NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Catching Cheating Students

Steven D. Levitt, Ming-Jen Lin

NBER Working Paper No. 21628
Issued in October 2015
NBER Program(s):Law and Economics, Public Economics

We develop a simple algorithm for detecting exam cheating between students who copy off one another’s exam. When this algorithm is applied to exams in a general science course at a top university, we find strong evidence of cheating by at least 10 percent of the students. Students studying together cannot explain our findings. Matching incorrect answers prove to be a stronger indicator of cheating than matching correct answers. When seating locations are randomly assigned, and monitoring is increased, cheating virtually disappears.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21628

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