The War Against Cheating: Why Some Teachers Create Different Versions of the Same Test

Students will do whatever it takes to get an edge, which could potentially mean boosting a grade, and thus boosting the frequently discussed GPA.

Whether it’s the quick glance over to another person’s answers during the actual test, or the discussion of test material with someone who had already taken the same or a similar test, academic integrity is often discharged.

In other words, they cheat. Right behind their teachers’ backs.

However, many teachers at Staples have methods they think can either eliminate, or at the very least, reduce the amount of cheating going on in their respective classes.

Some common ways of keeping test takers honest include changing their tests within a class or give different sections of the same topic different forms of tests.

However, the challenge that results from these test alterations is always the same: to avoid giving some students advantages or disadvantages based on the test they receive. A main way of preventing this is to keep the test questions exactly the same, but just to rearrange the order of the questions and answers, which is what chemistry teacher Trema Voytek does.

The test variations have “absolutely the same content,” Voytek assured, although she doesn’t really believe there is all that much discussion of test material with kids from different classes. “I’m pleasantly surprised,” she said.

Another way of trying to limit violations of academic integrity while still giving each student the same chance at success (or failure) is by keeping each exam within a class the same, but adjusting the exams for different sections. Such is the method of English teacher Christine Radler.

“I don’t see any way I can [completely] prevent discussion of test material,” Radler said, explaining the reasoning for her test-giving approach.

But what she does do is move kids around and constantly “monitor” her students during a testing period.

Yet another technique is that of social studies teacher Eric Mongirdas. Mongirdas creates what he calls a “big bank of questions” that he creates, then has his computer randomly pick out questions for two test forms that he will hand out, while also occasionally manually selecting questions himself. Not only do the different forms get distributed to different classes, but they also, they both get distributed within the same class. At times, the two forms can be similar; on other occasions they can be completely different.

“I don’t think one form is more difficult,” Mongirdas said, although he also acknowledged that sometimes, one period’s test could be different than another of the same class based on in-class discussions.

Some students, however, are skeptical that all test forms are of equal difficulty.

“I think it’s fair to have different tests for different classes, but not within a class,” Justin Gallanty ’14 said. “Otherwise, there’s no way to ensure the same difficulty [for the different tests].”

On the contrary, others, somewhat surprisingly, want as many measures as possible to be taken against copying answers.

“Every student should have their own [different] test,” Jack Dulsky ’15 said. “That way, it would be impossible to cheat.”

Realistically though, for teachers to take the time to create a different test for each and every student, while in all likelihood reducing cheating, would take a significant amount of time.

“To give [many] different tests would be quite labor intensive,” Radler said, with a sigh.

“Any more than two different tests would make it crazy for teachers while they’re grading and going over tests,” agreed Nick Ward ’14.

And regardless of what methods teachers use, the only thing students really seem to care about is fairness.

“I think that as long as the tests are equally difficult, it’s definitely fair,” Hannah Lewis ’15 said.