60+ Ways Schools “Cheat” on Testing

60+ Ways Schools “Cheat” on Testing: Manipulating High-Stakes Exam Scores for Political Gain

Drawn from government and media reports by FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing
updated -- September 2014


  1. Fail to store test materials securely
  2. Encourage teachers to view upcoming test forms before they are administered
  3. Teach to the test by ignoring subjects not on exam
  4. Drill students on actual test items
  5. Share test items on internet before administration
  6. Practice on copies of previously administered “secure” tests
  7. Administer “practice” version(s) or real test to prepare selected students
  8. Exclude likely low-scorers from enrolling in school
  9. Hold-back low scorers from tested grade
  10. “Leap-frog” promote some students over tested grade
  11. Transfer likely low-scoring students to charter schools with no required tests
  12. Push likely low scorers out of school or enroll them in GED programs
  13. Falsify student identification numbers so low scorers are not assigned to correct demographic group
  14. Urge low-scoring students to be absent on test day
  15. Leave test materials out so students can see them before exam
  16. Set up classroom desks and chairs to facilitate answer copying
  17. Urge high-performing students to “fail” baseline test to boost reported score gains

During Testing

  1. Let high-scorers take tests for others
  2. Overlook “cheat sheets” students bring into classroom
  3. Post hints (e.g. formulas, lists, etc.) on walls or whiteboard
  4. Write answers on black/white board, then erase before supervisor arrives
  5. Allow students to look up information on web with electronic devices
  6. Overlook calculator use where prohibited
  7. Encourage reliance on special calculator programs that can answer questions
  8. Ignore test-takers copying or sharing answers with each other
  9. Permit students to go to rest room in groups
  10. Discuss mathematical formulae after test booklets have been distributed
  11. Shout-out correct answers
  12. Use body language to indicate right and wrong responses (e.g. thumbs-up/thumbs down signals)
  13. Instruct students to “double check” specific, erroneous responses
  14. Pass out notes with correct answers
  15. Read questions aloud to students not allowed this accommodation
  16. Urge students who have completed sections to work on others
  17. Allow entire class extra time to complete test
  18. Reclassify native English speakers as English Language Learners to give them additional time
  19. Leave classroom unattended during test
  20. Warn staff if test security monitors are in school
  21. Refuse to allow test security personnel access to testing rooms
  22. Cover doors and windows of testing rooms to prevent monitoring
  23. Give unnecessary accommodations to students without disabilities


  1. Allow students to “make up” portions of the exam they failed to complete
  2. Invite staff to “clean up” answer sheets before transmittal to scoring company
  3. Review test-taker scratch paper to identify question contents for future prep lessons
  4. Permit teachers to score own students’ tests
  5. Fill in answers on items left blank
  6. Rescore borderline exams to “find points” on constructed response items
  7. Erase erroneous responses and insert correct ones
  8. Provide false demographic information for test-takers to assign them to wrong categories for AYP
  9. Fail to store completed answer sheets securely
  10. Destroy answer sheets from low-scoring students
  11. Report low-scorers as having been absent on testing day
  12. Retroactively “withdraw” low-scorers from school to scrub average score data
  13. Share content with educators/students who have not yet taken the test via email, text, Facebook or Twitter
  14. Fail to perform data forensics on unusual score gains
  15. Ignore “flagged” results from erasure analysis
  16. Forge proctor signatures on statements that they read and followed test security guidelines
  17. Refuse to interview personnel with potential knowledge of improper practices
  18. Allow local school districts to investigate themselves after irregularities alleged
  19. Threaten discipline against testing impropriety whistleblowers
  20. Fire staff who persist in raising questions
  21. Fabricate test security documentation for state education department investigators
  22. Lie to law enforcement personnel

Bob Schaeffer 09/29/14