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Monday, October 4, 2010

To cheat or not to cheat?

Photo borrowed from

Last week my tween students were asking me if they would have to do exams. Now our school does not enforce any kind of formal assessment. The students (under 18) get a report card every term with a mark for each area of learning and behaviour. For this reason, with some classes teachers may set a progress test once per term, which helps with grading, especially with grammar.I am not a great fan of testing, personally, and if I do set a test I take the marks into account when writing reports, but don't use them if they are very different from how the student performs in class.

Anyway, when they asked me about exams, I decided to say yes, we would have tests from time to time, to see how everyone was improving their English. I then heard some of the kids talking about cheating, sneaking in notes (which in Spanish are called chuletas - yes, chops as in pork chops!), to which I responded loudly that in these tests they would be able to bring in 'chuletas'. There was a lot of mumbled discussion then of whether I was telling the truth or not, so I explained that in their tests they would be able to take in notes, however the test would be slightly more difficult than usual and they would not be allowed to speak. I read this somewhere in the blogosphere recently, sorry can't remember where and I can't find it now!

Anyway, to whoever it was who came up with the idea of allowing students to look at their notes in exams, thank you!

The reason for allowing students to "cheat" is that if they are allowed to take in notes, but not their books, they will need to prepare these notes beforehand. This means that they will be revising for the test without even realising it. They will be revisiting new vocabulary and structures that they have come across earlier in the term, without having the feeling that they are studying for a test. They will also be more relaxed before and during the test, hopefully with better results!

What do you think of this idea?


  1. Hi Michelle
    Was it Lindsay Clandfield's post where you read it? He limited this idea to one page of notes, so they'd have to read thoroughly beforehand to make sure they had the important things, the things they'd forget. In his case, he ended up knowing what was on the page as he revised the notes over time to get down to the key stuff. What I like about this is that practice matches what one would expect in theory.
    How did they do in the test, or is the sword still hanging over them?

  2. Hi David,
    It may well have been Lindsay Clandfields post! I haven't given them a test yet, but I will let you know how they get on.


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