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As the title says, I took an exam in a small room with one other student. One of the TAs proctored the exam. We were in a separate room because the student and I had accommodations (I have severe exam anxiety).

In the room, there were no physical clocks. The TA had to showcase the exam questions on a screen using a projector and he also included a timer. The timer was supposed to time each section of the exam (3 parts) and I realized that after the first section ended, the timer did not reset.

This is where I know I should’ve asked the TA to reset the timer but I was too anxious to bother the other person and figured since she didn’t ask it, I shouldn’t bother her and make a fuss.

This is where I made a big mistake. I took out my phone started checking the time. I did it several times and I thought the TA would not notice since I put it between my thighs.

However, after the exam ended, I received an email from the TA asking if I used my phone because he saw me “scrolling” on it.

I did not in fact cheat or anything because I was too traumatized from the first time I got caught cheating (at the start of the pandemic). Since I experienced what the academic integrity violation process is like, I made sure to not cheat again. For reference, the incident is in my record and I not only got a 0 in the test but I also had a letter grade reduction.

I got very anxious when I read the email and I admitted that I had my phone but that I only used it to keep track of time. I offered to show my Screentime (on iPhone) which shows that I didn’t use any application throughout the exam and that the data is uneditable.

The TA told me he’ll get back to me after contacting the professor. I’m overly anxious about what will happen. Is there anything I should do?

Should I send an email to both the TA and prof about my previous disciplinary action and that my academic scholarship from my home country’s government is on the line?

Should I go to my professor’s office tomorrow morning?

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    " I thought the TA would not notice since I put it between my thighs." Unfortunatelly, because of this, it will be very hard in my oppinion to convince they that you did not cheat... Especially since you could had simply ask the TA if it is OK to check that time.
    – Nick S
    Apr 4, 2023 at 1:21
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    > "Should I send an email to both the TA and prof about my previous disciplinary action and that my academic scholarship from my home country’s government is on the line?" No. In hindsight, it's obvious that you shouldn't take out your phone unless you had permission. The right thing to do would have been to raise your hand and ask the TA how much time you had left. But you should just wait and see. I think it's unlikely that you will get a 0 because they don't have much evidence that you cheated. They will probably look at your test and think about whether anything is suspicious.
    – cgb5436
    Apr 4, 2023 at 1:46
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    I'm guessing the rule for your exam was "no use of your phone", not "only use your phones for things you have a good excuse for". Which was it?
    – Bryan Krause
    Apr 4, 2023 at 2:49
  • I think you used both male and female pronouns for the TA, which did you mean? Apr 5, 2023 at 2:07
  • @AzorAhai-him- I think "she/her" refers to the other student (the situation is OP and one other student in the testing room with the TA).
    – Bryan Krause
    Apr 5, 2023 at 2:13

1 Answer 1

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I took out my phone started checking the time. I did it several times and I thought the TA would not notice since I put it between my thighs...I did not in fact cheat

You may not have cheated, but you did disobey the testing instructions (whether expressly stated or just implied). And you tried to conceal doing so, which only makes you look guiltier. And you have a record of academic misconduct. Given this, it is highly likely that you will be found guilty of cheating if this case comes to a judicial process. As I wrote in this answer, the "burden of proof" in these cases is relatively low. Further, accessing unapproved electronics during an exam (which you have already admitted to) may itself be an infraction, regardless of whether any improper advantage was achieved.

I offered to show my Screentime (on iPhone) which shows that I didn’t use any application throughout the exam and that the data is uneditable.

You should definitely take a screenshot of this and put it somewhere safe; this will be valuable evidence if this does come before a judicial process. It's hard to say how much this evidence will help you (i.e., whether the jury will believe that such evidence could not have been manipulated), but something is better than nothing. If your instructor wants to meet with you, I would certainly provide this evidence to him as well; it is a good way to verify your story.

I’m overly anxious about what will happen. Is there anything I should do? Should I go to my professor’s office tomorrow morning?

It is hard to advise you, because this really comes down to the personalities involved. It could be that your professor has "assumed the worst" and will be mollified by your explanation; in this case, being proactive could help you. Or it could be that your professor is lazy and is uninclined to pursue this further; in this case, being proactive could hurt you. But to give one data point: if this had happened when I was teaching, I would have met with you and then (since it is not your first offense) referred the case to the appropriate committee. It wouldn't have made much difference whether you were proactive or not. Hopefully your professor is nicer than I would have been!

Should I send an email to both the TA and prof about my previous disciplinary action and that my academic scholarship from my home country’s government is on the line?

I advise against it.

  • Mentioning a previous disciplinary action makes you look significantly guiltier. Granted, your professor will probably find out anyway. But I don't see how volunteering this fact could possibly help you.
  • Personally, I really hate the excuse "if you give me punishment X, it will cause a third party to add punishment Y." My view is that this request is improper: you are asking me to give you special treatment in your cheating case so that you can obtain an unfair advantage in your arrangement with this third party. But I am rather hard-hearted; it's totally possible that your professor will have a different perspective on this.

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