Probe into mobile-phone exam cheats

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 May, 2006, 12:00am

Students who took an English exam last week say cheating was a trip to the toilet and a phone call away and want a retake, but the exam authority refuses to budge until it has proof students were looking up the answers in secret.

On Thursday, about 79,000 students sat for the English syllabus B paper 2, which tests understanding of ideas, facts and opinions presented in various types of written passages.

At the bottom of each page of the exam, the authority listed a web address supplying the answers to some of the 'fill in the blanks' or multiple-choice questions.

Students claim some test-takers used their mobile phones or PDAs during bathroom breaks to look up the answers online.

So far, 98 have complained, and an online petition is urging the authority to either order a retake or ignore those questions where web links were provided.

One Form Five student expressed shock over the decision to include the links.

'This is extremely unfair to all of us who have studied so hard in the past few years. How could this stupid mistake of including links be made by the authority?'

Another student said: 'In my centre, a lot of candidates asked to go to the washroom, which is really suspicious as the websites printed on the paper can be retrieved using mobile phones with internet functions.'

But a spokesman for the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority said including web links was standard for all other papers as well.

'It is a general practice for the examinations to quote the author's passage. We have to cite or put the sources of the articles, whether it comes from books, magazines, newspapers or the internet,' he said.

He declined to say if the practice would be reviewed. 'We are now investigating and contacting the examinations centre to try to find out the actual situation on that day.'

Irregularities would be referred to a steering committee for action. The investigation could take two to three months.

A spokesman for the Education and Manpower Bureau said it would keep in close contact with the examinations authority and follow up the issue.

Students who sat the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examinations were told verbally and in exam booklets that mobile phones, pagers and other devices were banned. If students brought these devices to the exam hall, they had to be switched off and put in their bags, which were left on the floor of the centre.

Last September the examinations authority sacked two senior staff after finding they were responsible for a marking fiasco in which 670 candidates were downgraded.