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A California high school student spurred a ban on mobile phone use when he was caught cheating on an exam using his camera phone.

The student took a picture of the exam paper and was trying to send it to a friend when he was caught. School administrators described the incident as a "flagrant violation" of school rules, and imposed an outright ban on mobile phones at Everett Alvarez High School.

An anonymous Gallup poll of US high school students, published this week, found that nearly half admit to cheating on exams, and more claim to have seen cheating in their school.

This is not the first time mobile phones have been used by exam cheats in the US. Last February, six Maryland accounting students admitted texting each other for help during an exam.

Students in the UK are generally stripped of all belongings short of a blunt pencil before sitting exams. Even so, the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance, one of the bigger exam boards, reported 254 cases of mobile phone cheating in 2003. In some cases, kids had received answers by text from their parents.

British students have previously availed themselves of a variety of technological aids to improve exam performance, mainly relying on the technological ignorance of invigilators to get away with it.

Our cheating ways know no bounds: mobile phone information services have also been abused in the quest for pub quiz dominance. ®

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