5 Tips to Prevent Cheating


With spring exams and the SAT coming up May 7 and June 4, parents need to be aware of the growing trend for teens to turn to cheating. Michael Hartnett, who has been a high school English teacher, college professor and SAT instructor/tutor for more than 20 years, reports 74 percent of high school students admit to cheating on an exam. Hartnett is the author of “The Great SAT Swindle,” and says cheating has never been easier. From receiving completed homework via e-mail to having test answers pop up on an iPhone, cheating has become as simple as text messaging.


He offers five ways to prevent your teenagers from falling to such temptation:


1. Check homework. This advice may sound a little intense and age inappropriate, but how else can parents truly know what a teenager is doing at school? A good indication of cheating is the absence of substantive work. Naturally, teenagers can claim they didn’t have any homework, but it is highly unlikely night after night.


2. Create a device-free study zone. Most teens are so addicted to the Internet their lives seem barren without being able to text a friend or to check online constantly about anything or everything. Multitasking is easy, but can a student uni-task — study intently on one thing? An hour a day by themselves without connections to cyberspace or to friends is an hour of learning devoid of cheating. It gives a great opportunity to improve concentration skills without distractions, which is necessary for the SAT, and to be better prepared for the demands of college and the workplace.


3. Give practice tests. A day or two before an exam, ask some pop-quiz questions to determine if a teen is truly studying or just grabbing information from friends and websites.


4. Talk honestly. You cannot be too self-righteous or judgmental about cheating. Talk with a teen becomes particularly challenging when asked, “How is reading ‘Hamlet’ going to help me become a mechanical engineer?” Unfortunately, a cerebral response about developing critical thinking and analytical skills probably won’t cut it with a teen. Your best bet may be to explain how skills in diverse fields make someone more adaptable and marketable. Explain how mental conditioning is similar to physical conditioning, and exercising in the areas you are least interested in can increase strength and confidence overall, by eliminating weaknesses.


5. Avoid clichés. Don’t say, “If you cheat, you are only cheating yourself.” That’s a pretty abstract notion and when a teen is getting A’s by cheating, then the cliché seems even more obtuse. Also avoid saying, “Cheaters never prosper.” The truth is they do prosper. However, a teen will most likely will understand that cheating will only get a person so far. And, you can throw in, “What knowledge and skills will you have after you’re finished cheating away your high school years?”