Why I let my students cheat in tests


I believe that frequent testing is an important part of student learning. I think that it has a multitude of benefits. However I don’t test summatively. In my opinion, the only summative test secondary students do is their GCSE exam.

This short post is about one benefit that I believe has an impact on students learning and it comes from allowing them to cheat.



This is one of my walls. It is covered with quotes from Christianity & Islam that can be applied in many ways in the current GCSE RS.

I have taught the quotes and we refer to them frequently. However, when students do a test in the classroom I don’t take them down or cover them up. I leave them there. They think I don’t see but I often catch them looking round to get a quote to link in with their point.

I believe that by allowing them to do this it is helping them in the long term because:

  • They are so used to using these quotes in their work it becomes a habit
  • It will help them to visualise them when not in the classroom
  • By using them they can see what their work looks like with the quotes in it and how much this improves the quality of it
  • Constant exposure to the quotes improves long term memorisation

Current year 11 have had tests elsewhere and I have some evidence of them using these in their work but I think that my year 10 in particular have realised they’re always there and use them more frequently in their work.

I’m not going to tell them I know what they’re doing when they turn to glance at the wall. I’m going to see how they do in their year 10 mocks that they sit in the hall and see how much of it has transferred and has stuck in their long term memory.


7 thoughts on “Why I let my students cheat in tests

  1. I have been using pre-testing, mid-unit and end of unit testing this year following an interesting ‘Memory conference’ I attended. I have also been trialling some other elements of interleaving and retrieval practice. I am putting together a suggested programme of ‘reviewing’ and ‘repeated practice’ for Y7-13 as part of a whole school approach for next year and wondered if you have any experience or ideas on how this could work or be rolled out on a whole-school scale?

    • I think the best way is for teachers to be informed and then decide how it might work in their own subject. If they all follow the same principles but tailor it to their own curriculum and GCSE specifications I think it could be effective.

  2. Thanks for replying. I agree and this is how I intend to approach it. The main challenge is that staff are generally overwhelmed by the prospect of planning their numerous new courses. My thinking is that this is the best opportunity we have had to build these ideas in to curriculum design. The trials I have run seem to show better knowledge retention and quality of writing than in previous years for exam groups. I am hoping to offer some CPD on it, but I am far from an expert. I will point interested staff in the direction of your blog for them to consider the process. Thanks.

  3. Well most schools have at least 5 whole INSET days and further CPD time in the year.I would suggest that if schools devoted all (other than statutory stuff) of these for the next two years to this and what makes good learning it will more than pay back. Planning, evaluating and tweaking seems to be a great use of time in my opinion.

  4. Pingback: And the results are in….. Reflections on two years of GCSE | missdcoxblog

  5. Pingback: Recall, recall, recall – how to get students to learn quotes in Religious Studies (and any subject) | missdcoxblog

  6. This term I’ve started using Exam style questions for every other homework. Each one is a mixture of all of the topics that we have covered up to that point in the course. I set it as two separate tasks. Task 1, answer questions from memory to see what you already know. Task 2 answer all of the questions you couldn’t answer and improve any others (in a different color) so that you get full marks. I’m slowly moving towards, homework is not marked as submitted unless both tasks have been completed. It’s working on the questions that they find difficult that will make the biggest impact, As you say, I don’t really care if they cheat, I want all questions answered with full marks regardless of how they get to the marks, as long as they haven’t just copied.

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