How Many JMM Students Cheat?

Cheating is, unfortunately, extremely common at Memorial. I’m not proud to admit it, but even I’ve cheated on tests and quizzes. As a freshman, I simply didn’t grasp the concept of cheating and mistakenly thought this unethical act consisted purely of copying answers during exams. Fortunately, my freshman math teacher, the eccentric Mr. Kvistad, corrected me and strove to instill higher morals in all his students. From him, I learned that cheating is more subtle and much, much more common at Memorial than I had thought. Although it’s too late to erase the mistakes from my past, it’s not too late to learn and share these lessons, so others don’t fall into the same trap.


To start off, the definition of cheating must be clarified, for this term isn’t confined to a single act like I had thought. When I interviewed Mr. Kvistad, he defined cheating, after a thoughtful pause, as “any act that would put another person at an advantage over others”. Clearly, copying test answers or hiding cheat sheets would fall under this definition, but what many students don’t realize is that discussing specifics on assessments with those who haven’t taken it yet is also a form of cheating. This is absolutely critical. One of the most common ways students cheat at JMM, and the one I’ve participated in, involves sharing overly detailed information with friends. Mr. Kvistad gives the example, “If you tell someone ‘Oh hey you have to know how to apply L’Hôpital’s Rule on this test’, now that person is going in with an inherited advantage over you and your other classmates who didn’t know that ahead of time. Or alternatively they DON’T have to know L’Hôpital’s Rule. If you know you don’t have to study something, now you can NOT study that and devote more time to other things, therefore putting you at an advantage because you can then better use your time to study other material”. This may sound overly stringent, but telling someone what they should or what they shouldn’t study for when you know what the test covers is, in fact, cheating. You’re not hiding a formula sheet inside a pen, but in essence, that’s what’s happening. Certain students are coming into assessments with more information than others.


Even more concerning is the erroneous justification used by students who continue to cheat in this manner. What many don’t realize is that cheating isn’t just unfair to those without the advantage; cheating hurts you and your friends. When I ask my peers why they discuss test specifics, the common answer is “I’m just helping them” or “We’re maximizing the efficiency of our study time”. In reality, these shortcuts will only harm your success in the future. For one, college assessments tend to be offered at one time and one time only for all students to take. If in high school, you rely on friends to help you narrow down what to study, in college, you won’t know how to narrow down and pick out the important topics to study yourself. The bigger concern though, is that cutting these corners prevents you from truly understanding the material. In the short run, you’ll do well on the test, but by not studying course material in depth, you miss out on details and on understanding more difficult concepts that you’ll be expected to know in the future. In calculus, for example, Mr. Kvistad warns, “students are expected to remember everything from before. In previous classes, you could probably get by without putting all the pieces together but in calc, some questions just come out of left fields like ‘Oh I have to remember what an even function is?’” Yes, yes you do.


Obviously, it’s difficult to stop this kind of cheating. Teachers have little control over what students talk about during passing time, and students don’t like to turn away friends who ask for help. But we have to hold ourselves up to a higher standard both for our sakes and for our friends’. That means we don’t put each other in uncomfortable social situations by making someone choose between their integrity and their friends. It means we don’t ask, “Should I study for this?” or “What do I have to know for the test?”. If friends do ask how tests went, we give answers like “It was easy” or “It was hard” that don’t give them an advantage they shouldn’t have. It takes a socially mature student to step in and stop these kinds of conversations, but that’s exactly what we have to do if we want to become responsible adults with morals and integrity.


I don’t mean to accuse anyone of having bad intentions or of trying to cheat their way to success. For many including myself, cheating is simply hard to understand. Expectations aren’t communicated clearly, and many students just don’t realize their actions are wrong and carry grave consequences. But it’s not too late to change. Now that we have a better understanding of what cheating looks like and why it’s harmful, we can be better. Let’s make good decisions.


By – Megan Li

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