Exams can be tricky to monitor.
Particularly when you have a slightly shifty group of students.
Particularly when said group is in a room that doesn’t have enough space for them to all sit individually.
I face this issue with the classroom I have the majority of my lessons in. There are four rows of two-person desks facing the board, with three desks in each, and a line of benches along the wall. Most of my classes have 28-32 students.
There is not enough physical room to separate the desks or have the students sit individually.
So I’ve had to get creative in stopping students from being tempted to look at their neighbours answers – and let’s be honest, we would all like to think the students won’t do that, but some will.
Here are some of the strategies I’ve used to reduce or eliminate this temptation.
This is a very obvious one, and I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir, but I feel I need to mention it anyway.
Setting extremely harsh consequences can work as a great deterrent for cheating. By extreme, I mean ridiculously extreme.
I mention to all of my classes that I have quite a long and painful list of consequences if I catch them cheating: they will receive a zero on the exam; all relevant members of staff will be notified (form tutor, head of year, etc); their parents will be notified; they will have to return after school to sit a different exam; and they will have an hour-long after school detention with me every afternoon for a week.
Yep, ridiculous and extreme. All it has taken is a mere mention that they might be cheating and a reminder of the consequences to have all of my students sitting with their eyes glued to their own papers.
2. Building Walls
Students actually enjoy this one, it seems to turn into a sort of game.
The idea is they use books and pencil cases to build little walls between themselves. It seems to work best if they stand their books up and slightly open, so they stay standing.
Of course they can still see over the top if they want, but it is a much more obvious head movement than just looking to the side.
This again might seem obvious, and it is usually something that happens at exit-level exams.
Have the students take out each individual piece of equipment that they need and put it on their desk.
Their pencil case and any books go onto the floor, or to build a wall as mentioned above.
This makes sure that you can easily see if there are any pieces of paper on their desks that shouldn’t be there.
4. Covering Their Answers
Give the students a blank piece of paper or let them use their exercise book to cover their answers as they go.
Many students choose not to do this, but quietly encouraging them seems to work well.
5. Selective Separation
Sometimes there will be one or two key students you feel the need to sit separate from others.
Arrange the room in such a way that they, at least, can sit individually.
If it’s impossible (as it is in my room), it actually seems to work well if you sit those students next to each other. Students are often well aware of who tends to cheat in exams, and if they are sitting next to such a person they are more protective of their own work. If they happened to be paired up, often they just don’t see the point in copying off someone who usually copies of someone else.
Have them close to you too, so you can keep an eye on them more often.
6. Positioning Yourself
Depending on your room layout, circling the room may actually be detrimental to keeping an eye on the students.
In my room, there isn’t enough space to walk between the rows, and if I walk around the outside of the rows I tend to lose sight of half the class. For me it is actually more beneficial to be at the front of the room as it gives me the best line-of-sight for every student.
If your room allows it, circling can work wonders as students feel like you are paying more attention to them individually. Especially if you stop every now and then to look more closely at an answer or help with a question.
Do What Works
As always, you know your room and your students best. Try some of these tips if you feel like they will help you. If you have other suggestions for monitoring exams in small rooms, please share them below!
About the Author:
Emily is a secondary science and math teacher in Australia. She enjoys blogging about her experiences, facilitating the ‘light bulb’ moment in her students, and drinking tea and wine. Emily is currently on maternity leave with her first child. You can read more teaching articles from Emily here, or about her life as a new mum over at Actual Mums.