Malpractice in exams

Sometimes there might be issues or concerns about the validity of your work. While we don't want to see anyone jeopardise their grades or marks, we must investigate any breaches, and you could face a penalty. Make sure you understand the rules and boundaries.

Social media and online networking groups

Social media and online forums can be helpful for revision, exam preparation and connecting with teachers and subject experts. We encourage you to use these online tools, but remember that all exam boards monitor social media sites and online forums for malpractice.

There are rules and boundaries on what you can share about your exams online. They're followed by all exam boards. Take care when talking about exams on social networking sites including Facebook and Twitter, as well as group chat apps such as WhatsApp.

Examples of social media activities that could lead to a malpractice investigation include:

  • posting your written work online before an exam or assessment
  • allowing others to help produce your work, or helping others with theirs
  • sharing information if you’ve sat your exam earlier than other students
  • passing on rumours from others about exam content
  • accepting exam-related information without reporting it to the exam board.

Make sure you're not caught out: read information for candidates – social media by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ). If you're unsure about anything above, speak to your teachers.

Coursework

Follow this general guidance to avoid malpractice in your coursework.

  • Only submit work that is your own.
  • Never lend your work to anyone. You can get in trouble if they copy you, even if you didn't know they had or intended to.
  • Make sure you know how to reference other people's work. If you want to quote someone or use someone else's words, make sure you show or reference where the quote has come from, otherwise it could be seen as plagiarism. Check with your teachers which referencing or citation style you should use. The key is to be consistent.
  • Type or hand-write your own work for submission. If you need help to do this, make sure you acknowledge that someone else has helped you. Speak with your exams officer for more information about access arrangements.

If you're worried about any of these points, speak to your teachers.

In the exam room

JCQ has very clear instructions on what you can take into an exam room and how you should behave under exam conditions. Read JCQ's Information for candidates and our So it's exam day page for details.

Remember, malpractice includes bringing mobile phones and other unauthorised items and materials into the exam room.

What is investigated

Examples of statements or activities that will lead to a malpractice investigation include:

  • copying or allowing work to be copied, ie posting written work on social networking sites prior to an exam/assessment
  • collusion: working collaboratively with other students beyond what is permitted
  • allowing others to help produce your work or helping others with theirs
  • being in possession of confidential material in advance of the exam
  • exchanging, obtaining, receiving or passing on exam information by any means of communication (even if just attempting to)
  • passing on rumours about exam content from other students.

This is not an exhaustive list as other instances of malpractice may be considered by exam boards at their discretion.

Reporting malpractice

If you suspect any form of malpractice either at school or online, speak to your teacher or exams officer. You can also get in touch with us directly by emailing malpractice-n@aqa.org.uk or calling 0161 958 3736.

Our malpractice information for exams officers page has more information about the full reporting process, as well as JCQ guidance on making an allegation and whistleblowing.

Penalties

Your school or college must report all cases of irregularity or misconduct to JCQ, including what might even be minor misunderstandings.

If you are found guilty of breaching any of the malpractice rules you could find yourself facing:

  • a warning (840 given in summer 2015)
  • loss of marks for a section, component or unit (1,100 in summer 2015)
  • disqualification from a unit, all units or whole qualifications
  • a ban from sitting exams for a set period of time.

In the June 2015 exam series, 2,460 penalties were issued to students. This is a decrease of 4% from the 2,550 penalties in the 2014 summer series. Of the 2,460 penalties, 1,180 (48% of the total penalties) were issued for bringing unauthorised material into the exam room.

See Ofqual's full summer 2015 malpractice report