Know the rules when you have an exam

What constitutes exam cheating?

The point of an exam is to show what you know or can do within a specific subject – within the framework and conditions of the exam in question.

If you do anything that gives you an unfair advantage, you are cheating your way to a grade you don’t deserve. And this counts as exam cheating. Even if you do this on behalf of other people. It also counts as cheating if you fail to provide correct sources – even if this simply reflects a lack of knowledge or an oversight on your part.

At AU, reports of suspected cheating are processed according to the university’s disciplinary rules – which apply regardless of whether you violated exam rules accidentally or intentionally. So make sure you familiarise yourself with the rules before you take the exam and avoid making a mistake that could jeopardise all your hard work.

What are the different types of exam cheating?

Below you can read more about what counts as exam cheating at Aarhus University – and get good advice on how you avoid breaking the rules.

Who can you ask if you are in doubt?

These are only examples and acts not mentioned here may still count as cheating. Always ask you teacher, Master's thesis or project supervisor or examiner if you are in any doubt about the rules.


Plagiarism

Plagiarism is a complex concept, but, in the context of an exam, plagiarism means that you present someone else’s creative or intellectual product (a text, an illustration or an idea, etc.) as your own work when in fact it is not.

Using other people’s texts or ideas does not in itself constitute plagiarism. It is only plagiarism if you allow the assessor to think that these texts or ideas are yours – in other words, if you fail to provide correct references to sources.

Therefore, you must always make it clear where your texts and ideas come from. This also applies if you re-use material from your own previous assignments for which you have received a grade or ECTS points. There are also specific rules for how to use direct quotations and paraphrasing of other people’s text. You can read more about this in the individual boxes below.

Which sources do you need to provide?

You must provide references for all the sources you use in an assignment, including:

  • All printed material, such as books, articles, websites and other students’ exam papers.
  • All non-print material, such as videos from the internet, TV and radio, podcasts and films.
  • Notes and templates produced in collaboration with your fellow students.
  • Material used in class, such as the curriculum or the teacher’s slides or notes.
  • Reuse of your own material, such as previously graded assignments and exam papers.

When citing a secondary source, please remember that you must always cite the source material you have used yourself, and not the primary material your secondary source refers to.

Please also remember that different academic fields have different traditions for proper source referencing. You should therefore always familiarise yourself with what applies to you – ask your supervisor or teacher if you are in doubt.

Read more about the rules for reference management on:


Failure to reference direct quotations

When you use direct quotations in your text, you must always indicate clearly that they are direct quotations – if not, you are plagiarising. If you translate a quotation, you must also indicate that this is a direct and translated quotation. If you translate the quotation yourself, you can indicate this by writing “my own translation” in brackets.

You should indicate direct quotations and translated direct quotations using quotations marks, indents or italics and by referencing the source. Quotations can be anything from a single word to several lines, so here are two rules of thumb to stick to:

  • Integrate shorter quotations into your running text using quotation marks.
  • Indicate longer quotations typographically by indenting them and adding a space above and below them.

Read more about the rules for direct quotations on:


Re-use of your own material / self-plagiarism

It counts as self-plagiarism if you fail to cite yourself as a source when you re-use texts or similar material you have previously produced and received a grade for in another exam on another course. Just like plagiarism, self-plagiarism is considered exam cheating, so it is important you are aware of it.

Please remember, however, that it does not count as exam cheating/self-plagiarism if you re-use your own text from the ordinary exam in the re-examination within the same course.

Read more about the rules for reference management on:


Group notes and templates

You may use notes that you have written as part of your study group. But because these notes are the group’s, not yours alone, you must clearly state the source in this case as well. If you include a text from your group notes in your own exam paper without providing a reference, you are plagiarising.

This also applies if you use templates that you have written in collaboration with one or more of your fellow students before the exam. In this case, you must also provide a clear reference.

Read more about the rules for reference management on:


Incorrect paraphrasing

When you write an assignment, you will often have to reformulate other authors’ ideas and words to clarify an argument. This is called paraphrasing.

When you paraphrase, it is important that you demonstrate independent thought and use your own words and sentence structure. If you simply rearrange the sentences and replace a couple of words with synonyms, you remain too close to the source text. This is referred to as incorrect paraphrasing and is regarded as plagiarism and thus as exam cheating. Even if you reference the source material.

To paraphrase correctly, you must therefore remember to process other authors’ thoughts and ideas and formulate them using your own words and sentence structure – and to include the source.

Examples of incorrect and correct paraphrasing

The following examples are taken from the website stopplagiat.nu (in Danish only) and demonstrate both incorrect and correct paraphrasing. The examples are based on page 80 in: Giddens, A. (1991). Modernity and Self-identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.

Original text:

“Modernity confronts the individual with a complex diversity of choices and, because it is non-foundational, at the same time offers little help as to which options should be selected.”

Incorrect paraphrasing:

Modernity presents the individual with a complex diversity of choices. And because modernity is not based on a clear foundation, it also offers little help as to which options should be selected. (Giddens, 1991)

Why is this incorrect? The student’s text uses virtually the same words and sentence structure as the original text.

Correct paraphrasing:

According to Giddens (1999), one of the things that characterises modern society is that the individual is faced with a wide range of choices every day. And because modernity does not provide many fixed principles, the individual is poorly helped when it comes to making choices.

Why is this correct? The sentence has been processed, and the student’s text uses other words and another sentence structure to reproduce the meaning of the original text. It is also clear from the phrase “According to Giddens” that the student is paraphrasing another person’s work.

Read more about the rules for paraphrasing on:


Collaboration

Students are often encouraged to collaborate as part of their university courses. However, when it comes to exams, there are a number of rules that you should be aware of. If the form of examination requires that an individual exam paper is produced, you must produce the paper yourself. If not, this counts and unauthorised collaboration and is regarded as exam cheating.

Even if your teacher has given you permission to use your fellow students as sparring partners (to discuss methods and theories, etc.), when you write your take-home assignment, you must be aware that it will be regarded as exam cheating if:

  • You get your fellow students to write all or parts of your exam paper
  • There is any text overlap between your exam papers or the structure of your exam papers is very similar.
  • You work together to complete a take-home assignment that should be completed individually.

Unauthorised contact

During written on-site exams, it counts as exam cheating if you:

  • Have contact with other examinees or people outside the exam venue – even if you do not receive help from these people.
  • Send or receive an email or chat message on your computer – regardless of its content.

Before your exam, it is therefore essential that you find out how to turn off notifications on your computer. If you still receive a pop-up message during a written on-site exam, you must immediately notify the exam supervisor, who will be able to help you.


Aiding and abetting

It’s considered cheating to help other people cheat in exams, and disciplinary action will be taken against you.

During on-site examinations, for example, it counts as cheating if you complete your exam assignment and subsequently share the assignment with other students, for example through file-sharing systems or storage apps such as Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive or DropBox.


Use of chatbots / AI

It counts as exam cheating if you use AI (for example, chatbots such as ChatGPT or similar software) in connection with your exam, because it means you have not completed the exam assignment independently and individually. This applies to all exams. The only exception to this rule is if the course description specifically states that the use of AI software is permitted in the exam. In these cases, the use of this software will not be regarded as exam cheating.


Unauthorised exam aids

For exams with no permitted exam aids, it is cheating if you:

  • Have access to exam aids during the exam (such as a dictionary, your notes, formulas or a mobile phone) – regardless of whether or not you use them. For example, if no exam aids are allowed, you may not have a dictionary on your desk during an on-site exam – even if you don’t use it.
  • Bring unauthorised exam aids to an exam (for example, another type of calculator or textbook than the permitted type).

Please note: It is not cheating if you bring an exam aid and store it in a closed bag for the entire duration of the exam. However, if you open the bag during the exam and have access to the exam aid, this is regarded as exam cheating.

Remember that mobile phones and other digital devices must be switched off and stored in a closed bag for the entire exam.

  • In the course catalogue, you will find information about which exam aids you can bring to your exam.
  • In the rules for on-site examinations, you will find information about where to store non-permitted exam aids during an on-site examination.  

Falsification or fabrication of data

It counts as cheating if you falsify, fabricate, manipulate and/or plagiarise data as part of your assignment. You are also not allowed to omit important parts of your data, regardless of your intention.

Read more about how to manage your data correctly.


Advance knowledge of the exam assignment

If you have advance knowledge of an exam assignment and still participate in the exam, this counts as exam cheating – regardless of who is responsible for you seeing the paper in advance. If the fault lies with the university, you will be offered a new chance to sit the exam.

If you realise that you have seen an exam question before, you must contact the relevant AU staff member, for example your lecturer or the exam supervisor.


Purchasing or obtaining exam assignments

If you let someone else complete or partially complete an exam assignment for you, this constitutes cheating.

This is one of the forms of cheating with the most serious penalties (often expulsion) and is taken extremely seriously regardless of whether you bought the exam assignment or obtained it in another way.  


Incorrect attendance information

For some courses, attendance is compulsory and participating in class counts as part of your exam.

It is therefore regarded as cheating is you provide incorrect information about your attendance – regardless of whether you do so on your own behalf or another student’s behalf. It is also considered cheating if you help an absent student register as being present when attendance is registered digitally.


Exam assignments submitted from the wrong IP address

For written on-site exams, you must be present at the required exam location. It counts as cheating if you are not present at your written exam but submit your exam assignment from an external IP address.


Exceeding deadlines

It counts as cheating if you continue to work on your exam assignment after the end of the exam. In practice, your exam assignment will be automatically rejected if you submit it after the deadline, and you will need to request dispensation to have it assessed.

What are the penalties for cheating in exams?

If you cheat or help others to cheat in an exam, it can have serious consequences for you. At AU, cases of exam cheating are processed according to the university’s disciplinary rules – which apply regardless of whether you violated exam rules accidentally or intentionally (see the list of the different types of exam cheating above).

If you are found to have cheated, you will be penalised based on an overall assessment of the gravity of the offence and the type of exam cheating you engaged in. In cases of plagiarism in written exam papers, emphasis is also placed on the amount of text produced by the student compared with the amount of plagiarised text.

Exam cheating can result in the following disciplinary measures:

  • Issue of a warning

A warning is the least severe disciplinary measure. If you receive a warning, your exam paper will be resubmitted for assessment. If you have taken a re-examination in the meantime, you may keep the highest grade.

  • Annulment of the exam (counts as an examination attempt)

If your exam is annulled, you will have used an examination attempt but the exam paper in question will not be assessed. If you have already received a grade for this paper, the grade will be discarded. You may take the re-examination under normal conditions after this, providing you have enough examination attempts remaining.

  • Expulsion for the next semester/more semesters

If you are expelled from the university for a given period, you will not have access to teaching or exam activities at AU from the date of the decision to the end of the expulsion period. In this period, you are therefore unable to take part in any exams or teaching – or any other activities – at AU.

After the exclusion period has ended, you are entitled to resume your academic activities and will be automatically re-registered as an active student.

  • Permanent expulsion

Permanent expulsion is the most severe disciplinary measure. If you are permanently expelled from the university, you will not be able to participate in any form of teaching, exams or other university activities at any point in the future – neither on the degree programme in question or any other degree programme at AU. The permanent expulsion begins when you are informed about the decision.

Business administration students (HD) and students on an admission course for an engineering degree programme

  • If you are a business administration student (HD) or a student on an admission course for an engineering degree programme, your case will be processed and sanctioned according to the rules in the Examination Order on Examinations on Professionally Oriented Higher Education Degree Programmes. Please be aware that this ministerial order does not allow you to only be penalised with a warning.

More information about group assignments

  • If the exam requires each member of the group contributing to the exam paper to be identified, the group members’ individual contributions must be clearly marked. If only one of the group members is caught cheating in their section, the sections written by the other members of the group will be sent back for assessment.
  • If a written exam paper is the joint product of more than one student and identification of individual contribution is not a requirement, the group is jointly responsible for ensuring they comply with the rules on exam cheating. In such cases, all group members will be reported if cheating is suspected. If cheating is demonstrated in a non-individualised exam paper written by a group of students, the entire exam paper will be excluded from assessment for all the members of the group.

What are the aggravating circumstances that affect the severity of the penalty?

The penalties for exam cheating depend on a specific and individual assessment of the case – as well as the type of exam cheating in question. Some types of exam cheating are viewed as aggravating circumstances and will be penalised more severely than others. Read more below.

Major written assignments

In cases of plagiarism in written exam papers, emphasis is placed on the amount of text produced by the student compared with the amount of plagiarised text. If you cheat in a major written assignment, such as your Bachelor’s project or Master’s thesis, this is considered an aggravating circumstance.  

Unauthorised exam aids

If you use materials or aids not permitted at an on-site written exam, this is considered an aggravating circumstance.

Exam papers written by others

If you submit an exam paper that you have bought or had another person write for you, this is considered an aggravating circumstance and, as a general rule, is penalised by expulsion. If your exam paper was written by a fellow student, that student might be punished for aiding and abetting cheating in exams. 

An entire, cohesive page of plagiarised text

If an entire, cohesive page of your exam paper is plagiarised, this is considered an aggravating circumstance. This will typically result in a more severe penalty than the exam simply being annulled.   

Two or more pages of plagiarised text

If two or more pages of your exam paper is plagiarised (across your whole assignment), this is also considered an aggravating circumstance. This will typically result in a more severe penalty than the exam simply being annulled.   

Ways to get help if you are considering cheating

If you are considering cheating because of personal, study-related, family-related or other reasons, don’t do it. Ask for help and find another way.

Find help and contact information here:

For good advice on how to improve your academic and personal well-being, check out studerende.au.dk/en/boost-your-student-life.