Taking exams can be a pressured and stressful time, with a lot riding on your results. However, in order for exams to be fair for all and for results to be trusted, there are rules that apply to you and everyone taking exams and assessments. This doesn’t just mean cheating during the exam – there are also rules that apply before you take an exam or assessment, and afterwards. If you break those rules, this is known by exam boards as ‘malpractice’ and we have to investigate.
So, make sure you are aware of the rules you and every student are expected to follow. These are clearly set out in the Joint Council for Qualification’s (JCQ) information for candidates. We’ve summarised the main ones for you here.
Social media and online forums can be very useful for revision, research and advice but there are rules on what you can share and discuss about your exams online. Examples that could lead to an investigation include:
Remember, we monitor social networking sites and internet forums.
Although some of the rules vary between qualifications, the general principles are the same:
Plagiarism is submitting someone else's work as your own and/or not acknowledging your source correctly. It's one of the more common types of malpractice and can often occur by mistake. Here’s some advice on how to avoid it:
Remember, you don’t have to copy and paste something for it to be plagiarism – learning a passage off by heart and reproducing it also counts if you don’t acknowledge it.
Try to arrive early, but don’t panic if you’re running late. Your school or college may allow you to start an exam late and still receive the full time (within reason).
Take the time before you go in to make sure you’ve checked all your pockets and are ready to start. Make sure you don’t write any last-minute revision on your hands before your exam. Failing to wash it off properly is not an acceptable excuse.
Every year, invigilators discover students with mobile phones or other banned items on them. Many may have just forgotten to hand them in, but we can’t accept this as an excuse. Possession of a mobile phone (or any other internet-enabled device) in an exam, not just using it, is against the rules.
Some exams and assessments require you to discuss sensitive topics like race relations, equality or morality. It’s important to remember though that racist, sexist, lewd, homophobic or anti-religious group comments will be penalised.
You must also not include obscene drawings or other offensive content. In extreme cases, penalties for this may extend to the rest of your exams.
So, you've followed the rules but you think other students may not. What do you do?
Your school or college must report all incidents of suspected malpractice – even minor ones – to the relevant exam board. If you suspect malpractice, talk to your teachers or exams officer and they can give you advice. For more information on how to report malpractice, see our whistleblowing section.
When we investigate malpractice we follow the JCQ policies and procedures document Suspected Malpractice in Examinations and Assessments.
Our investigations are confidential. We may ask for statements, documents, photos and any other relevant supporting evidence and anyone suspected of malpractice can submit a statement. They can also see the evidence against them, although we may delay disclosing all evidence if we feel it may affect our ability to investigate.
We may share details of a malpractice decision with other awarding bodies, relevant authorities, and in some extremely serious cases, the police.