Exams Plagued By 'Cheater' Wristwatches

John Lister's picture

British students have been banned from wearing any form of wristwatch in exams. It follows concerns that 'smart watches' containing helpful information could be disguised as ordinary watches.

The new rules will affect most national exams for school students aged 16 and 18, including those which determined whether students can get a particular place on a university course. The rules say normally students must take off their watch and leave it in a visible place on their desk, though in some cases supervisors are collecting the watches and keeping them outside.

The changes follow on from existing rules that ban any form of smart watch that can store data digitally, including answers to exam questions. Rules banning smart watches proved inadequate when officials became aware of a range of 'cheating watches' advertised on sites such as Amazon. Unlike some more mainstream smart watches, these don't connect to cell phones, which are also banned under existing rules. (Source: bbc.co.uk)

Cheating Watches Include Emergency Button

One variant involves the watch having a digital display that replicates either an analog watch face or a digital clock. However, the watch is actually a small computer, and pressing a button replaces the display with text that the student has previously loaded onto the device. An "emergency button" will immediately switch the display back to a clock as well as disabling the other buttons in case a supervisor examines the watch. (Source: telegraph.co.uk))

Another variant of the cheating watch is an analog device, which comes bundled with a tiny Bluetooth earpiece. The watch has data storage similar to a USB flash drive and can house audio files such that pressing a watch button will read out stored text via the earpiece.

Folded Paper Notes Still Used

Nostalgic cheaters will be pleased to know that not all of the rule breaking involved digital watches. In some cases, students were also using what appeared to be an ordinary analog watch that in fact had a lift-up face that revealed a hiding place for a paper note.

The idea of forcing students to place the watch on the desk is to allow them to check the time if necessary but in a way that means they have no reason to touch the watch during an exam.

What's Your Opinion?

Are the new rules fair? Should Amazon stop selling watches specifically marketed as being for cheating? Can students ever be deterred from cheating in exams completely or will evolving technology mean they continue to find ways to avoid detection?

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Average: 5 (6 votes)


Dennis Faas's picture

I decided to see what these items looked like on eBay and was surprised that there are also glasses and pens with nano ear receivers that can relay audio for the purpose of cheating on exams. The rules need to be extended to give out "certified" pens and pencils during an exam. The cheating eye glasses would certainly be harder to detect, though perhaps prescription eye glasses could be pre-registered with a photo before exams take place.

Navy vet's picture

If you are caught cheating or attempting to cheat: EXPULSION, not just failing the test.

David's picture

Back in the day, it was TRS-80 Pocket Computers with the cheat notes written as REM statements in a BASIC program.

matt_2058's picture

How funny. Adults fail to realize they did this. Adults let kids think it's ok to do these things to get ahead in the world. "It's better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission" I hear it all the time when someone is too lazy to lazy to do something right.