There was a time when cheating in exams only meant peeping into your neighbour’s paper or whispering answers, and invigilation mostly meant preventing students from talking or passing chits.
However, it seems that as cheating methods become more sophisticated, examiners are going to more intensive extents to combat copying in exams. On Monday, an IIT-JEE (Advanced) aspirant was asked to cut the full-length sleeves of his shirt in half before appearing for the exam in Mysuru because candidates were not allowed to wear full-sleeve shirts to the exam.
In 2015, mobile jammers made their debut in medical and engineering exams. The idea clearly stuck because next February, the UGC asked 46 central universities to use mobile jammers to prevent students from cheating using their mobile phones.
2015 was also the year when the AIPMT test was re-conducted after allegations of cheating emerged. Determined not to repeat the debacle, strict checking procedures were observed and students had to remove even kadas, rings and moulis (sacred threads worn in Hinduism).
However, the CBSE ran into trouble when the mandatory removal of religious items was not taken well by many. On April 21, the Board announced that it would consider allowing students to wear burqas and religious headgear provided they could be rigorously frisked separately at the examination center. Soon after, the Kerala High Court rejected the CBSE’s appeal to ban Muslim girls from wearing hijabs in April this year.
In March 2016, candidates appearing for an Army recruitment exam in Bihar were asked to strip to their underwear. According to pictures appearing in media reports, soldiers appearing for the recruitment exam for general duty and clerical and technical positions, wrote the exam sitting in the open wearing nothing but an undergarment. The logic behind this mortifying move was reportedly to “save time on frisking so many people.”
Soon after, the IIT-JEE was conducted in April. Apart from watches and wristbands, students were also barred from using their own stationery inside the hall. Sacred threads and earrings also had to be removed. A candidate told The Telegraph that the whole process was like AIPMT all over again.
Then there was the controversial NEET which replaced various state/university entrance exams conducted by different institutions this year. NEET-1 was held on May 1 and not only had CBSE issued a set of guidelines for the students, but the day also saw students screened for cheating aides like never before.
The guidelines not only banned closed shoes but also earrings, nose-pins and necklaces. The CBSE had also mandated that items like stationery, food and water bottles would also be barred from the exam hall. The prescribed attire was “light clothes” with small buttons without badges and brooches.
It also advised students who were wearing religious clothing to arrive early so that they could be frisked thoroughly. According to pictures in a Hindustan Times report, students had to walk barefoot, have torches shone down their ears and screening devices scan them between their legs too. If one didn’t know the context, it would be quite easy to assume that the photos were from a high-security diplomatic event!
Of course, students too have begun to employ increasingly incredulous methods to flout examination rules as well. According to one report, there are websites catering to very specific demands of students looking to “pass exams without a hassle.” One such website called Action India Security sells ‘Spy Bluetooth glasses earpiece set’ built for this very purpose. Similar devices can be found on Ebay too.
But significantly, cheating is not only a student activity but in some cases, an institutional one too. A Dalit school student set himself on fire when he could not afford to pay his school authorities to allegedly allow him to cheat in exams. In March 2016, 14 teachers were booked in Uttar Pradesh for helping students cheat in class 10 and 12 board exams.
Moreover, rackets of leaked papers and answer keys are testament to the fact that cheating occurs at various levels, and is in some ways a system-wide enterprise.
In such a context and with no viable alternative to standardized and regimented exams being envisaged, the mutually reinforcing cycle of new and innovative cheating methods, and ever more intensive checking methods is only bound to continue.