37 Ways to Cheat on an Online Exam
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37 Ways to Cheat on an Online Exam

37 Ways to Cheat on an Online Exam

April 3, 2024

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So, you know how AI-powered edtech tools are supposed to make learning easier and grading less of a headache? Well, it turns out there’s a downside to that. The same technology that is making things easier for training and admin staff is also giving online test-takers a significant advantage when it comes to gaming the system. 

A search this week of the Google Chrome Web Store revealed 37 ‘study aid’ plugins available for immediate download. The specifics vary from app to app, but the general aim of most of these tools is to automatically generate correct answers in online exams without needing to leave the exam page. Similar products are marketed as ‘homework helpers’ or ‘learning companions.’

And while every learner could use a little help with studying, a look at the backend of these browser extensions reveals their true aim. The Integrity Advocate team recently discovered that one ‘study aid’ — which will remain nameless — was deliberately concealing the code it injected into the LMS page to make it undetectable to outside scanners.

Of course, a simple screenshot would reveal the tool in action, no? Unfortunately, most learning aids that we’ve looked into have an invisible mode that makes them blend in seamlessly with the LMS page. 

So, it’s pretty obvious what the real point of these tools is. With them, anyone who has to take an online exam — from college students to food servers to workers responsible for maintaining health and safety standards in high-risk industrial applications — can have their testing completed for them, at little to no cost, without anyone knowing the difference. 

Curious about what the real-world impact of this could be? To demonstrate the threat of AI ‘study aids,’ we’ve been using them to help our company mascot, Phoebe the Pug, get a wide range of professional and safety certifications. As these AI plugins remove the need for comprehending the language of the exam, she has been licensed to serve alcohol, to operate a forklift, to work on a construction site, and to pilot a boat. All because the training program couldn’t see that Phoebe was using a popular ‘study aid’ plugin to complete her exams.

You don’t have to be a dog to fake your way through an important certification. Test-takers take the easy way out for any number of reasons — they may be looking for an unearned professional advantage; they may feel the testing doesn’t reflect the realities of their job; they may simply be too busy to put in the time and effort to do it right. But the reality is that shortcuts like ‘study aids’ compromise the overall integrity of online training, and can potentially put lives at risk — especially when it involves heavy machinery or other critical safety processes. 

So, there’s a clear incentive for program design and test administrators to be on the lookout for the use of study aid plugins. But how do you detect something that deliberately hides itself, both in the interface and on the backend? We can’t fully reveal our methods, but Integrity Advocate is the online monitoring system that can reliably identify the use of plugins using our proprietary ExposeAI tool.

Read more about ExposeAI here, or download our position paper on the use of AI in online testing: