How Students Cheat on a Proctored Exam

Table of Contents

What Are Online Proctored Exams?

Online proctored exams refer to a type of assessment where the test-taker completes the exam remotely, but is monitored through audio, video, or screen-sharing technology to prevent cheating.

Maintaining Academic Integrity in Online Exams

With the shift towards online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of online proctoring has become more widespread. Maintaining academic integrity in online exams is crucial to ensure the validity of the assessment, but online cheating has become a significant challenge, with many students searching for information on “how to cheat on a proctored exam”.

In this blog post, we will discuss the types of online exam cheating techniques, online proctoring techniques, and the issues and limitations of online proctoring techniques.

Types of Online Exam Cheating Techniques

External Help

One of the most common methods of cheating in online proctored exams is through external help. External help usually involves the following:

  1. Using Friends, Family Members, or Tutors
  2. Accessing Test Materials and Answers Through the Internet
  3. Impersonating Or Paying Someone Else to Take the Test

Using Friends, Family Members, Or Tutors

Test-takers may seek assistance from friends, family members, or tutors to complete the exam.

Accessing Test Materials and Answers Through the Internet

In the realm of online exam cheating techniques, one prevalent method involves leveraging the vast resources available on the internet to gain an unfair advantage. This technique allows individuals to access test materials, questions, and even answers through various online platforms and devices, compromising the integrity of the examination process.

One of the primary ways test-takers exploit the internet is by seeking out leaked or pirated copies of exams. These unauthorized copies are often shared on forums, social media groups, or even sold on illicit websites. By accessing these materials, individuals gain access to the actual questions that will be asked on the exam, giving them a significant advantage over those who have prepared honestly. This method of cheating undermines the fairness of the assessment process and can lead to inaccurate representations of individuals’ knowledge and abilities.

Impersonating or Paying Someone Else to Take the Test

This form of online proctored exam cheating involves individuals going to extreme lengths to deceive the examiners and gain an undeserved advantage. It encompasses two primary methods:

  • Impersonation and hiring someone to take the test on their behalf
  • Paying someone else to take the test on their behalf

Impersonation involves an individual assuming the identity of another person to take the exam. This can be done through various means, such as using forged identification documents or manipulating online registration systems. The impersonator attempts to convince the examiners that they are the legitimate test-taker, thereby gaining access to the exam and taking it in their place. This method requires careful planning, coordination, and the ability to convincingly mimic the test-taker’s identity, including their physical appearance, voice, and writing style.

Another method employed by cheaters is paying someone else to take the test on their behalf. In this scenario, individuals seek out individuals with expertise in the subject matter or professional test-takers who excel at taking exams. This method not only compromises the fairness of the exam but also undermines the integrity of academic or professional qualifications obtained through cheating.

Software and Technology-Based Cheating

Use of software and technology is also how student cheat on a proctored exam. Use of software & technology involves the following;

  1. Using Virtual Machines or Remote Desktop Software
  2. Using Screen Sharing and Mirroring Software
  3. Using Spyware or Keylogger Software

Using Virtual Machines or Remote Desktop Software

Virtual machines provide a virtualized operating system environment within the physical computer. Test-takers can set up a virtual machine on their device, separate from their main operating system, and use it to run applications or access websites that may contain the answers or relevant study materials. By utilizing a virtual machine, individuals can effectively bypass any monitoring or security measures put in place to prevent cheating during the exam. This technique allows them to access prohibited resources while maintaining the appearance of normal computer activity.

To combat virtual machine and remote desktop cheating, educational institutions and testing authorities have implemented various countermeasures. These measures include:

  • Use of proctoring software that monitors the test-taker’s computer activity
  • Screen recording
  • Real-time video streaming during the exam

Proctoring technologies employ sophisticated algorithms to detect suspicious behavior, such as:

  • Switching between applications
  • Accessing prohibited websites
  • Attempting to control remote devices.

Additionally, secure browser environments or locked-down testing platforms may be employed to prevent the use of virtual machines or remote desktop software during the examination.

Using Screen Sharing and Mirroring Software

Screen sharing software enables test-takers to grant remote access to their computer screen to another person, regardless of their physical location. By initiating a screen sharing session, the cheater can display the exam questions and interface to an accomplice who can then provide answers or guidance. This method enables a real-time exchange of information, allowing the accomplice to view and respond to the exam content as it unfolds.

Similarly, mirroring software allows the test-taker to mirror their computer screen onto another device, such as a smartphone or tablet, which can be easily concealed or positioned discreetly. By mirroring the screen onto a secondary device, the cheater can hand it to an accomplice who can then view the exam and provide assistance without attracting suspicion. This technique enables covert collaboration during the exam, with the accomplice discreetly communicating answers or relevant information to the test-taker.

To counteract screen sharing and mirroring cheating, educational institutions and testing authorities are adopting proactive measures. They employ advanced proctoring software that includes features such as:

  • Real-time video monitoring
  • AI-driven behaviour analysis
  • Screen recording

Proctors can monitor the test-taker’s screen and watch for any suspicious activities, such as:

  • Sudden screen changes
  • Unauthorized applications running in the background
  • Unusual mouse movements.

Additionally, some proctoring solutions include browser lockdown features that restrict the use of screen sharing or mirroring software during the exam, further preventing this form of cheating.

Using Spyware or Keylogger Software

Spyware refers to malicious software designed to monitor and collect information from a computer or device without the user’s knowledge or consent.

When test-takers unknowingly install spyware on their devices, it can record their keystrokes, take screenshots, and even track internet browsing activities. This allows cheaters to capture sensitive information, including exam questions, answers, or any other content relevant to the exam. By stealthily collecting this data, they gain an unfair advantage over honest test-takers, compromising the integrity of the examination process.

Keylogger software refers to those software’s which is specifically designed to capture and record every keystroke made on a computer or device.

Test-takers who have unknowingly installed keyloggers on their devices are inadvertently providing cheaters with a means to monitor and collect valuable exam-related information. This could include answers typed in real-time, login credentials to exam platforms, or any other sensitive data that can be used to gain an unfair advantage during the exam.

To counteract spyware and keylogger cheating, it is crucial to implement robust security measures and educate test-takers about the risks associated with downloading unauthorized software or files. Educational institutions and testing authorities employ proactive measures such as antivirus software, firewalls, and regular security updates to detect and prevent the installation of spyware or keyloggers. Additionally, educating students about the importance of maintaining a secure computing environment, emphasizing the need for cautious internet browsing and downloading practices, can help reduce the likelihood of falling victim to these malicious tools.

Online Proctoring Techniques

Online proctoring techniques are innovative solutions designed to maintain academic integrity in remote learning environments. These techniques employ advanced technologies to monitor and assess students during online exams. One commonly used technique is automated proctoring, which utilizes artificial intelligence algorithms to analyze students’ behavior and detect potential cheating indicators, such as unusual eye movements or background noises. Live proctoring, on the other hand, involves a real-time human proctor who monitors students through video feeds, ensuring exam rules are followed and intervening if any suspicious activity is detected.

Automated Proctoring

Automate proctoring refers to an exam monitoring system that primarily relies on cutting-edge artificial intelligence to proctor student exams. Automate proctoring involves the following:

  • Facial Recognition
  • Keystroke Analysis
  • Browser Lockdown
  • Ai-Based Proctoring

Facial Recognition

Facial recognition software is a key component of automated proctoring. It analyzes the test-takers face during the exam to verify their identity and flag any suspicious behavior. The software can detect if the test-taker:

  • looks away from the screen frequently
  • wears disguises
  • attempts to have someone else take the test in their place.

By comparing real-time facial features with pre-registered data, facial recognition technology helps ensure the integrity of the exam process.

Keystroke Analysis

Keystroke analysis is another technique employed in automated proctoring. It involves monitoring the test-taker’s typing patterns and analyzing keystrokes in real-time. Keystroke analysis can detect the following:

  • unusual typing patterns
  • excessive pauses
  • inconsistent typing speeds

Such activities may indicate the use of unauthorized resources or assistance during the exam. By scrutinizing the test-taker’s keyboard input, keystroke analysis helps identify potential cheating behavior.

Browser Lockdown

To prevent test-takers from accessing unauthorized materials or websites during the exam, automated proctoring often employs browser lockdown. This technique restricts the test-takers browser functionality by disabling specific features such as:

  • opening new tabs
  • copying and pasting text
  • accessing external websites

Browser lockdown ensures that the test-taker can only access the approved exam platform, eliminating the possibility of cheating by searching for answers or accessing external resources.

AI-Based Proctoring

AI-based proctoring is a sophisticated approach that utilizes machine learning algorithms to analyze patterns and behaviors during the exam.

AI algorithms can detect cheating behaviors such as;

  • copying and pasting content from external sources
  • using unauthorized devices or software
  • attempting to manipulate exam settings.

By continuously learning from data and adapting to new cheating techniques, AI-based proctoring enhances the effectiveness of monitoring and detection, improving the overall integrity of the online exam.

Live Proctoring

Live proctoring involves a human resource who is primarily responsible for monitoring the test-taker for the duration of the exam. Such live proctoring techniques involves the following:

  1. Human Proctors
  2. Audio Proctors
  3. Real-time Monitoring
  4. Proctoring via Webcam

Human Proctors

In live proctoring, human proctors actively monitor test-takers in real-time through a webcam. Trained proctors observe the test-taker’s behavior, such as:

  • facial expressions
  • eye movements,
  • body language
  • any signs of cheating or suspicious activity

Human proctors can apply contextual judgment and intervening immediately if they suspect any dishonest behavior, providing a higher level of scrutiny and ensuring a secure exam environment.

Audio Proctors

Audio proctoring is a supplementary technique used in live proctoring. By capturing and analyzing audio during the exam, audio proctoring can detect any suspicious noises or conversations. This can include:

  • whispering
  • talking to someone off-camera
  • receiving assistance through hidden earpieces

The audio proctoring system can alert human proctors if it detects any unusual sounds or conversations, allowing them to investigate further and take appropriate action.

Real-Time Monitoring

Live proctoring enables real-time monitoring of test-takers throughout the entire exam duration. Human proctors actively observe the test-taker’s actions, screen sharing, or any other activities that may indicate cheating. Real-time monitoring ensures that any cheating behavior is detected promptly, enabling proctors to intervene and address the situation immediately, maintaining the integrity of the exam.

Proctoring Via Webcam

Live proctoring relies on video streaming through a webcam to monitor test-takers. The webcam captures the test-taker’s actions, ensuring continuous monitoring throughout the exam. By observing the test-taker’s facial expressions, body movements, and the surrounding environment, proctors can assess whether the exam is being taken under fair and secure conditions. Webcam proctoring provides a visual means of monitoring test-takers and allows for real-time intervention if cheating is suspected.

Issues and Limitations of Online Proctoring Techniques

Technical Limitations

Online proctoring may have technical limitations that can affect the accuracy of the monitoring. Technical limitation involves the following:

  1. Limited Internet Connectivity and Hardware Issues:
  2. Difficulty In Installing Software
  3. Technical Glitches and False Positives

Limited Internet Connectivity and Hardware Issues

One of the major challenges faced during online proctoring is the issue of limited internet connectivity and hardware problems. Test-takers may experience interruptions, delays, or even complete disconnections due to unstable internet connections. This can disrupt the exam process, causing frustration and potentially affecting the performance of test-takers.

Similarly, hardware issues such as malfunctioning webcams, microphones, or other necessary equipment can pose obstacles during online proctored exams. Educational institutions and testing authorities need to consider these challenges and provide support mechanisms, such as:

  • offering alternative exam dates
  • providing technical assistance
  • ensuring fairness for all test-takers

Difficulty in Installing Software

Online proctoring often requires the installation of specific software or applications to enable the monitoring and security features. However, some test-takers may encounter difficulties in installing the required software or face compatibility issues with different operating systems. This can result in wasted time, added stress, and potential confusion for test-takers. To mitigate this challenge, educational institutions should provide clear instructions and technical support to ensure that test-takers can smoothly install and configure the required software, minimizing any disruption to the exam process.

Technical Glitches and False Positives

Online proctoring systems rely on complex algorithms and AI technologies to detect cheating behaviors. However, these systems are not perfect and may sometimes encounter technical glitches or generate false positives. Technical glitches can lead to misinterpretations of normal test-taker behavior, triggering unnecessary alerts or causing disruptions during the exam. False positives occur when the system incorrectly identifies a behavior as cheating when it is not. Educational institutions must strike a balance by implementing robust systems that minimize technical glitches and false positives while providing a mechanism for test-takers to dispute or clarify any false accusations.

Privacy Concern

Privacy of students has been a major concern of online proctoring techniques. Primarily, such concern involve:

  1. Invasiveness of some proctoring technologies
  2. Handling of sensitive data and personal information:
  3. Transparency and informed consent:
  4. Data retention and deletion policies:
  5. Third-party involvement

Invasiveness of Some Proctoring Technologies

Online proctoring can be perceived as invasive, especially when certain proctoring technologies require access to a test-takers webcam and microphone. Test-takers may feel uncomfortable with the idea of being constantly monitored and recorded during their exams. The continuous video and audio surveillance can be seen as a violation of personal privacy and may create a sense of unease and distrust.

It is crucial for educational institutions to address these concerns by clearly communicating the purpose and necessity of the proctoring technologies, as well as implementing measures to minimize the invasiveness, such as providing options for test-takers to disable video or audio recording when not necessary for exam monitoring.

Handling of Sensitive Data and Personal Information

Privacy concerns also revolve around the handling of sensitive data and personal information collected during online proctoring. Proctoring technologies often rely on capturing and analyzing facial recognition data, keystroke analysis, and audio recordings to detect cheating behaviors. Test-takers may worry about the security and storage of this information, as well as its potential misuse or unauthorized access.

Educational institutions must prioritize data privacy and implement robust security measures to protect the sensitive data collected during online proctoring. This includes the following:

  • implementing encryption
  • access controls, secure storage practices
  • compliance with relevant data protection regulations

Additionally, institutions should clearly communicate their data handling policies to test-takers, ensuring transparency and instilling confidence in the protection of their personal information.

Transparency and Informed Consent

To address privacy concerns, it is vital for educational institutions to maintain transparency and provide clear information to test-takers about the data collected, the purpose of its collection, and how it will be used.

Institutions should obtain informed consent from test-takers, ensuring they understand the privacy implications and have the option to opt-out or seek alternative assessment methods if they have reservations about online proctoring. By fostering an open and transparent environment, institutions can address privacy concerns and build trust with test-takers.

Data Retention and Deletion Policies

Privacy concerns also extend to the retention and deletion of personal data collected during online proctoring. Test-takers may be concerned about how long their data will be stored and whether it will be permanently deleted after a certain period.

Educational institutions should establish clear data retention and deletion policies, outlining specific timelines and procedures for data retention and disposal. These policies should align with privacy regulations and ensure that personal data is retained only for as long as necessary and deleted securely and permanently once it is no longer required.

Third-Party Involvement

Privacy concerns may arise when educational institutions engage third-party proctoring service providers. It is crucial for institutions to thoroughly vet and select trustworthy and reliable proctoring vendors that prioritize data privacy and security. Institutions should establish clear agreements and contracts with these vendors, outlining the obligations and responsibilities regarding data protection and privacy. Additionally, institutions should conduct regular audits and assessments to ensure that third-party proctoring providers adhere to the agreed-upon privacy standards.

Cheating Countermeasures

Anti-cheating technology and exam design and format are two potential solutions to counter online cheating.

Anti-Cheating Technology

To counter online cheating, the use of anti-cheating technology has proven effective. Anti-cheating software and systems employ various techniques to detect and flag suspicious behavior during online exams. These technologies can analyze patterns, monitor screen activity, and detect unauthorized resources or activities. Some anti-cheating technologies utilize advanced algorithms, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to identify cheating attempts in a proctored exam and provide real-time alerts to proctors or administrators. By leveraging these technologies, educational institutions can actively deter and prevent cheating, thereby maintaining the integrity of online exams.

Exam Design and Format

Another important aspect of countering how students cheat in an online proctored exam lies in the design and format of the exams themselves. Strategic exam design can make it more challenging for test-takers to cheat effectively. Some effective exam design techniques include:

Randomising Questions

Randomising the order of questions in an exam ensures that each test-taker receives a unique set of questions. This helps prevent collaboration or cheating by eliminating the possibility of sharing specific question answers.

Time Limits

Setting time limits for each section or the entire exam creates a sense of urgency and minimizes the opportunity for test-takers to consult external sources or seek assistance. Time-limited exams put pressure on test-takers to rely on their own knowledge and skills rather than relying on cheating methods.

Unique Response

Designing questions that require personalized or individual responses makes it difficult for test-takers to copy answers or rely on pre-prepared cheat sheets. Questions that require critical thinking, problem-solving, or the application of knowledge in unique scenarios discourage cheating by necessitating original thinking and understanding of the subject matter.

Open-Ended Questions

Incorporating open-ended questions that require detailed explanations or essay-style responses can be effective in countering cheating. Such questions demand a deep understanding of the subject matter and cannot be easily answered through simple copying or regurgitation of information.

Multiple Versions of The Exam

Creating multiple versions of the same exam with shuffled questions or slightly modified content helps prevent test-takers from sharing answers. This approach ensures that even if test-takers collaborate, they will receive different questions and cannot rely on shared answers.


It is important to note that while online proctoring techniques can prevent some forms of cheating, there are still ways that test-takers can attempt to cheat. Some may try to find information on how to cheat on a proctored exam or use virtual machines or other software to bypass proctoring technology. Therefore, it is crucial for institutions to implement multiple layers of security and to continuously update their anti-cheating measures to stay ahead of potential cheating tactics.

Scroll to Top