During a 3 hour midterm, my phone was confiscated because I had it on my person, when we weren't suppose to have the phone with us. My phone was on the chair in between my legs, but I was not using it.

Before the exam started I was reading a forum on my phone (forum for that course) and then I put my phone in my bag. The first hour and a half of the exam (approximately) the prof failed to put up the time. I was extremely worried about my time and I was not wearing a watch. I quickly took out my phone, checked the time and then left the phone on my lap. I checked the time twice and then I realized that the time was on display.

When I was done with my answers, I then realized how bad it is that I have my phone on me. I was about to put my phone back in my bag when I noticed that a TA was watching me. She probably suspected there was something going on because I was jittery and I was moving a lot. Before the exam was done, the TA asked to give up my phone and I did and I told her I just checked the time. Which was the truth. She asked me to open my phone and show it to her and I did. She only looked at the homepage and didn't go through my phone. She put the phone on my desk and I continued checking my exam.

A week later I got a letter that I had to attend a meeting with the department because I was cheating during the exam. What are my options here? How are they possibly going to accuse me of cheating when it never happened? I've been thinking of witnesses, asking the girl who sat beside me or the girl who was sitting behind me. Do professors or the head of the departments actually believe what anyone would tell them the truth? What if the girl feels the need to lie that I was cheating? The other thing that worries me is that I usually answer questions very nicely and sometimes word for word. That's just how I memorize things sometimes. Can that work against me?! can they tell me that the answers are too close to what was on the slides and that could count as cheating?! I am in good academic standing in my program. The lowest grade I've ha din the last year was a B. I don't want this stupid mistake to mess up my future. I appreciate your insight.

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    Not an answer to the current question, but I prepared for some no-phone, no-PDA exams by buying a simple calculator and finding one of my old watches that only tell the time. Commented Oct 29, 2016 at 1:48
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    Paragraph breaks. Commented Oct 29, 2016 at 2:01
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    When we weren't suppose to have the phone with us and My phone was on the chair in between my legs means you were cheating. Period. What more do you want?
    – Nobody
    Commented Oct 29, 2016 at 2:38
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    I tried to remove some unnecessary parts and reformat the paragraphs to avoid the wall of text. Commented Oct 29, 2016 at 9:44
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    @MassimoOrtolano thanks so much for the paragraph breaks :P Commented Oct 29, 2016 at 13:39

4 Answers 4


You admit that you knew that phones were not allowed in the testing room (being realistic, that they were not allowed on your person/in-plain-sight) during the exam. Yet the fact of the matter is that you had your phone out in-plain-sight, in the testing room, during the exam.

The short answer here is that there's isn't much you can do -- it's your word against the TA's, and unfortunately the evidence is not in your favor. I believe that you're being honest -- but I'm a random individual on the internet. And even if your professor/instructor/department believes that you're being honest, they can still fault you for having your phone out, period.

So the only advice I have: be honest, acknowledge that you made a poor decision but deny that you were actively cheating, buy a cheap $10 watch, and accept that there isn't much you can do here. Best-case scenario is that you get a stern warning; I can't tell you if that's likely or not. There's a variety of worst-case scenarios -- I'm sure you know that though.

As for the individual questions at the end of your post:

  • What are my options here? Be honest with your department. Study up on your school's honor code violation policy and be aware of the possible proceedings, as well as your rights as a student.
  • How are they possibly going to accuse me of cheating when it never happened? You had your phone out during an exam when you knew you shouldn't. That alone might be their motivation. As to "how" -- again, read the honor code violation policy to see what official actions they would have to take.
  • I've been thinking of witnesses... This may be helpful in an official proceeding, but only if these women can explicitly testify that you weren't cheating. Which, unfortunately, is unlikely if they were focused on their exams. In any event, I wouldn't bring this up in the meeting with your department.
  • The other thing that worries me is that I usually answer questions very nicely and sometimes word for word. Could go either way. You're not that different from a lot of students most likely -- but they could also cite this as evidence that you were reading the slides on your phone. Unfortunately, not much you can do about that now.

Mistakes happen. If this is your first run-in with the school's honor code, odds of it destroying your future are slim -- I'm not sure I've heard of someone being suspended or worse on a first offense. But make sure you learn from this experience -- that's about all you can do now.

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    +1 pretty much sums it up. I add: for them, there is no way to know that you had the phone for innocent reasons. Having a phone between the legs, out of sight, following text word-by-word, being jittery, is pretty much indistinguishable for an outsider from an attempt to cheat. Imagine 10 out of 100 other students doing that. For how many of them would you believe such a story; for how many of them you would think this is just a made-up excuse? I am not saying you are not saying the truth - but the constellation is pretty hard to believe, and the TA has not many options here, to be fair. Commented Oct 29, 2016 at 2:19

How are they possibly going to accuse me of cheating when it never happened?

The problem is that a student with a quickly accessible cellphone could take a look round, pick a time when nobody is looking their way, and look up an answer on the phone. It would be almost impossible to catch the student in the act, with the phone open and displaying prohibited material.

The solution used by many schools is to prohibit phones and similar devices with substantial storage and/or Internet access from being accessible during exams. They either have to be stowed in backpacks or not in the room at all. Breaches of that rule have to be treated as cheating, even if nobody saw the student in the act of reading an answer from the phone.

I don't think witnesses are going to be useful. They cannot possibly know everything that you looked at on your phone, unless they were looking over your shoulder all the time.

Your best option is to be open and apologetic at the meeting. Before the meeting, equip yourself with a watch that just tells the time, and, if permitted, a calculator without storage or Internet access. Promise that those are the only devices you will bring into future exams.

If, and only if, they raise the issue of word-for-word answers as evidence of cheating, offer to take a similar test to demonstrate that you do produce that sort of answer from memory.

Incidentally, the TA is probably a woman, not a girl. Referring to an adult female as a "girl" tends to diminish her status and authority. That is not something you should be doing, especially in this situation.

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    +1 You covered every aspect of this question. Now, it's the OP's turn to tell us what she thinks and what she is going to do.
    – Nobody
    Commented Oct 29, 2016 at 8:53
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    Could not agree more. Did not catch the reference to the TA as a 'girl' till now.....I'd go a bit further. In a college setting, everyone should though of as man/woman and referred to as such. Respect that one desires, should be given before it is expected to be returned. Commented Oct 29, 2016 at 13:37
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    Good point on the 'girl/woman' dichotomy. I've updated my answer to change the one reference I made there too.
    – tonysdg
    Commented Oct 29, 2016 at 17:01

As some have mentioned, you clearly violated rules that you were aware of when you brought your phone in with you. In a higher learning environment, one is expected to follow the rules once they have been explained.

Here is an example: One of the classes I am taking this year had a midterm where everything was laid out. We were to answer essay questions in plain text, in the body of an email to the professor. No text editor documents, no formatting, all plain text.

The subject line was to be LastName-CourseNumber-Midterm. Some people did not pay attention to these instructions. Some used Word, some used OpenOffice, some used whatever. Some decided to create their own subject lines. Some students got zeroes on their midterms. And for those that followed directions, we had to endure a 45 minute lecture on what happens in the corporate environment when you do not follow guidelines.

You state you are to attend a meeting. This is where you can make your case that you were not in fact cheating. Own up to bringing in your cell phone, admit that you knew it was against the rules. Do not make excuses for your actions. State your case calmly and hope that whoever is running this meeting has a fair sense of justice.

You likely face some sort of disciplinary action for not following the rules, even if you are found to not have cheated.

Also: buy a cheap watch


I doubt this will prevent you from graduating

But do you really want prospective employers finding this post when they google your name? If not, see if you can get some help from the moderators to change your username.

You followed one instance of poor judgment with another. It's time to buy a notebook where you write down "Lessons Learned." Each time you write one down, take a deep breath and move on with life.

We all make mistakes. They're most useful when we learn from them.

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    you can get some help from the moderators to change your username The user can change the display name by modifying the profile. I am using changed name Temp. Actually, I am scaaahu.
    – Nobody
    Commented Oct 29, 2016 at 4:09

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