There are multiple cases of movie or TV show students who are attending an exam and are too late to turn in, but then ask the teacher "do you know who I am" at their desk. Then when the teacher says "I have no idea", they mix in their exam with the pile of completed exams and then walk away. 2 examples of this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_CqgnZhb--Q and https://www.reddit.com/r/BollywoodRealism/comments/hzeu2u/i_so_wish_this_was_how_it_worke/

Now, I know that these are just fictional scenes from comedy movies, but if a student were to try and pull a stunt like this during a real exam, what are ways to deal with this and/or avoid this problem to begin with?

  • 6
    1. Know your students. 2. Don't have a giant pile of tests on your desk in reach of students. 3. Don't believe everything B/Hollywood puts out.
    – Jon Custer
    Jul 28, 2020 at 19:59
  • 2
    No one has in-person time cutoffs of 10 second granularity; "attending an exam and are too late to turn in" intrinsically doesn't make any sense. Jul 29, 2020 at 1:13
  • A better question would be "why have timed exams?" Jul 29, 2020 at 6:55
  • Submitted exams should be going into a securable container, even it's just a cardboard box or a big envelope, and when the time period is done, the container is closed and/or removed. Late-submitters can leave their papers on the table if they want, but they won't be graded.
    – CCTO
    Oct 3, 2021 at 23:11

5 Answers 5


Don't leave the pile of exams on your desk. Simple enough, and good practice. Exams should probably be properly secured in some way.

If you catch them, reject the exam, or otherwise deal with it.

If you consider it a breach of an honor code, especially an explicit one, then they can be reported to the overseeing board, of course.


It is easy. If there is an attendance, compare the signatures. If not check the school's database for student ID pictures (you only need to check for that classroom). If it is not available, you can explain the, quite unusual, situation in an email and kindly ask your students to come in your office in the time of their chosing to verify their identity (that they are not the ones pulling the trick).


Any system where students do not have physical access to other students' completed exam papers would prevent the whole situation. Either the professor can go around the room and collect papers, or put them in a less-accessible spot like a briefcase as they are turned in at the front of the room.

If the situation has already happened, there are ways to track down the culprit. The professor doesn't know who they are right now, but that doesn't mean they can't find out later. The professor will be likely to remember the face of such a brazen upstart, so they can search their class manifest on social media to try to find a match. Most colleges have photo IDs, so the college itself may also be able to provide a photo of every person in the class.


This was actually touched on in The Ultimate Book of Puzzles, Mathematical Diversions, and Brainteasers: A Definitive Collection of the Best Puzzles Ever Devised by Erwin Brecher. I don't have the book on hand right now, but the solution for the professor goes something like this:

After grading the exams, ask the students to collect them in person.

That's assuming the professor cannot verify the student's identity in other ways, e.g. via student ID. Most universities will have some kind of photo ID of the student (since that's what ends up on the student card). There's a good chance as well the student will have to verify their identity to take the exam in the first place - this policy is in turn in place to stop substitute exam-taking where someone other than the student takes the exam in the student's name.


I’d have a list of students doing the exam and require (student) ID as they hand in the exams.

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