There was about 30 mins left of the exam, everything had been going well so far, I got nervous as there was 1 question I hadn't answered that was worth a few marks, so I made the irresponsible decision to check my phone, the moment I pulled it out is when I got caught, the TA took my student ID and allowed me to continue with the exam. With the guilt of knowing what I had just attempted to do, I submitted my paper instantly after my ID was taken. I just received an email saying there will be a meeting. What should I expect? (Never done anything like this before)

  • 32
    Learn form this : You don't need to take your phone into an exam...
    – Solar Mike
    May 19, 2019 at 15:29
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    @SolarMike, or at least turn it off and keep it in your backpack (where it is inaccessible).
    – PersonX
    May 19, 2019 at 18:16
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because you want to know what to expect in this case, but this will depend entirely on the procedures and people at your institute, not to mention what you say and how you behave to them, and is not something that can be answered here. May 20, 2019 at 1:46
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    @StephenG Why are people on this site so obsessed with voting to close. The question was made in good faith and generated high quality responses.
    – Keatinge
    May 20, 2019 at 1:53
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    @SolarMike That is irrelevant to your original comment, and it's even more irrelevant to your follow up. A person having a problem staying off their phone does not preclude bringing it to the exam. There are other solutions. Leaving it at home may be a good option for some people, but saying that there's never a reason to bring it is just wrong.
    – jpmc26
    May 20, 2019 at 4:25

4 Answers 4


My advice would be to be honest, not argumentative, and explain exactly what happened.

  1. I pulled the phone out with the intention to cheat.

  2. I did not complete the cheat as I was caught in the attempt.

  3. I turned the paper in immediately after being caught.

  4. I have not habitually cheated.

  5. I will accept whatever disciplinary outcome is assigned.

Maybe write this down and hand it in at the beginning of the meeting.

Accept the sanctions--not with a "crucify me" attitude, but phlegmatically. Then, go and sin no more.

  • 6
    Accepting whatever disciplinary outcome is assigned is certainly the right thing to do. In practice, there's going to be some discussion and uncertainty about what discipline to assign. Expect the discussion to start with taking a 0% on the exam (which may mean re-taking the entire class, IDK). I think it would be fine for you to speak against anything harsher than that. Merely being asked to retake (a new version of) the test might seem reasonable (and you should take the option if offered), but understand that it creates a lot of extra (voluntary) work for your professor. May 19, 2019 at 18:56
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    I mis-read one sentence of this answer as "write this down on your hand" ;) Guess I have to accept I'm too tired to make a contribution right now...
    – jvb
    May 19, 2019 at 20:02
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    @ShapeOfMatter Would a teacher accept to prepare a whole new exam that would essentially give an advantage (because more time to study between the cheating attempt and the re-take) to someone who cheated? I can't imagine any of my teachers doing that. A 0 on the exam would be the best case scenario in my university.
    – user39012
    May 19, 2019 at 20:19
  • @Arno The mark may be capped on the repeat, to avoid giving OP an advantage. May 19, 2019 at 21:40
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    Good advice, but this does not answer the question. The asker wants to know what to expect in the meeting - not what to do.
    – Evorlor
    May 19, 2019 at 22:56

What you can expect depends on personalities, so is impossible to say with accuracy. But, at a minimum you will be asked to explain and justify yourself, which sounds like it will be pretty hard to do. Probably the best you can hope for is to admit you intended an infraction, but that it had no effect on what is written on the exam paper.

I was once caught in a different kind of ethical transgression and the faculty response varied from "expulsion" to "boys will be boys". I know this to be literally true, actually. The two of us admitted error and that we had learned something from it and so the only sanction was a stern talking to. But it might have been much worse. In some ways the worst aspect for us was that the decision took a week to come to fruition with the cloud hanging over us. The college and the faculty were small so our deed was widely known. In some ways the best outcome was that a variety of viewpoints were held by the sanctions committee and so they had to work through to some consensus position.

Hopefully you've learned that your fear of failure could be made worse by improper actions to try to avoid it. But some, you hope, of the faculty are also sensitive to the fact that we aren't perfect and that students need to learn a lot of things.


In a US school, you would probably be told you stand accused of using an unauthorized resource on an exam, and told the penalty the prof would like to assess, with your agreement. Likely, this will be a zero on the exam along with a lowering of whatever grade is arrived at as a result- often a full letter grade- and a report of academic dishonesty.

You might be offered the opportunity to accept the penalty, and if you decline, an academic honesty hearing.

It makes no difference that you had no time to actually cheat.

If this is a second offense, you might eventually be faced with suspension, but this would be after the prof submits his report.

You should most certainly go to your school's website and search up their academic honesty policy before this meeting. Also, check with your course syllabus to determine if there are specific course policies. There may even be instructions on the exam that are relevant. My Dean's Office encourages us to put language that possession of a cell phone during an exam is prohibited. If you're offered something much less harsh than what is dictated by policy, you should consider accepting it.

If this went to hearing at my school, a defense saying that you took out your phone to answer an important text, and that you handed in the exam right after this "misunderstanding", the penalty would be as I described it - unless your hearing panel believed you were lying to them, and considered that to be an immediate second offense. That would be unlikely, but a possibility.

Also, in my school, if this were a first offense, and it resulted in a course failure, there would not be a notation of academic dishonesty on your transcript. That is usually reserved for second offenses. We would expect you to use the incident as a learning experience, and you would also have to complete extra honesty tutorials.


It would depend on what evidence they have of your intent when you took your phone out. If they have evidence that you searched for something relevant to the test then obviously you must admit it. Otherwise there are any number of reasons a person might pull out their phone during a bad time. Eg. Waiting for an important text from a family member and nervously checking for news.

If there is no evidence it was for cheating I don't see what benefit for the future there is from openly saying you were intentionally doing it for cheating. You are basically guaranteeing to be branded and punished as a cheater with no argument or pathway for repeal.

Of course how you handle it ethically is up to you. But if this was a legal case and I was your lawyer, and there was no real evidence of intent to cheat, I'm not sure I would advise you to walk in and spell that out for them.

  • 4
    In the huge majority of classes at my school, accessing a cell phone during an exam would be considered cheating, regardless of the reason. May 19, 2019 at 23:40

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