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Academic integrity in online exams: doing the 'right' thing is the right answer

7 April 2021
What you need to know about academic integrity
In-semester tests commence next week - here's what you need to know to maintain academic integrity while sitting online tests.
Aerial view of female student sitting on a bench using a laptop

In-semester tests commence next week and for some of you, this will be your first formal assessment at university. But whether this is your first ever assessment or your fiftieth, it's important to remember that online tests are just like a formal exam that you would sit on campus.

Acting with integrity

Balancing life with study is difficult and with all the stresses students face it can be tempting to take shortcuts with assessments – especially online ones. Unfortunately, this will rarely work out in the long run. The University has systems in place that are very good at sniffing cheating and collusion out, and if you’re caught, the consequences will be much worse than a disappointing grade (see below for more on that).

More importantly though, it defeats the purpose of being at Uni in the first place. We’re here to learn, and sometimes that’s tough. If other areas of life are getting in the way of dedicating as much time to your Uni work as you'd like, do what you can with the time you can spend on it and aim to plan better for your next assessments. Take the feedback on board and apply it to the rest of the course. You might not get the marks you were hoping for this time, but you'll still get the knowledge, and that's the whole point.

Always submit your own work, sit your own tests, and take your own examinations – this is what we call academic integrity. We all have a responsibility to maintain academic integrity, and this extends to your classmates too. Group study sessions are great of course, but sometimes the line between studying together and collusion can be difficult to find. If you're involved with something that doesn't feel right, like an online group chat where students talk about sharing answers or finding other people to take assessments for them, get out of there and consider reporting it to the University. You can report anonymously to the Office of Educational Integrity (educational.integrity@sydney.edu.au).

Cheating is just not worth it

The University is deeply committed to ensuring the integrity of its educational programs and treats integrity breaches seriously. If you are found to have engaged in cheating or another form of academic dishonesty, you may be required to re-sit an assessment, receive a fail grade for the assignment or even fail the Unit of Study. Serious misconduct can result in suspension from your studies or even exclusion for one or more semesters. For international students, this can impact your student visa.

Cases of widespread collusion can lead to the rescheduling of an exam or withdrawal of the assessment. This means that even those who weren’t involved in the collusion still face the consequences – this is not a good way to make friends in your class. 

If you’re still tempted, remember that cheating on exams is nothing new and the University knows how to find it. In 2020, a significant number of investigations were undertaken related to potential examination breaches. Additionally, the recent rollout of the Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) provides an additional layer of security to help protect the University systems from unauthorised access. So, don’t be tempted to ask or pay someone else to take an exam or do your assessment for you – the Uni is onto it, and will find out. Don’t risk any of the above for a perceived easy out.

Getting prepared for your tests

If you’re a bit unsure as to how to get ready for your tests, here are a few tips:

  • Check the Exams Site for information on in-semester tests, including how to prepare, what to do on the day and where to get assistance.
  • Make sure you read any instructions about the upcoming test and ask the coordinator or teaching team if you are unsure of the requirements.
  • Review the content and seek the knowledge before the exam.
  • If you are struggling with your unit of study or preparation, the University has a wide range of resources to assist you.
  • If you are feeling stressed, you can access specialist help via the University’s Counselling and Psychological Services.

We get it – studying isn’t easy, especially when we all have other things going on in our lives demanding our time and attention. But finding that balance is part of the learning experience. Don't sacrifice what you came here to do: learn stuff. Prepare as best you can with the time you have, and learn from the experience for next time.

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