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Go gadget, go! Get out of our exam room!

Exam malpractice is a serious matter and any ‘Exams Officer’ or ‘SenCo’ knows that from reading the JCQ exam regulations or the Access Arrangements documentation from JCQ. Centres can lose their exam hosting status, people can lose their jobs and students can lose their entire suite of qualifications for breaches of regulations. So when JCQ commissioned a report on the practice, I was interested to see the findings.

Watches seem to be the one to watch!

Smart watches have reached the level of Inspector Gadget and his niece from when I was a child. It is exciting and amazing but also incredibly problematic for those who have the job of preventing exam malpractice. I wear a ‘normal’ watch that I’ve had for years and I love it, because it’s pretty. However, smart watches are morphing from looking like 1980s calculator monoliths towards being discreet and sometimes quite elegant pieces of kit. While this is great from an aesthetic standpoint, from a regulatory perspective it is problematic at best.

This means that young people may be able to use their devices in an exam room with invigilators none-the-wiser as to them even having internet access. Smart watches, with internet access can go under the radar and allow candidates to access a whole web of knowledge that would skew their marks and constitute major malpractice.

But what to do about it?

The suggestion from the Independent Commission on Examination Malpractice is that all watches be banned from the exam rooms. I see why. I understand the reasoning behind it; public confidence in the examination system in England needs to be upheld and this is a way to do so. I agree with a ban on the devices for students. Whether the ban applies to staff invigilating the exam I’m not sure and whether that it ‘policeable’ I also don’t know. But I agree with the measure overall.

But I think it is important to understand why some young people feel compelled to cheat in their exams, despite the severity of consequences. I think there is an underlying issue of desperation to pass, at any cost and, for me, part of preventing malpractice (at candidate level) is understanding why it happens in the first place.