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Exam cheats get gadgety

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More than 1,000 teenagers were caught using "mobile phones or other electronic communication devices" during exams last year, according to a Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) report released today.

The total number of candidates collared with "unauthorised material" was 1,906, but this figure included those nabbed in possession of other contraband such as notes or even dictionaries. The gadget-loving cheaters numbered 1,276.

The incidence of digitally-enhanced dishonesty remains low for now, but the QCA considers the phenomenon worthy of concern. Last year it commissioned Professor Jean Underwood to write a report on technological exam fraud, available here. Underwood is Professor of Psychology at Nottingham Trent University, rather than a security boffin or engineer.

The most common punishment for the 2006 crop of youthful miscreants was loss of marks without forfeiting qualification. The beaks' second-favourite option was a warning not to do it again. In a few hundred cases, however, the authorities came down hard and stripped the overly goal-oriented youngsters of their certificates.

But the nation's youth mostly chose not to stoop so low, or if they did managed to get away with it undetected. In every 1,500 students, 1,499 sailed through without a blot on their copybooks, the same high proportion as in 2005.

Fears of catastrophic moral turpitude among the young seem to be without foundation, at least when speaking of those who take exams. ®

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