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This problem has been bothering me as a lecturer and future PhD student for a while now.

A student just finishes filling his exam sheet. He then gives the sheet to the lecturer. The lecturer is then grading the result. He then returns the result to the student.

  1. (Bad student) After seeing his score, the student does not accept it, but he knows this result is fair. He then reports to the person above the lecturer that his exam sheet has been changed by the lecturer (which is possible, isn't it?). He claims that this is not his exam sheet. He then argues and keeps arguing by bringing made-up facts and made-up evidences.

  2. (Bad lecturer) This case is similar to case 1, but this time the lecturer has indeed change the exam sheet. The student is then surprised and he can't prove it wrong somehow.

How can we prevent these two possible cases? I have seen case 1 but that was a long time ago and I forget how it was solved. However, I think it is fine to prevent bad things before they happen rather than handling them after they happen which usually turns out to be too late.

One solution I can think of is going online. Do test online, share exam sheets online, etc. Is there another countermeasure?

  • "his exam sheet has been changed by the lecturer (which is possible, isn't it?)": Uh?! How can you imitate so well the student's handwriting? – Massimo Ortolano Jul 19 '18 at 6:33
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    I had this with one student - he changed answers during review, then asked for the credit. So, the next exam - I had copied them all and he did the same - I told him I was going to give the evidence to the exam board and he had a zero until they had ruled. Boy, did he panic - went to see Dean, Student services the whole 9 yards - all said it will be discussed at exam board - grade stayed at zero... Very handy because the stiry got around and it did not happen since... – Solar Mike Jul 19 '18 at 6:43
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    Have you actually encountered a lecturer changing an exam? Or even the suggestion that one had? – Jessica B Jul 19 '18 at 7:01
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    It is possible to change an exam as a lecturer, but why would you do that? Certainly not to fail a person that annoys you. In that case you have that annoying person in your class again next year... The easiest and quickest way to get rid of an annoying person is to pass them. – Maarten Buis Jul 19 '18 at 7:06
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    @bms no, not the second case - with hundreds of exams to grade I don’t have the time to waste changing exams - I spend the time to read, assimilate and mark fairly all the answeers given... – Solar Mike Jul 19 '18 at 7:22
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There is no counterneasure which is bulletproof and administratively feasible. If I want to cheat as a teacher, I will always find ways around such a system.

The only way would be to have the exam taken by independent administrative staff, they scan all answers as proof, and then hand it to the teacher. Online results could be watermarked (e.g. by an MD5 / SHA hash), but I don't know if such systems exist.

If I really want to upgrade or downgrade a student, I would not take the risk of manipulating the exam, but to adjust my measures for deciding what is true and what is false and to which account I'm willing to accept "a good idea which did not lead to the correct result".

As a teacher, I like to have electronic submissions since they are a proof and students usually have nearly no means of changing them afterwards. But I prefer doing the grading with paper and pencil.

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    +1 for the third paragraph. It depends on the field a bit, but if you’re grading writing and argumentation (be it philosophy, political science, or mathematics) there’s always wiggle room to rig results in terms of strictness of grading and generosity with attempted solutions. Even a systemic review of the exams won’t reveal much of note if you are sufficiently dedicated to it, and you always have the excuse of “oh, I guess on day 1 I was feeling more lenient than on day 2 of grading.” – Stella Biderman Jul 19 '18 at 15:03

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