Is it acceptable or ok to report on students cheating? Many times during a test or an exam, I have seen students in front of me either passing notes, or otherwise collaborating whenever the professor isn't looking.

I don't want to get into trouble, and I don't know if it's "alright" to rat on fellow classmates. Part of me thinks they deserve being caught out, by virtue of trying to cheat their way through the course. However, I feel like I would get found out by other students if they were caught cheating.

What is the right course of action here? To be clear, I would never raise an accusation in the middle of an exam; it would only lead to me being ostracized by my peers.

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    – eykanal
    Commented Oct 8, 2018 at 13:34

17 Answers 17


Honor is doing what’s right when no one is looking. If your institution's Honor Code requires you to report cheating, I'd suggest you report the action to your professor or a higher authority. This is good for multiple reasons:

  • You can prevent the cheating student from gaining an unfair advantage over his or her fellow students.
  • If they're caught (and punished), they might realize their mistake. If you never report the cheating, this student might sail through the rest of the term repeating the same mistake.

However make sure the suspected cheater doesn't come to know who reported him/her. You can meet the professor after the exam and explain what happened. If you don't wish to reveal the person's name, don't. If you're not comfortable with talking to a professor about your classmates, you can send an unsigned letter, explaining in detail what happened during the exam and if possible, include some ideas on how to stop them next time.

Before you do anything, think of the consequences. What if the other student discovers you're the one who reported the cheating? How would you feel if you confronted the cheater directly? If you can't imagine any of these situations, I suggest you let it slide.

  • 43
    Note that the concept of an "honor code" does not exist world-wide. Commented Apr 13, 2014 at 9:32
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    Also... "You can prevent the cheating student from gaining an unfair advantage": this is only true if students are competing against each other for grades instead of each one trying to learn for themselves. If that's the case, I would question if the institution is actually interested that everyone learns and probably just walk away and find another place to study. Commented Apr 13, 2014 at 10:13
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    @cassianoleal: Not quite true: your grades end up in your vita. Assuming that many students (in one area) compete for the same set of jobs, cheating "just" for better grades (never mention passing at all!) is gaining the cheater an advantage.
    – Raphael
    Commented Apr 13, 2014 at 15:04
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    this is only true if students are competing against each other for grades — Or for jobs. Or for internships. Or for grad school admissions. Or for fellowships. Or for research opportunities. Or for anything else that depends on your grades.
    – JeffE
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 1:47
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    the system is bad and requires fixingEvery system can be gamed. Moreover, every system is gamed. That does not imply that you should tolerate other people gaming the system. (On the other hand, any higher-education system that requires solidarity among students against their instructors is fundamentally broken.)
    – JeffE
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 12:09

As an instructor, I want to know if there is an environment that allows cheating. Even if the student can't provide proof or only told me afterwards or anonymously, I can take action on future exams by better proctoring, exam versioning, and seating charts.

So telling the teacher afterward would protect individual students but improve the quality of the course overall, which is a win-win.

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    Also, if there are people cheating, and the exam is prohibitively difficult without cheating, if a portion of the class does a lot better than they would given the resources you have available to yourself, the instructor will not realize that the exam was not possible to do without cheating, and next time will make the exam just as prohibitively difficult, thinking that the normally high performers are just being lazy.
    – jfa
    Commented Apr 12, 2014 at 18:38
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    @JFA: I share the general sentiment, but you should probably not assume that student cheat only if the exam is "too hard".
    – Raphael
    Commented Apr 13, 2014 at 17:23
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    As @BoratSagdiyev suggested, just reporting "many people are cheating" without giving out their names would likely solve the problem and would not inimicate you anyone.
    – o0'.
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 11:05
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    deeper/oral pun not intended
    – o0'.
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 11:15
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    @Lohoris If you have (targetted) suspicion, you can often identify cheaters by what they hand in. (Of course, my advice to teachers would be to create exams that are hard to cheat. Go ahead, bring all your material -- I don't care.)
    – Raphael
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 11:33

As a professor for over a quarter of a century, I can assure you that your prof would like to know if cheating is going on. When I've been made aware of such nefarious activities, I've been able to catch the culprits on a subsequent exam, by giving the cheaters slightly different versions of the test. Although students engaging in cheating are ultimately cheating themselves, it's still nice when they are caught. This lessens the chance they will make it to Wall Street or Med school, or into government, where their cheating can have serious repercussions for us all.

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    @cassianoleal, are you saying that you want to learn from professors who don't mind if their students cheat?
    – JRN
    Commented Apr 13, 2014 at 14:23
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    @cassianoleal: The fact is that people attend universities that have no business being there. They start having trouble and look for solutions. Few realize they are the problem -- the others blame teachers, the system and/or cheat. That's largely independent of the didactic skill of the teacher (provided they uphold a certain standard).
    – Raphael
    Commented Apr 13, 2014 at 15:14
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    @cassianoleal Proctoring exams is not teaching, it is part of our job but not related with passing knowledge from the instructor to the students. In an exam we test what the students learned so far, I don;t see the connection between catching cheaters in an exam and teaching... The only link between the two is the fact that if one is effective at catching cheaters, one gets a more accurate picture of what the students learned so far, which can actually improve one's teaching abilities after the midterms.
    – Nick S
    Commented Apr 13, 2014 at 20:55
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    As a high school teacher (briefly), I found it easier to assume some students would cheat and identified them by handing out slightly-different versions of a quiz early in the year. They get an F which doesn't impact their long-term grade (it's a small quiz), and it proves a useful deterrent for the rest of the year. Best of all, I didn't even have to accuse them of cheating, which any student would of course deny -- the F was earned by their answers. Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 14:54
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    worse, the cheater devalues the effort of everyone else taking the exam, reducing effectively the market value of a degree from that institution as if unchecked underqualified people will get a degree and the market will notice that.
    – jwenting
    Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 8:12

I'm a college professor and I have very little tolerance for cheating. Yes, I would like to know if it's going on, and, yes, I expect students who witness it to tell me so I can take preventive action.

I also used to be a competitive golfer. In a tournament every golfer is expected to monitor the actions of the other players in his group to make sure no one bends or breaks the rules. Since tournament officials cannot be everywhere on the course at all times, each individual is responsible for protecting the field by making sure that no one gets an unfair advantage over the field. That is a responsibility that competitive golfers take very seriously.

The student, likewise, needs to assure that there is a level playing field for everyone. Reporting cheaters is one way of doing just that.

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    Telling your professor that he did a bad job supervising the exam is highly commendable, but takes guts. Ratting on individual fellow students is however very, very low, and expecting students to do so is no better. University is not a golf club.
    – Karl
    Commented Feb 1, 2017 at 5:35
  • @Karl "Ratting on individual fellow students is however very, very low" This really depends on the academic culture. In Eastern Europe, it'd make you an outcast fairly quickly. In the U.S., not so. Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 21:19
  • @Kubahasn'tforgottenMonica Yea, people in places where denunciation is or was politically enforced seem to grow a robust dislike for such practice. :D
    – Karl
    Commented Aug 25, 2022 at 16:50
  1. This is a personal choice; there is no definite answer.

  2. What is "ethical" depends on the culture. In Russia reporting someone doing something wrong or mildly illegal is generally considered unacceptable, whereas in the United States it is generally considered acceptable.

  3. If you don't want to get into trouble, don't do anything.

  4. In most cases the instructor probably knows that there is some cheating going on. This is a part of life.

  5. Try to see both sides of the coin. Imagine a single mother with two children working two jobs and taking some classes at night. She doesn't really need this calculus anyway, and it is not even her major. Would the world come to an end if she unfairly gets a B- so she could graduate? Life is really a complicated thing... (As a full disclosure, as an instructor I used to be very particular about punishing cheating, even when no hard evidence was present. However, as we get older, we learn that the world is not black and white...)

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    I upvoted this answer not because I fully agree. I think this is an opinion needs to be heard. I may not agree with you, but I must defend for you.
    – Nobody
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 4:16
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    I disagree strongly with the "Imagine a single mother..." argument. Yes, people who need extra help and support to succeed in higher education should get that support; no, this support should not come in the form of "look the other way so they can cheat on an exam"
    – ff524
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 4:22
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    Fully agree. In some countries, reporting someone cheating would make you that "bad boy" who collaborates with the people in charge and brakes the solidarity, and could even severe your chance for academic career.
    – user5657
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 9:56
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    I'd argue that a culture that tolerates or even encourages cheating can profit from an academic system that teaches the opposite. But then, I'm not from such a culture. (Usually, cheating hurts the whole society one way or the other. That "obvious" for things like tax evasion but it also applies to academic fraud.)
    – Raphael
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 11:08
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    @Raphael in my country, most people would be shocked, that some culture can tolarate, and even encourage denunciations. Yes, cheating is considered bad, but it's like spitting on the floor. Denunciation is considered something like thieft or assault - so morally much worse. If you haven't lived in the country where for centuries the government was your worse enemy, you could find it difficult to understand, why denunciators are met with such an ostracism.
    – user5657
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 11:22

Fundamentally, this is a question with no easy answer. Ethics would state that you should definitely report someone violating the "honor code" (or whatever equivalent of it your university has) by cheating on an exam. However, there are also some problems with this:

  • It may be difficult for the exam proctor to prove that cheating has taken place, even if you have observed the communication.
  • Reporting it after the exam is not really possible, because again it will be impossible to prove afterward.
  • Making an accusation during the examination could lead to disruptions for many students, including yourself.
  • If you publicly raise an accusation of cheating during an examination, this could lead to ostracism from your classmates, which may be counterproductive to your educational career (in the present class and in the future).

So I think you need to set those two issues against one another and decide what is the better alternative for you.

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    "Ethics would state that you should definitely report someone..." - not at all necessarily. It depends on your code of ethics.
    – user14102
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 3:15
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    There's also the possibility that you aren't correct, or aware of the full situation.
    – chmullig
    Commented Apr 19, 2014 at 23:11

On my honor, I have neither given nor received any unauthorized aid on this exam.

I had to write (and sign) this statement on almost all of my exams throughout my university career. My university had a very draconian policy with regard to cheating, as I mentioned in a comment: the default punishment for a first-time offender was expulsion, if the case came before the Honor Council. (Of course, not every case brought before the Council was determined to be an offender, in which case there was no punishment at all. On rare occasions, the punishment was something other than expulsion, usually suspension.) As implied by the statement above, it was against the university's policy both to receive (unauthorized) help on an exam and to give it: both the person passing the note and the one receiving it would get in trouble with the Honor Council, even if the former individual did all of the exam work himself. (You were not punished if someone cheated by looking over your shoulder, but they would slap you on the wrist and tell you to be more careful in the future.)

The integrity of the university was very important in that micro-culture, and I think that if you asked this question of anyone there -- student or professor -- you'd get the same answer, "yes."

This led many professors comfortable doing things like assigning take-home exams which were closed-book.

All that said, the answer to this question does depend on the university's culture (and the culture of the country). For example, when I told an Italian friend of mine that I had a take-home exam and I was not permitted to use my textbook or notes while doing it, he assumed that everyone in the class would be cheating. When I then told him about the quoted statement above that I had to write and sign on the exam, his view of the situation flipped: if I had to write and sign something like that, of course nobody would cheat! I find the sudden shift in opinion an interesting insight into his own culture.

  • In what country you have studied?
    – user5657
    Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 8:17
  • 1
    @Łukasz웃Lツ, United States
    – Brian S
    Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 13:34
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    "You were not punished if someone cheated by looking over your shoulder, but they would slap you on the wrist and tell you to be more careful in the future." -- wait, what? During my exams I barely focussed more than two feet from my nose for three hours at a stretch. Now it's my responsibility to make sure the people behind me aren't peeking at my paper? I get that honor causes people not to cheat, I don't quite get that honor causes them to look around behind them during exams, just in case ;-) Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 21:32
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    @SteveJessop, actually, not that I think it was my job, but I also had to be careful not to "let" other students cheat from me. Some exams, we got constant (every 30 mins and the beginning of the exam) reminders to "keep our finished answers face down" or "put them in to the exam folder". It's not as uncommon as you think :)
    – penelope
    Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 9:04
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    @penelope: oh sure, I don't mind that the routine I followed involved some anti-cheat elements. It's just totally alien to me that I might have any awareness of what the person behind me is doing during an exam, or that I would be given a verbal warning for carelessness by a student council if they're doing something bad :-) Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 9:34

Academically, it is in your best interest to report it. If the class is curved, the cheaters are not only unfairly outshining you, but they are unfairly lowering your grade. Even if it's not curved, unless it's an enormous class, the professor's perceptions of who did well may still be influenced by who did how well. If a student that the professor expects to score low (based on their in-class participation) instead cheats and scores high, the professor may decide that the exam was easier than he originally thought, and value your honestly earned mark less.

In the long term, if cheating is rampant in your school, this will soon become known. The value of your degree will drop even if you didn't cheat, because how can I know you didn't get your degree by being one of the infamous cheaters, and managing to avoid getting caught?

In a class where all exams are multiple choice and grading is completely objective and not curved, cheaters have no effect on you (except for the long term consequences stated above). Only then you could say that pragmatically, neither reporting nor not reporting helps or hurts you appreciably, so you might as well not bother.

But then there is also the ethical aspect. Cheating is bad, you are expected to not cheat and report cheaters by the instructor and school administration, and you probably even signed agreements and made honor pledges to this effect. So, it would be dishonest for you not to report it - not reporting isn't even a valid choice, it would be a dereliction of your contractual and ethical obligations. In practice, you will never "get caught" and be punished for failing to report cheating - but whether you get caught is immaterial to ethics.

So, speaking in terms of your credentials in school and beyond, there is absolutely no reason not to report it, and strong reasons against not reporting (eg. you promised in writing that you would report when you enrolled). It would be extremely unusual for a professor to somehow punish you for reporting.

But that's not the whole story: Like it or not, the people who you reported will hate you for it. They will tell their friends to hate you for it. If they are popular, you will quickly become very unpopular. Not all your classmates may have the same concept of integrity, and some may hate you for "siding with the establishment and betraying your comrades" (as they see it).

Your classmates may one day end up being your colleagues. If you get a reputation as a "rat" who has dubious allegiances, and cannot be relied on to have his friends' back (even though the cheaters are probably not your friends, they are only united with you in their struggle to get good grades) against a perceivedly antagonistic and unfair institution, it may become difficult for you to be seen as trustworthy.

Consider how in history there have been oppressive, unjust regimes which employed "informants" to report on people who try to circumvent or oppose the oppression. Clearly, this is not the same as reporting cheating: For one, academic cheating policies are clearly just, ethical and reasonable (unlike oppressive regimes). But the point is that following a rule is not automatically a just action. It is hard to definitively say what is just and what is unjust, so a lack of skepticism towards even apparently just rules is taken by some as evidence of inability to reject rules even when they are unjust, and generally lack of critical thinking ability.

To answer your question, you must ask yourself: Are you an idealist, or a pragmatist? If an idealist, there is no question that you should report the cheating. But if a pragmatist, unfortunately, it depends. You must further ask, which do you value more: Your reputation among your peers, or your formal academic credentials?

  • 3
    Also, note that reporting may not necessarily harm your reputation among your peers: If your peers happen to value this sort of idealistic adherence to rules, then you reporting is a win-win (but I feel like you would not ask the question if you believed that to be the case).
    – Superbest
    Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 7:01
  • Just a note: "speaking in terms of your career in school and beyond, there is absolutely no reason not to report it" is too idealistic, because many professors do cheat themselves, to receive funding etc. (just look on pharmacy), and they may not let you stay on the university if you'd have the opinion of a reporter. It's sad if you have to choose between your moral values and the academic career, but the decision for someone who loves science is no way obvious in that case.
    – user5657
    Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 8:26
  • That's true - although I'm used to the Western idea of professors who are opposed to cheating, if you suspect that your professor is himself of poor integrity - he may indeed try to punish you out of solidarity with his "fellow" cheaters. But I would consider this option, as I noted, very unlikely - unless you do go to one of those few schools where this sort of issue with the faculty is very prevalent and obvious.
    – Superbest
    Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 8:51
  • You say that "you are expected to...report cheaters by the instructor and school administration, and you probably even signed agreements and made honor pledges to this effect." Do many schools really have policies like this? It seems like bad policy to me. Anyway, promising to do something (like reporting cheaters) and then failing to do it is not necessarily dishonest; it may just be a change of heart or a lack of strength. Not every rule creates a moral obligation, even if there is a moral reason for the rule. Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 0:52

Maybe German culture is different in this regard but I would never report someone for cheating but instead talk to the cheaters personally. However in areas were people are in danger if the students lack knowledge through cheating (pilots, medicine, ...) I would tell them to report themselves or I would do it myself.

  • 1
    In the areas like pilotry or medicine the competences of the candidate are independently prooved, so cheating during studies wouldn't affect the public security. Students tend to forget what they've learned, if they were learning hard, but shortly before the exam.
    – user5657
    Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 8:19
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    @Łukasz웃Lツ Well, who's to say the cheater won't also try to cheat on the independent appraisal, since he/she already learned that there is no consequence to cheating?
    – Superbest
    Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 8:25
  • @Superbest because on the state exam the other participants are his/hers direct rivals? Or because the rules are enforced better? It's logically to assume they are, in countries where the examinators doesn't care about the just exams, in the cases, where your future career depends on the exam, they'd catch cheaters only to enforce bribes (and protect cheaters that bribed them).
    – user5657
    Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 8:35
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    @Łukasz웃Lツ It would probably not be ideal to have your schools double up as training academies where cheaters can practice cheating on "easy proctors", and gain enough experience to beat the "hard proctor" at the final, important exam. But I agree that the issue becomes more complicated with career-deciding exams.
    – Superbest
    Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 8:48
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    @O.R.Mapper Maybe you come from a different part of Germany (east here)? In my area, someone who reported a fellow pupil or student for cheating would have a really hard time. Maybe that's because of our Stasi past that we are really fed up with people reporting on others. Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 10:58

It strongly depends on the academic culture in your country. In most Western countries, the answer would be yes. The cheating is considered something unethical, and it's something one should be ashamed of. You should, still, do it (the reporting, not the cheating!) as anonymously as possible.

However, in some other countries, the group solidarity is more important that the written rules and reporting to the officials the minor cases (where nobody is hurt) is considered unethical.

For example, in Poland, I would strongly discourage anyone from reporting the exam cheaters to the proffesors, because if they get caught (the reporters, not the cheaters), they risk really serious social consequences in the student community, which may severe their future opportunities (even for accademic career). Even if the professors are actively against cheating, they may feel uncomfortable with someone reporting it, and they may share that information with collegues, which may end up being public in end effect.

It's the professor's obligation to assure noone is cheating. Nowadays, thanks to Internet, it's quite easy to keep up with the newest techniques. If they don't do that, in some cases, it's even possible they don't mind when students use 'a little help'.

Because of a lot of comments I'd like to express my personal opinion: cheating is bad. But the system that fights cheating by encouraging the students to report their collegues is bad too.

  • You can always report anonymously. Also, one might want to think about with which other indicators this "group solidarity > rules"-mindset correlates, that is whether "written rules" maybe, just maybe should become implicit rules for the sake of betterment.
    – Raphael
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 11:21
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    @Raphael but you should be aware, you can't be fully anonymous. The other students will notice that someone have reported, and may found out, who that was, because the circle of the suspects is always limited. As a student, you have little to gain and much to lose. If you want to change the system, the best chance is to become a professor and enforce strong anti-cheating rules (which slowly happens).
    – user5657
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 11:26
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    That's true (if sad) as long as your own success is not impeded by not joining in with the cheating (which I assume for the OP, otherwise the question would be hypocritical at best). Reasons have been given why this is not always the case. So, one option means you (maybe) lose socially while the other means you (quite certainly) lose w.r.t. grades. If we can agree that the third option (nobody cheats) would be best, we can work towards that.
    – Raphael
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 11:37
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    @Raphael I can't say for sure it's worldwide so, but generally the students are not in charge for changing the academic systems, that are the professors that do. I've just pointed out the risks, which are not worth the game of the pride of having a bit better notes (which has practically no importance in workplace), unless you're in the country where cheating is widely considered something bad (so, not only by professors, but also for students).
    – user5657
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 11:49
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    @Łukasz웃Lツ In the U.S. there is much less connection between different students. There are not going to unite to find out, how is the suspect.
    – user14102
    Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 8:13

I suggest you send an anonymous e-mail to your instructor about who cheated in the exam and how, so that the instructor can take precautions, if he cares at all.

Who not directly tell during the exam?

One reason is that if 2 students are exchanging answers, without any proof such as cheat sheet, then it is your word against theirs. In such a case, since there is no proof, their exam will be valid but you will be a rat.

Also, although some people here think that you don't need friends who cheat (as if that is the only consequence), the world is not that fair. You may end up being the rat and completely ignored, and worst case, bullied. Some people are just cruel and may try to blame you instead of themselves for the failure. How they handle such a situation depends on their character, and you should not risk it. No honor code is more important than your happiness and comfort during your years in college. If the honor code is that important, your instructor should do his responsiblities first.

You are a student, not an instructor. Every instructor once was a student and even if they never cheated (very unlikely!), they witnessed other people that cheated. Any instructor should know that given the chance, a student may cheat. It is the instructor's responsiblity to create the environment that does not allow cheating. You shouldn't care more than he cares.

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    1) if you tell your instructor privately during the exam, he can watch those students carefully and maybe catch them. After exam it becomes your word against their, but during the exam there is still something the instructor can do..... 2) Most instructors care about cheating, and do their best to create an environment which doesn't allow for cheating... In a small class I can usually make sure there is no cheating, but if the class becomes too big it is impossible to get a reasonable foolproof system... And IMO, "expect the students to cheat" is not the right approach...
    – Nick S
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 1:38
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    3) Most importantly, I think it becomes essential to let the instructor know during the exam is you don't know the students which cheated too well. Which is possible in a very large university class. Sending an anonymous e-mail that "some guy with glasses might have cheated" in an 100+ students class is not helping the instructor at all...
    – Nick S
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 1:41

I'm surprised and chagrined at the number of people posting here who seem to think academic cheating isn't such a big deal. But it is! Fraudulent studies have been published that have resulted in many deaths. In one famous case, the author turned out to be a habitual cheater. His exposure destroyed this researcher's career, and he also faces a number of lawsuits by the relatives of deceased victims of these published lies (clinical studies based on his lies were underway for years before he was caught). Such fraud can destroy the public's trust in the validity of scientific studies. The widespread acceptance of cheating is just plain wrong.

  • Me too! See also academia.stackexchange.com/q/65485/15940. This problem of integrity is a widespread problem that nearly no one wants to actually solve. Most people would rather maximize their own benefit. Whether this involves cheating or reporting cheating, it has nothing to do with cheating but their own selfish interests.
    – user21820
    Commented May 6, 2016 at 3:21

Is it acceptable or ok to report on students cheating?

Yes, but if you're not convinced by the arguments in the other answers, consider this: is it okay to cheat?

If not, then if those other students can do something that is not okay, why not you?

That being said: the attitude that it's okay to do something wrong if other people are also doing something wrong is not a good one to hold in general. In this case it happens to lead you to the correct course of action though.

  • You could argue, if someone has done something bad (like cheating), you can slap him/her in face. But punishing someone for breaking one rule you can break another rule.
    – user5657
    Commented Apr 15, 2014 at 8:21

You could send an anonymous e-mail to the professor, informing him that you saw rampant cheating, without naming the students involved.

As an aside, request your professor to NOT mention the anonymous e-mails to anyone. If you have a reputation of being the most virtuous person in the class, then they might target you, even without evidence.


You asked this question on the place, where most of the people are actually professors or want to become one. There is no surprise that mostly you will here one answer "Yes, this is ok, encouraged and should be so". But this is life, and there is no easy answers here.

Also some of the people here compare cheating on the exam as mugging and may be some other crime things, but in my opinion it is not even close. Just to compare, I am really curious how many from professors here have never cheated in any form during their academic life? And how many of them have never stolen anything? I think the number will be different.

It is up to you to decide. What what you can gain, what you can lose and come up with your decision. Yes, I agree, that teachers want to know who cheated/abused them, but students want to have trust in their peers and the same way as teacher can assume that cheaters violate the trust in them, your fellow students can assume that you violated a trust in them. Also more and more students lose their trust in education, because it does not really represent the knowledge and sometimes A on the exam only shows that you was able to get A on the exam (nothing regarding you knowledge). So why would you memorize when Napoleon raised to power if any monkey with Wikipedia can give you this result and half of his biography in one minute.

So think it in this way.

It is just business, nothing personal

Weigh pros and cons in your situation.

Pros can be:

  • you will score higher on the exam on average
  • teacher will like you more and you can get advantage later
  • teacher comes to think that you are not a cheater
  • you restore equality

Cons can be

  • your classmates will hate/not trust you (not only one that cheated). Maybe you will never get help from them neither in your school life or even after it. Being outcast is hard, being outcast who needs help even harder
  • teacher might think that you are a cheater too and want to hide yourself this way

So if I would be in a situation when I and 30 people, whom I do not know, fighting for 2 Harvard (or whatever you people value) sits. Then there is no way I would be quite. But if these are people with whom I play basketball taking math/history/language exam, than good luck to you guys, and if you need help I will try to help you.

So life is not back and white. Most of the time it is in grayish. To put this even further: One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.

You also might have a strong belief that cheating is terrible, or something similar

  • you, fighter for justice in entire world, helped to restore justice. (Some people do believe in the just world)
  • you genuinely think that this is wrong
  • you do not like people who do this (or they do not like you)
  • you like the teacher and want to help him
  • you want to change how cheating is viewed

In such case, think have you ever cheated yourself. I have seen a lot of people who can not stand cheating, but cheat by themselves. With one of them I even had discussion about it, when the person came to me asking for a solutions to programming homework. Funny enough, this person was rising her concern how sharing is bad and had all the discussion with instructor how should he prevent it. So when I asked what changed in her views about the world, to my surprise, she was not looking at it as a cheating. In her eyes it was just minor help for the person in need. No matter how hard I tried to show that this is exactly what she was fighting against, she did not want to hear about this as cheating.


It depends where they are cheating.

If they are cheating on a simple test or exam that is just one of many, don't report them. Such tests do not show the general skill of a student, just what he/she knows at a specific point in time. A good student can fail on a test and a bad one can succeed dependent on way too many factors. It is however a good thing to tell the student afterwards that if he/she wants to succeed, they cannot just base it on luck and cheating.

If they are cheating on an important exam, a final or similar to an extend that is beyond negligible, then do report them. If they are caught at a later point, it is possible that their degree is later revoked, which might not only cause them to loose a complete year, they can even loose a job or worse.

You can cheat during a test, but you cannot cheat when people later depend on your expected skills.


Why would people think this is okay? You talk about honor, but it is clearly an act of egoism. You feel bad, because you did not get the same advantage, and therefore you hurt the person who received an advantage.

  • You should report that someone has cheated, but you should not tell the teacher/professor who it was. That way the security will improve, but you will not hurt your fellow classmates.

  • If the teacher does not believe you, ignore the fool. To be trustworthy is an important trait, if you report the person who did it, you are breaking his/her trust.

  • Why do you think you feel bad about it in the first place? Your mother thought you right.

Going around someones back and reporting them, making them receive a punishment, is in no case honorable. Please do not listen to these puny people. Faith in humanity is low these days...

  • 28
    "I saw someone shoot this guy, but I can't tell you who; that would disadvantage that person. Please have more police patrol the area so it won't happen in the future."
    – Raphael
    Commented Apr 13, 2014 at 15:06
  • 3
    Even if you report that someone has cheated, it can still be considered treason by your collegues, if you get caught up. If the professor cares more about group solidarity that about the cheating, you are likely to be exposed. It is strongly culturally biased.
    – user5657
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 11:32
  • 4
    @Raphael I don't know if that's an appropriate analogy. This is more like "I saw a guy spit on the sidewalk" or "I saw a guy jaywalk". Murder in cold blood is a different beast than cheating on an exam.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 23:18
  • 3
    Best answer I've heard. This guy wrote the truth why would the guy care? he is just pissed off he didn't get the same advantage. The teacher is only a moron if he doesn't understand who cheated who else was sitting around you who could you look at? just ignore that fool is correct.
    – SSpoke
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 8:40
  • 4
    Besides nobody remembers anything after the course is over and just uses google anyways so passing the course is nothing but simply getting a degree/diploma or whatever you get it's not needed in the real world where the only thing that matters is experience and no test can really show that.
    – SSpoke
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 8:43

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