Exam Cheating in China Highly Organized

November 16, 2006 Updated: November 16, 2006

Organized cheating on exams has evolved into a large, complex business in China, according to reports fro Legal Times and Economic Information Daily . On the eve of major examinations, “help wanted” advertisements looking for professional exam-takers known as “hired guns” can be found on the campuses of many Chinese universities. Many “organizers” who handle the group cheating operations have become so wealthy that they often can afford lavish sport cars and villas.

Cheating in Exams Becomes an Organized Business

There are students at the university level who earn money by taking examinations in the place of others. When the exam-cheating business was just beginning—the initial stage of the “cheating industry,” a “hired gun” would take the exams using the name of the examinee that had paid for the service. As monitoring of the examinations became more rigorous this technique of substituting for another during the exam process became very difficult. As a result, other forms of cheating have evolved. Among them are two methods known as “pre-exam answers” and “mid-exam answers.”

According to the Economic Information Daily , an insider of this business said “pre-exam answers” are sold to clients on the eve of the examination. The prices are comparatively high. On the southwestern side of China, as represented by Chongqing City, every copy of “pre-exam answers” sells for 2,000 to 3,000 yuan (US$254 to $382). In cities in the northern part of the country, such as Beijing and Taiyuan, the price is cheaper, ranging between 1,000 to 1,500 yuan (US$127 to $191).

The insider said that the purchasers of “pre-exam answers” are required to pay before the exam. After payment is received, the purchaser is contacted only on the evening prior to the examination. In a nearby hotel of the exam site, the answers to the next day's exam are provided to the purchaser. The purchaser is asked to memorize the answers in the hotel room during the night. On the day of the exam the purchaser is taken directly to the exam site. To prevent the purchaser from leaking the answers to others, the purchaser is not allowed to contact anyone during the evening before and morning of the exam. The insider did not reveal how the pre-exam answers were obtained by the organizer.

According to the insider, there are four levels in the exam cheating business. These levels include the organizer, his subordinates, local contacts, and the examinee. The subordinates are the only level that have direct contact with the organizer. The subordinates are responsible for managing the local contacts. The subordinates collect 3,000 yuan ($382) from the local contacts for each copy of the pre-exam answers. The local contacts are the persons who directly sell the pre-exam answers to their clients. If every copy of pre-exam answers cost the client 500 yuan ($64), the local contact has to sell at least six copies to break-even. In most cases, when a local contact sells 100 or more copies, the net profit for the contact is about 50,000 yuan ($6,361).

Ordered Cheating Flow

The exam cheating method of receiving “mid-exam answers” has been shown to result in better test scores than the cheating method of receiving “pre-exam answers.” One recent examinee described the cheating equipment and cheating flow of the “mid-exam answers” to the Legal Times :

Cheating equipment: wireless earphone with FM receiver. For very clear tone quality cost is more than 3,000 yuan ($382), which is undetectable with current electronic signal detection equipment.

Cheating flow:
1. The examinee and gunner register for testing at the same time. The examinee pays the gunner a deposit of 200 yuan ($25), and gives his candidate number to the gunner.

2. The examinee and gunner enter the examination room together and take the test at the same time.

3. The gunner completes exam in first hour, and then exits examination room and gives answers to the organizer. The examinee pays for service in full after test scores are received. If the examinee refuses to pay, the gunner can report the examinee to the exam committee.

4. Once the organizer receives the answers from the gunner answers are transmitted to the examinee by radio signal. A sentry looks out for security.

5. The examinee obtains the answers to exam questions by FM radio signal through wireless earphone receiver.

A gunman could earn about 1,000 yuan ($127) for each exam. The maximum exams per testing period are eight per gunner.

New Technology Comes Out Year by Year

The recent examinee admitted, “This year's cheating equipment is more advanced than that of last year. The size of the earphone has been reduced to that of a small fingernail. This makes the earphone almost impossible to see once it is in place in one's ear. Not only is the equipment smaller, it is electronically less detectable than ever before.”

Outside of four exam sites in the Changping District of Beijing there are on average two or three suspicious looking vans with black windows, and voices of people reading answers to exam questions can be heard when walking by any of them. According to the insiders, the radio signals must originate very close to the exam site. If no signal is initially received from the examinee's earphone, the driver will move the van to a position where a clearer signal can be found and answers can thus be transmitted.

Each van belongs to a specific group. Each group will transmit answers to at least a dozen of examinees. If you walk by these vans you can hear voices of people transmitting answers up and down the street outside the exam site.

It is reported that organizers only transmit answers to examinees one-half hour prior to the scheduled end of the exam. The reason for this late transmission is to prevent sharing of transmitted answers by more than one examinee.

Complete Benefits Chain

Most organizers were at one time examinees who cheated on their exams. After successfully cheating, the examinees who cheated now sell the successful cheating method to others. The cheaters have now become the organizers.

For some examinations, the cheating fee may be as high as 50,000 yuan ($6,361). Even with such high prices the cheating business is booming. Most students believe that the ability to pass exams smoothly is more than worth the high prices charged by the organizers. Many organizers have become rich through this process.