellis, a professor at UNSW’s School of the Arts and Media, said there has been “anecdotally an increase in cheating behavior” in higher education since the pandemic began.

“This is largely because there has been a shift in higher education towards more online assessments, which will almost certainly provide new opportunities for students to cheat.”

“The companies that provide scam services often aggressively target students via social media, and they are very likely to target both tertiary and high school students. The impact of COVID-19 has put additional students under pressure,” Ellis said.

A spokeswoman for the NSW Education Standards Authority said incidents of cheating in 2021 were “incredibly low” among the state’s 75,000 HSC students.

“The vast majority of HSC students follow the rules in both HSC exams and school-based assessments, so these small instances of misconduct should be watched for,” she said.

“Whether in the exam room or working from home, cheating will not be tolerated and students will be caught.”

Dawson said that based on his review of published research looking specifically at the tertiary education sector, around one in ten higher education students in Australia “has at some point outsourced their work to someone else”.

“There is also some evidence abroad of an increased use of online fraud since the beginning of the pandemic,” he said.

“There needs to be increased awareness of the various dedicated technology exam cheating tools such as exam cheating calculators and hidden earbuds. There are more of these products and they are being marketed to students.”

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