What is a good way to prevent students from writing an answer after you hand back a graded assignment (exam/homework) and claiming that you did not see their answer?

It is clear to me that this particular student even used a different pen for their answer, and I am 100% sure that the answer was not there. I would have seen it, and I even remember double checking to see whether the answer was there.

This is the second time this has happened to me in this semester (different students), and both times I am sure that they wrote the answer afterwards and are trying to gain more points.

  • 68
    I was once told that such post edits are the reason why people write the valuta sign before the value (e.g. $ 200.15): such that one can not add digits before the valuta sign (and usually puting digits after the value is not very significant). Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 20:44
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    In the universities I attended and where I worked, anything important for final grading was kept by the university. Students could go and look up their exams in the secretary's office and make copies, notes, whatever - but the original was basically not allowed to leave that office.
    – cbeleites
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 21:09
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    I would always write the number of points for a given question on the right hand side of the "Question #" title and would strike through the title if a student did not enter an answer. This saves me considerable time for answers that were obviously correct or wrong and also prevented anyone from debating whether a $0$ was meant for an incorrect answer or a missing one. It also feels less personal than a gigantic cross through the whole answer section.
    – adfriedman
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 5:25
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    Is it really necessary to prevent those claims? You can just say: "No, this answer was not there." and the student has no means to prove it was. Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 7:48
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    @J.FabianMeier: you would be surprised how bold some students are. I was recently involved as a witness in a cheating case, there were six exams with the same notation, the same nonsense, the same mistakes, the same correct answer after an incorrect procedure. Yet one of the guys appealed the faculty's decision and appeared in front of an all-university committee to defend his case. Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 14:17

24 Answers 24


Use placeholders

You can use

  • a sign or an indication that you would never use in any other circumstances (red cross, three question marks, etc.),
  • a short sentence ("No Answer Given", "I'm sure you knew it!", "You should have tried!"),
  • a sign that occupy the whole space (as suggested by Elizabeth Henning in the first place): slashes, X, Z,...

enter image description here

Don't try to catch the students that came back to you (supposedly) cheating, you just learned a lesson, and won't be caught again.

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    How does this help (or what is it that I don't get?). The student could simply put the correct answer in question 4, and claim that your cross is wrong since the correct answer is there (now).
    – Mark
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 18:09
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    I put a line or large X through the entire blank space. I've never had anyone try to pull this particular crap. Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 18:13
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    Similar to Elizabeth, I just write a long horizontal slash when things have been omitted. As this is the only circumstance in which I use such notation, I know exactly what it means, so a student would not be able to easily argue with me. Also, if I know a student is untrustworthy/argumentative from past experience, I give extra care to protecting myself from potential complaints when grading their assignments. Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 18:37
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    @Mark Ok, student can argue with pretty much anything, but I believe Elizabeth and Aegis (and my edited answer) prove that it's easy to protect from this particular scenario.
    – Clément
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 18:58
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    @Zibbobz Writing anything at all takes a comparatively long time. Like Elizabeth and others, I put a big X in every blank answer space. I also scan a limited number of exams, including very low grades and borderline passing grades. I've never needed one of those scans, but I know faculty who've had this tried.
    – Bob Brown
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 22:31

I scan my student's assignments. There is a big printer with scanning function in our department where you can just put in the papers and it scans all of them at once.

Moreover, I do warn them beforehand that I will scan the papers and check if one makes a complaint. This has the advantage that the students will not cheat (in this way) and saves me the time from finding the student's scan in a huge pdf file and comparing the two versions.

Of course, to make scanning practical, you should tell the students not to staple their assignments (and only staple them afterwards), so as to be able to feed an entire pile of papers into the xerox.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – eykanal
    Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 7:29

Consider using electronic submission for weekly assignments. I have had success with asking my students to submit scanned PDFs of their handwritten homework assignments, via my college's course-management website. (We use Moodle, but I assume that Blackboard & other equivalent software have similar functionality.) Assignments are then graded directly on the PDF and uploaded as "feedback files". Any change to the uploaded file is not allowed after the official due date, so it isn't possible for the student to add additional information after the graded assignment is returned. In some sense, this is similar to the method advocated by user82630 above, but with the tedious work of scanning offloaded to the students.

The students have not generally had a problem scanning & uploading their files. My institution has many "multi-function devices" scattered around campus that allow students to scan papers to e-mail (as PDFs) for free. Many students also just take pictures of their assignment papers with their phones and upload those (though such submissions are admittedly harder for me to read, so I try to discourage that.)

This method might not be appropriate for a test, though, since it does require that the students be able to access the web to submit their assignment.

  • +1 I require that my students upload their assignments even when I intend on grading the paper assignments. This also helps in those rare cases where I have lost a student's assignment.
    – DQdlM
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 12:44
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    As an instructor, I find dealing with it all electronically is just easier. As the cms admin (Canvas in our case) and the guy the instructors and department chairs come to when students claim to have submitted work,etc. I can say that for sure it stops the BS. Quickly. This term I've invited 6 or 7 students to visit with their instructor or the department chair and I can show them the clickpath they did at any time during that week or whatever - not a one has taken me up on it :)
    – ivanivan
    Commented Nov 12, 2017 at 2:40
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    In this time & age, this is the obvious answer. Surprised that it only comes third in number of upvotes.
    – Walter
    Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 0:11

Make a large red thick line through the empty space where the answer should have been. Do the same when students use only part of the space available. If a student adds/extends his answer afterwards, he/she would write over your line - proving that your line was there first, and thus, the answer was added afterwards.

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    ‘Why did you draw this line through my answer?”
    – WGroleau
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 1:52
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    @WGroleau the trick is that the student would have to write over the line, which will show that the line came first
    – Mark
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 1:56
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    Never underestimate the cheater. A clever one would arrange his letters so that none cross the line. Or even retrace a line over some of them. A less clever... well, I have heard of students obtaining a teacher’s edition of a textbook and copying “Answers may vary” on short-answer exercises!
    – WGroleau
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 2:00
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    @WGroleau I have never had a student push back with a "why did you draw a line through my answer?". If this happened, I would start scanning the assignments of this specific student. The trick red line is expedient and efficient. It is also useful as it forces the instructor to go through every page back and front and so limits the actual possibility that something has been missed.
    – user82688
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 16:32
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    @WGroleau it doesn't matter how clever the cheater is. The purpose here is to convince yourself that you didn't miss the answer. A really clever cheater could duplicate the entire exam, rewrite their answers exactly, then add back in my grading marks so my marks are over theirs. All that would prove to me is they're a cheater.
    – iheanyi
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 16:35

Building off of user82630's suggestion to scan the tests (because I don't have enough rep here to comment):

In my department we have the TAs use a paper cutter to slice off the corner with the staples (addressing the key bottleneck in scanning), then batch scan them into a single PDF using an auto-feed scanner.

We then use Gradescope to separate the PDF pages back into individual tests, manage the marking process, and electronically return the tests. Gradescope (with which I am not affiliated) saves us enough time on the marking process to justify the scanning time, and as a side benefit we get a record of what was actually turned in.

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    I've been doing exactly this in 400-student classes with 8-page long-answer exams for a couple of years now. The extra time to scan, upload, partition, and identify the exams (a few hours with a finicky scanner) is more than paid for by the efficiency of parallel online grading and on-the-fly rubric adjustment, with no worries about losing paper, recording or tabulation errors, or post-grading modification. Highly recommended. [I have no affiliation with Gradescope except as a satisfied customer.]
    – JeffE
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 23:19
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    I you feel the need to say "I'm not affiliated with [...] but [...]", then you're effectively writing an ad, it doesn't matter that you're not affiliated with them if it has the exact same effect... Instead you can consider not linking to the service (!) or even simply not writing their name "We use an online service to separate the PDF pages [...]"
    – user9646
    Commented Nov 15, 2017 at 13:29
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    @NajibIdrissi You could do that, but it would be a way worse answer. Providing specific products and details explains how you actually solved this problem in your professional experience, which is the platonic ideal of Stack Exchange answers, basically. The fact it also happens to make a particular company or product or whatever look good is 1) a side effect and 2) not a bad thing. Commented Nov 15, 2017 at 22:18

When I worked as a teaching assistant for a large course, the course coordinator used to include the following notice on the cover page of the exams:

A random number of test papers will photocopied and kept in order to prevent cheating.

Just like warnings about security cameras or guard dogs, the notice provides the deterrent regardless of how many test papers are actually photocopied. I once asked him whether it was possible that the "random number" is zero, and I don't think he gave me a clear answer.

  • I have some reserves with the parallel with security cameras, but I must admit that's a clever and funny way to address the question.
    – Clément
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 0:54
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    @Clément Well, the parallel with security cameras is simply to emphasize how belief that a countermeasure may be in place deters undesirable behavior, even if the countermeasure isn't really active. That seems like a pretty innocuous thing to have reservations about. (Even if you have objections to the actual or pretended use of security cameras in real life.)
    – David Z
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 2:35
  • Upvoted for the "zero is also a number" thought. :)
    – piersb
    Commented Nov 14, 2017 at 15:47
  • What's the random chance that he did give a clear answer? :-) Commented Nov 15, 2017 at 12:24
  • 1
    Relevant: xkcd.com/221
    – NotMe
    Commented Nov 16, 2017 at 17:59

Return a copy and hold on to the original (or vice versa, though holding on to the original prevents the student from accusing you of editing the copy).

  • 5
    I do exactly that, keeping the original. works fine. I did once give back work (where I had taken copies) and a student claimed I had missed the answer... I told them I would give their work and my photocopy to the Dean and they would get the response by the end of the week. Suddenly the claim for an extra grade went away...
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 19:57
  • @SolarMike there should be a subreddit for stories like this...
    – neuronet
    Commented Nov 14, 2017 at 14:23
  • I once ask for a re-evaluation of my grade, with an almost perfect cheated version. They use numbered paper for answer. The teacher agree to re-evaluate. But took my copy, and then told me: "Thanks but you do not have to bother. I have a copy of every submission". But it was too late the cheated copy was already in his bag. I didn't sleep well after that. He had a copy. But as it was not the original he din't see that the paper and the id number were fake. Allowing me to add numbered paper and claim they where not scan. Commented Nov 16, 2017 at 10:14

In my university professors often publish the solution right after the exam.

Then, they establish a "review day" in which only one-two students at a time are allowed to enter the professor's office to see the corrected exams in front of him/her.

In this way students can ask some questions but not allowed to leave with the orginal sheets.

The clear drawback is the time consuming management of the "review day" but for sure you will not have that problem anymore and (from my personal point of view as student) students are more encouraged to ask questions about errors.

  • How is this different from academia.stackexchange.com/a/98613/19627 ?
    – Clément
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 0:49
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    well, the main idea is the same, the implementation is a bit different, so it may be suitable one or the other depending on some factors. If the course have 100+ student is simpler to accept few students at a time in a small office insted of handling them all at the end of a class . I posted the answer to provide the OP a solution that I experienced from the student perspective.
    – ray
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 1:03
  • This is not foolproof. I have heard stories of students working together. One distracts the professor and the other quickly adds an answer to the graded assignment.
    – Thomas
    Commented Mar 18, 2021 at 20:49

This answer is in support of user82630's answer that, "I scan my student's assignments. There is a big printer with scanning function in our department where you can just put in the papers and it scans all of them at once." I have also done this for several years.

Previously there was some skepticism as to whether this was physically feasible or not, so I wanted to add some research data. Today I scanned the last cycle of tests in my courses this semester, and timed how long it took. I had 4 sections of math courses with a total of 69 tests; with answer sheets, this was 74 sheets (double-sided), for a total of 148 impressions. The scanning and processing on the bulk copier took 4 minutes and 21 seconds. This was done on a Canon ImageRunner Advance 6265, produced circa 2012, which has been the standard copier in all the offices at my community college for several years.

I highly recommend this method for documenting tests. In addition to clarifying any questions afterward, there have been numerous times when I wanted to extract statistics from old tests that I couldn't have done otherwise.


I mark papers for several classes. Many are permitted an opportunity to correct minor mistakes. This allows a student whose mastery and knowledge are on the borderline between two grades, to demonstrate whether they are above or below that boundary.

This is not an opportunity to edit and improve the submission by a significant margin, or to answer parts of the assignment/test/exam they avoidedd the first time through.

Indicating the complete absence of a response in any page is done with a full diagonal line across the page, sometimes with a symbol personal to the marker, like a W or S or X or #.

Indicating the end of an answer is done with a horizontal line immediately beneath the end of the answer, followed by the same diagonal line in the remaining space, if any exists.

Where an answer takes up a small portion of the page, it may be boxed and the remaining space again slashed out.

Diagrams, charts and key statements may be circled, then ticked right or marked wrong, to prevent later alterations and improvements in that particular area.

Any text crossed out by the student is circled and annotated as such, to avoid claims of a marker having ignored it. Crossed-out responses that are correct and legible may be considered valid and marked like any other; this avoids the claim that the answer was legible and "someone else" changed it before marking.

Finally, marked papers are kept under supervision at all times when the student is fixing the minor errors. Any paper leaving the controlled space is no longer available to resubmit. Some papers are kept secure and only a copy is given, and only when requested, and only with the intent of deciding whether to appeal a grade.


Scanning is a good thing, but super tedious. For the class I TAd recently, we never given exams back to students. If you don't like your grade posted online, come to office hours and discuss the paper while I hold it in my hands.

Some off-campus students get their work scanned, of course.

One of the reasons we were not giving away work, is that in the past we saw students copy from senior students.

  • 7
    No so convenient to look back to a mid-term exam while studying for the final…
    – Clément
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 20:32
  • 3
    Scanning takes about 1 minute for me with a class of 30 students on a bulk-feed copier, so not sure where it gets "super tedious". Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 22:52
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    Downvoted. One of the purposes of exams (especially midterm exams) is to give students useful narrative feedback on their mastery of the course material. This protocol intentionally encourages students to ignore that feedback and just pay attention to their grade.
    – JeffE
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 23:26
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    Students learning from senior students is great, you should encourage it. And also change the exam each year. Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 4:14
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    @aaaaaa: But that has nothing to do with the current question. E.g., I just keep the single bulk PDF document and refer back to it in the rare case that there is a question afterward. Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 16:01

Besides all the technical solutions mentioned above (that I do use), the marks in one question in one assignment aren't usually that significant on the overall grade; so, I usually let it go. But if I have the slightest suspicion that the student changed something, she/he will stay in my radar for the rest of the semester.

  • 3
    The way grading worked in my university (and probably all across Germany) is that there is one exam at the end of the semester and certain point values that will move you up to a better grade. Naturally, even half a point can be enough to move you up to a better grade — or even be the difference between fail and pass (I had the latter once, or so I thought).
    – Jan
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 13:11
  • @Jan: I understand that such a thing can happen. At all universities I have taught, however, exams and grading schemes were designed so as to avoid such situations (roughly, if the pass grade is 50, we would never assign a 49 or a 51, say). Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 13:37
  • 1
    But it seems hard to be avoided unless you discriminate what can earn a point and what does not. If one student has 52 and the other has exactly the same except for three key bits that would each give a single point, you either have to reshuffle the entire exam (hoping that something would work out) or mark discriminately.
    – Jan
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 13:40
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    @Jan: the first is always the case. Having marked exams for more than 30 years, I don't think anyone can grade "accurately" up to a 1% precision. It works ok overall, though (the few times I had to regrade someone else's exam, the grade was very close to the original, even if the individual question marking did not entirely agree). Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 14:11

Publish the grades somewhere beforehand, e.g., online or on some message board (often this will have to be done anyways). Announce a time when the papers will be returned (e.g., at the end of a class). During that session, students can review their paper or check some detail of the grade with you but only while the paper has not left your supervision. Make sure that the students understand that once they leave your supervision with their paper, they accept their grade. If there's something they wish to contest, either it is resolved there and then while the paper has not left anybody's sight, or you take the paper to review or make copies of as needed.

This is probably more suitable for exams since it requires setting aside some time to review papers, but is quite general (e.g., doesn't assume blank spaces that can be crossed out if the students use their own paper, doesn't require some sort of futuristic photocopier that your university could only dream of owning, etc.). Also in my experiences few students wish to contest grades and most just wander off with their papers; all grade contests have been resolved there and then in person. Also works well with TAs of course and they can escalate to you.

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    Downvoted. Students should be allowed to think about their solutions and feedback from the graders carefully—which takes time—and then approach the instructor to correct legitimate grading mistakes. Because there will be legitimate grading mistakes. Also, I'm teaching several hundred students at a time, so even if I wanted to follow this protocol, I couldn't.
    – JeffE
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 23:24
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    @JeffE, so what is the protocol you follow?
    – badroit
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 3:33
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    Rebutting your two main reasons for downvoting: (1) Because it will not work in your particular case where you have several hundred students. But I'm assuming there are many answers on this site that don't work in your particular case. Shall you downvote them all? I don't think there's any "perfect/universal" answer here (or often in the real world in general). Why not downvote all answers then? Shall I downvote the top answer because in all of my exams the students answer on their own paper and there's no blanks to cross? Shall we, in principle, downvote answers for not solving all cases?
    – badroit
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 4:04
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    (2) That the students have no time to think about their papers. If the students have doubts, I am there to discuss and usually I (and/or my TAs) can discuss the solution with them for as long as needed. If the case is not resolvable there and then, they simply leave the paper with me and if they want a copy, I will make one. The only restriction is that if they have a remaining doubt, or think they may have a doubt, they don't take the original paper. They can still ask for a copy if they want to review it in their own time.
    – badroit
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 4:09
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    So basically.. "Please check your change before leaving the store"
    – JeffUK
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 13:44

On the front page, require the students to enter how many questions they have answered and how many pages they handed in.

  • 1
    How does the solve the problem?
    – yupsi
    Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 19:39

Some of my professors have a policy of not reviewing exams after they have left their office. This requires that students come into office hours to pick exams up, but also allows for a conversation over the material before it is reviewed.


Another option could be to ask students by their-selves to cross-out unused spaces on the answer sheet. This will make spaces crossed out by the same pen/ink that student was using, making the argument null that "teacher forgot to assess it (it as already crossed out by student)" as well as eliminating the option of overwriting that crossed space.

This has been a practice in my country where invigilators present in the classroom makes sure that extra pages / spaces on the answer sheet has been crossed out by student himself. However if not done, original copies are never returned to students but are available for review upon request eliminating such claims.

  • 1
    Time after the actual exam ought to be used for this - what about if, several questions later, the candidate decided to add more - over his crossed-out space?
    – Tim
    Commented Nov 10, 2017 at 17:08
  • @Tim: yes extra time should be given for crossing out unused pages. Candidates that have finished their paper within stipulated time can be asked for it within exam time. For second point, if a candidate writes over his crossed out page, he can be asked why he did it? Why he wrote on page that he had already crossed. (If all of the pages of a copy has been crossed, he should have asked for extra papers.)
    – Faseeh
    Commented Nov 11, 2017 at 10:48

There are a few ways to be creative about your teaching and grading methods that might give you some cover and allow you to continue engaging your students in the learning process.

  • If you have multiple sections / TAs, consider adopting a policy of team grading: each TA takes a single question or section and grades it across all classes, diminishing the chance that something is overlooked by any grader. It also helps manage the grade distribution across sections if that's a concern.

  • Consider adopting policies that don't penalize cheating on specific or low-value assignments but would instead diminish the utility of cheating in general. For example, if a student fails the final exam, she fails the course no matter what grades she achieved prior to the exam. Cheating on a homework to improve your grade won't prepare you adequately for the final. For high-value assignments, one of the methods recommended in other comments may also help.

  • Consider moving to low-value high-frequency in-class quizzes (in the U.S. we call them pop quizzes) that give you a good idea of how well your students understand the material you're teaching. Modify your material and methods as needed to ensure that they grasp the material effectively and review in the following class. Assign an overall course weight to the quizzes (e.g., 5-10%) that you have some freedom to distribute, like a participation grade, so that individual quizzes don't dramatically affect grades.

  • Ensure that questions on the exams differentiate students adequately. This is difficult and could be a little controversial. For example, you might consider asking questions that require a good understanding of material but that were not exampled in class. I took an astronomy course where the professor asked us a completely novel question that we had never seen before; while we had all of the tools to solve it, it required some inventive thinking to answer. Generally a student isn't going to be able to talk his way through this--more likely he'll complain that the test isn't fair (but of course everyone took the same test).

Students really need to understand two things:

  1. Information is not the same as knowledge; knowledge is not the same as understanding; understanding is not the same as wisdom.

  2. If you don't know what questions to ask, you don't understand the material.

In my experience, grades are an assessment, at best, of knowledge. Reward students who can ask penetrating questions that go beyond the surface level of the material. It's exciting for students and teachers alike when the lights go on and they begin to understand and grow beyond the course content. This, more than anything, tends to diminish cheating.

  • Welcome! Those are wise words, and definitely a collection of useful recommendations, but I don't see how this answer the specific question that was asked here. There might be a more general question that would correspond to what you wrote, but I can't find it now.
    – Clément
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 16:13
  • Thanks, Clement. I would hope they would solve the specific problem by reducing the opportunity and incentive to cheat.
    – Ethan
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 16:30
  • I agree that this is the best way to solve this problem. But reducing the opportunity and incentive to cheat, as you write, does not prevent from protecting yourself and making cheating hard at the same time. I guess they need to walk and in hand, and the question was about one side of the question, not the other. I still think your reminder is a useful one :-).
    – Clément
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 16:58

You can laminate assignments before returning them. That way, a student can no longer write on the laminated assignment. Theoretically, a student can open, add an answer and relaminate, but he or she would probably destroy the page in the process.

  • 1
    That would be verx expensive and time-consuming. Do you know anyone actually doing that?
    – yupsi
    Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 19:40

What is a good way to prevent students from writing an answer after you hand back a graded assignment(exam/homework) and claiming that you did not see their answer?

I think it helps to place the burden on the student for presenting a coherent, well-organized set of solutions to an assignment.

In the syllabi for my courses, I am very explicit about what student solutions to assignments should look like in order to receive any credit, partial or otherwise:

  • numerical answers must be placed in a box or underlined;
  • solutions to problems must be placed in numerical order;
  • solutions must be neat and easy to follow, etc.

The key takeaway here is that students are responsible for putting their solutions into a format which is conducive to accurate grading.

When I grade student submissions that are missing answers, I place a red X in the most logical place that one would expect to find an answer to let the student know why the credit points were not awarded; however, students who do not adhere to the above expectations on neatness and organization risk getting zero credit for either that particular problem or, in the case of a totally incomprehensible train wreck of a submission, zero credit for the entire assignment.

Although rare, students who claim that I did not see their answer don't have a leg to stand on: I simply point to my syllabus and tell them that their solutions weren't organized well enough. That's it. End of discussion.

TL;DR: You can scan student submissions until you are blue in the face, or you can take control of the classroom and let the students know that you aren't playing around. I leave it to the reader to decide which course of action is best suited to their needs.

  • I could think of many situations where many "most logical" places would be possible. Where would you put your X then? E. g. if a student writes some text, they could write "thus, solution=5" in a new line or in the same line as the text before. What if you put the X in the wrong spot and the student adds the answer afterwards?
    – yupsi
    Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 19:43
  • @yupsi My solution is in my answer. I'll reiterate for you: I simply point to my syllabus and tell them that their solutions weren't organized well enough. That's it. End of discussion.
    – Mad Jack
    Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 20:17
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    I don't see how you can avoid mistakes with this approach. One could simply overlook answers even if they are in a logical spot. But of course, just telling the students "I don't make mistakes" is a possible approach (which many teachers have), though possibly a not very satisfying one for the students..
    – yupsi
    Commented Nov 28, 2017 at 20:21
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    The additude "I am always right" may be a solution, however, since most people are not always right, its not a perfect one.
    – user90948
    Commented Apr 6, 2018 at 20:40

From a professor’s perspective, I highly recommend keeping exams but allowing students to come to your office to review them in your presence (in line with other answers above.)

From the student’s perspective, this practice helps keep the playing field even. There are always students who manage to obtain previous versions of a professor’s exams, putting honest students at a disadvantage as far as knowing what to expect and what to study for.

The reality is, if we hand back exams (either paper exams or electronic files), they will be handed on to other students. I believe all students deserve the same opportunity to learn and earn their grades.


Is there any live option for tests to be given via website, perhaps via Moodle?

I don't know that you personally are a computer programmer, but writing a test that students can answer via an (X)HTML TEXTAREA, could easily preserve original answers, plus any feedback / comments / grades you have. A good programmer using just CGI should be able to knock out something like this in scantly more than a day, if even that.


Create a new strain of virus that turns into a global pandemic, forcing educational institutions worldwide to conduct exams remotely, so that students must submit a scanned version of their exam/homework solutions rather than a physical copy. Once the scanned copy has been received, there is no opportunity for the student to alter it.

In all seriousness... while the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the education system in many ways, this is one problem it seems to have solved.


You don't have to actually scan or photocopy their works. Just tell your students that because of the problems mentionned, from now on you will scan their work to be able to check them afterwards. No need to actually do it, they will stop trying to cheat that way (at least 99% of students would).

In case somehow the problem still happens (unlikely), then be honest and tell them you were expecting that this announcement alone would be sufficient to stop this kind of issues, and then really start scanning them.

  • 11
    So you’re recommending lying to students to encourage them to be honest? Really?
    – JeffE
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 15:41
  • 1
    Really the same answer as this, but the difference in presentation made people consider that one funny.
    – JollyJoker
    Commented Nov 13, 2017 at 16:32

This is a nonsensical, non-problem. If the student comes back and claims you didn't see the answer, you simply say "no, all unanswered questions are double-checked" and that is the end of it.

There is no argument. The student is not a peer so does not have the option if discussing or arguing about it.

If the teacher does not have authority over the class, then the teacher's personality is not suited for the profession. It is never the burden to persuade.

  • 5
    I've made grading errors, even errors that I missed after double checking my work. I'm not perfect, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. There is value in being able to verify your own (grading) work even after returning the assignment.
    – ff524
    Commented Nov 14, 2017 at 8:22

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