Kinds of Cheaters
© 7 Sep 2015 Luther Tychonievich
Licensed under Creative Commons: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0
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A list of kinds of cheating that I have caught.


I intend to write several more posts on cheating and academic honesty generally See my earlier post on why students are dishonest. , but think it would be useful to illustrate the wide variety of cheats that exist.

I’m only listing ones that I have caught Most of them I know I caught correctly because once accused at least one cheater confessed. or have been closely associated with the catcher of in the two years that I have been a university faculty member I hear tell of types I have not caught and caught some as a teaching assistant prior to my current job; I do not list those here. . I try to list them from least to most common, insofar as I can tell their frequency. I phrase them as named archetypes, anticipating that I might want to refer to them by name in later posts. I also include only cheating: plagiarism has its own varieties, but seems to be better understood by non-educators and less in need of an expository list.

Little and Big Friends

When the little friend doesn’t feel ready for an exam the big friend, who completed the course in a preceding semester, joins the little friend in the exam and feeds the little friend answers.

Ghosts and Proxies

When the ghost doesn’t feel ready for an exam the proxy goes in the ghost’s place and takes the exam on the ghost’s behalf, handing it in with the ghost’s name on it.

Moneybags and Contractors

This student uses the Internet to hire someone to do the student’s assignments; the student then submits the work the contractor did as if it was the student’s own work.


This student takes advantage of a too-trusting partner, roommate, sybling, or friend to steal the victim’s previously-submitted solo assignments, then submits that stolen work as the thief’s own.

Lavatory Library

The various uses of lavatory breaks from exams for cheating roughly match the various uses of school libraries for learning. There are the study groups (2+ students meet in the lavatory), the tutoring sessions (a student meets someone not enrolled in the course), access to written material (either pre-staged in the lavatory or hidden on their person), access to the Internet (generally by phone), and use of voice and text telephone connections (with voice receiving similar social stigma in libraries and lavatories).

Tutors and Pupils

Some tutors help students learn, but some skip the learning and help the students perform. I often see this when noticing the style of student code is very different between two assignments and, when asking the student about this, am told “‍oh, my tutor helped me with that one.‍”

Archivist and Searchers

The archivist, on hearing that potential employers want to see potential employees’ code on github, bitbucket, or the like, decides to populate such a site with the only code they’ve written: old homework assignments I assume without evidence that an employer would rather see nothing at all than see a repository of homework assignments. No repo might mean a decision not to make code public, but posted homework means both a disregard for intellectual property and a testament that no non-homework code was written. . When the searcher later searches the web for help on the assignment the archivist’s solutions come up and the searcher either (1) resubmits that same code, or (2) “‍uses it as a guide‍” (essentially rewriting it), or (3) closes it but then can’t forget what it contained and recreates it anyway. In all cases, the searcher does not actually solve the assigned problem.

I do not know if this same problem arises with other fields or not. Do history majors post copies of their history papers as examples of their writing?

Wandering Eyes

This student is in an exam, glances around the room, and notices that there is another student whose exam is visible, notices what that student answered on some question, and answers the same, either because the seen answer triggers memory or because Wandering Eyes blatantly copies the other student’s work.


There are people I admire who join fraternities and sororities, so I assume they have some redeeming characteristics; but everything I see them doing has negative social utility. In that list which also includes littering, vandalism, creating social inequity, encouraging drunkenness, and condoning physical and sexual abuse. Notably, not all fraternities and sororities are guilty of all offences listed. is the practice of collecting and distributing graded material from previous semesters. The circulation of that material changes assignments from evaluating learning and ability to evaluating personal connections and memorization.


These two (or more) friends and study partners reliably go too far in how much they help each other. Even if they didn’t share solutions to assignments, they do work their solo assignments side-by-side with constant conversation about the solution process.

I’ll call these pairs Ettins, after the fictional race of two-headed giants, because in the end I am often unable to tell if either head is able to do any of the assignments without the others’ help. When I do look closely I discover that some of them have two similarly-smart heads and others have one head being supported by the other’s abilities.

I should note that most cheating takes two parties. Tutors, contractors, big friends, proxies, frats, and lavatory contacts are at fault for academic dishonesty just as much as their pupils, moneybags, little friends, ghosts, initiates, and lavatory visitors.

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