Holier than thou

Updated: Feb 15

Three (honest) students come together to dispense their ingenious takes on cheating in examinations. Precedent dictates that their identities be concealed, lest they receive undue attention for not tricking the system.

A: In my mind, cheating is a slippery slope from doing it once to doing it for every minor, major and quiz. Now, why's that bad? I would have to put that down to a combination of a fear that I'd eventually get caught. The first part is just down to the idea that the chance of getting away with it once is much higher than consistently getting away with it. It takes one slip up, and then my fate is down to how much sympathy a third party feels for me, I won’t like to be in such a situation.

B: I was not an honest person in my childhood. I used to indulge in rampant cheating till 8th Std employing many innovative tricks in the process. In the 9th Std, I stumbled upon the question of the morality of cheating. It was because of some spiritual influence, as I had converted from an Atheist to a Theist. With passing time, as I reflected upon the morality of cheating, I started understanding the real truth not to cheat. I am still in the process to understand it better.

C: It’s mostly because of the fear of getting caught and not moral ethics. I know people who have faced the consequences of cheating in exams and advise against it. I probably would resort to copying as well in the absence of such rules. I wouldn’t say that everyone feels this way as most people I know are pretty comfortable cheating.

B: My past two years of experience in IIT taught me that there must be some adulteration of marks-based learning in the learning process in such a competitive environment where both grades and understanding are necessary. For the exceptional like me, who wants to pursue research, such marks based adulteration should be of minimal proportion. I balance my mindset towards the subject with 80% focus on learning and 20% on grades.

A: In addition to learning, examinations contribute to understanding the course material a bit better. I would have missed an exciting aspect of the course that lends itself to real-world applications. Of course, this is because I want to figure out a couple of new things, and so far, I've felt a lot of courses have done this. However, all the above walks the line between moral perspective and the likelihood of (long term) negative outcomes. Cheating can have tangible benefits very quickly.

C: We don’t have the freedom to choose courses or professors solely based on our interest and every semester, most of our courses will be the ones recommended to us. So it essentially boils down to just “getting through” the course with a decent grade.

B: There were experiences where mass cheating has hampered my grades in courses. In the first 1-2 hours after the marks’ release, I get into the ranting mode about cheaters. They are the reason due to which the average is skyrocketing. I won’t diplomatically say that there is no sense of hatred towards the cheater. I hate them in the initial hours of marks release. After some time, it all cools down, and I go in a reflective mode where I blame myself for not studying at par. You can’t always blame someone else for your failures. Such instances of mass cheating instigated a feeling to cheat, but I believe that ‘Duniya Gol hai’. Thus, Good habits, Bad habits, everything will normalise at the end. I cope with the stress using such perspectives and encourage myself to look forward to the long run instead of pitying these irrelevant things. Having a superior complexity over the cheaters also motivates me to not indulge in it. By not plagiarising, I am pretty well aware that I have a potential which those people combined couldn’t conjure up.

A: Getting low grades due to soaring averages is disappointing. It is hard to tell why the average is high and predict the real extent of cheating in any given course. Given that, it's a bit of a cop-out to say I only did poorly because others were cheating, not because I was poorly prepared too. When cheating is a reality, blaming my low grades on cheating is blaming the circumstances. It doesn't really change how I think about the cost-benefit of cheating because a low grade is not as high a cost as a DISCO for me.

B: When exams are conducted remotely, it’s only natural that most of the students will resort to cheating. If anyone is at fault, it’s probably the professors who can get careless at times with the test format. It’s like Pam says in The office, “When a child gets behind the wheel of a car and runs into a tree, you don't blame the child; he didn't know any better. You blame the 30-year-old woman who got in the passenger seat and said, ‘Drive, kid; I trust you.’”

A: But I don't feel any ill will towards those who cheat and get away with it. Perhaps, it comes from a privileged position that a couple of low grades don't mean too much to me. Not everyone finds their courses super interesting, and there that grade is more important than learning some esoteric idea taught in the course. I think it's merely a question of our priorities today and how they differ. Competing with each other, I would support stricter rules to curb cheating, only because it allows me to get grades easier.

B: ‘Ignorance is Bliss’; all the cheaters are in this bubble of ignorance. It blinds them to see the cons of cheating in the long run. Some cheaters are aware of such bubbles; unfortunately, they lack the ‘common support’ to get out of it. My message for the students who plagiarise in exams is- Imagine yourself sitting in an interview where you are eligible for an excellent CTC. For some inexplicable and unfair reasons, the Company offers you a mediocre job. What goes around comes around.

C: I don’t think anyone thinks any less of the people who cheat. An online semester comes with its demerits, this being one of them. I feel that a lot more could be done to ensure fairness in exams. We all agree that there are more secure (and less secure) ways of conducting a test, then why not have an institute-wide policy on testing? We already do this for attendance and audit criterion. I think it’s much “easier” to do the syllabus bit by bit than it is to come up with ways to fool the system. In my opinion, the best way to deal with academics is by attending lectures regularly and moving at the same pace as the class. The other approach involves all-nighters, begging for assignments, worrying about proctoring and being a lot more stressful.

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