Creativity comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes, it's art. Sometimes, it's mathematical prowess and the ability to see the world in numbers. Sometimes, it's the answers to your French quiz that you wrote on the bottom of a coffee cup.
Here, teachers and students alike share epic stories of ultra-creative cheating. If you'd like to read more, check out the source link at the end of the article.
Comments may be edited for clarity.
I would write down notes in pretty handwriting on bright post-its and blatantly stick them on the wall near where I would be sitting to take the test. The teachers who taught the class would be out in the halls in case there was a problem with the exam, so the observers would be unfamiliar with the subject, and assume the notes were someone's project that got put up on display. I did this for every single exam in year 11 and wasn't caught once.
I had a teacher who would grade part of your exams based on your lab partners exam grade. The girl I was paired with just didn't get chemistry.
It was multiple choice, and I'd signal the answers to her through pencil clicks and finger taps. Written portions were more difficult, so I just learned to replicate her handwriting, would fill out her answers and mine simultaneously, then substitute the exam book I filled out as she was turning it in.
She aced chemistry, I aced chemistry. Still friends to this day.
There was a girl in my high school who graduated ranked 3rd our class. She was always the first one in the room on test day. Every time she'd finish a test, she'd erase her entire desk top. I did not notice until I had to sit next to her, but she'd write notes/answers on her desk before the test and then erase them after she handed it in. No one ever believed that she'd cheated because she was always so well behaved, would snitch on anyone out of line, and was such a quiet little mouse that they thought it impossible that she would do such a thing. Bullcrap, I was on to you.
About 10 years ago, during a final exam, I noticed an LED board attached to the wall was scrolling math formulas. Students had installed the banner-board under the actual scoreboard in the gym. Even though it was large you could barely see it. The only reason I was able to notice it was because I was walking around squinting (I left my glasses in my office). The board was very dim, but when you squinted the numbers/symbols just jumped out.
We never officially caught the person that installed it. The entire class had to redo a 4 hr exam.
During high school none of my teachers spoke or knew Spanish, but almost everyone took Spanish class. I would write down notes in Spanish in a notebook with a clear cover and title the page "Spanish homework" and just have the notebook on the floor right next to me. Never got caught.
When I taught fifth grade, I caught one of the kids trying to teach his friends alphabet sign language. He learned it from his high school aged sister, who apparently used it with all of her friends during exams.
I thought it was clever, and encouraged the kids to learn it - but I was a little more careful of seating placement during the couple of multiple choice quizzes they did that semester.
At the university where I used to study, the court transcripts of every academic major offence is made available to the public.
While I was bored in class, I went through a lot of these. Best one I found:
There was a guy maintaining 3 serious relationships with 3 different girls. Those 3 girls were covering 1-2 courses each - they would write essays, exams, attend lectures, attend tutorials, do everything on his behalf. He would tell each of his gfs that he was under a lot of stress and he would have more time to dedicate to the relationship if they could help him out. After almost the bulk of his education was completed (this guy literally almost got a degree), two of the girls finally found out and eventually discovered the third girl, and all three girls disclosed the extent of the cheating (suffering academic penalties themselves) in court. The guy was expelled and had all his credits turned over, but damn I can only imagine how much dedication he put into this scheme.
In math: creating a program on a ti84 calculator that consists of nothing but answers. The program doesn't do anything, but if you go into edit, it's just essentially a notepad you can type into. Need to memorize equations? No problem! Bonus points for archiving the program and then pulling it out of archive after the test starts, so it looks like their are no programs in the calculator.
I had a clear mechanical pencil. Part of the body was shaped so that a portion of it acted like a magnifying glass. I inserted a blank piece of paper with just a narrow slit that lined up with that side. I'd then print the answers in super small font and attach it to the eraser. Just rotating the eraser would pull a different line up.
I had a class in which the teacher always gave tests from the back of her "Teachers Edition" textbook. Some bright kid orders the same teachers edition book from the internet. He shared the answers, too.
I was TA that helped the professor during tests. The student brought in a vitamin water. No big deal it was a final. Halfway through the test, the professor noticed it was weird that the student kept look at the bottle, twisting it around but not really drinking. The student had printed a vitamin water label but with all of the texts parts in the label being helpful reminders for the exam. The professor thought it was so ingeniously creative that the student was not reported to the academic board but received a 0 for the final.
This one kid spent the entire night before reading over everything he'd learned. When he showed up, he already had all the info stored in his brain. There wasn't anything I could do about it. Can you believe it?!
Not a teacher, but my teacher gave us index cards once that we could put all our notes on.
I found a pair of 3D glasses and two pens that were the same colors as the lenses. If you put on the glasses and closed one eye, the marks from the pen that was the same color as the open eye's lense would be filtered out. It effectively doubled the space I had to write on.
Miraculously, my teacher was A-okay with it.
When I was in grade 8, we had a math test on Halloween. I went to school as a cardboard box and wrote a whole bunch of notes and formulas on the inside. My plan was to turtle when the teacher wasn't looking and it worked like a charm. I also won the classroom costume contest!
Each corner of the desk represents a letter...a, b, c, d...multiple choice test. We'd signal the number we needed help with, and my friend would place his hand near a corner to signal the answer. True and false was open hand palm down for true, fist for false.
In the 90s, a student I knew set the address book in his digital watch with the test answers and set it to scroll.
Not a teacher, but in one class, someone put answers on the actual wall in the classroom. People got up, looked at it, and then sit back down to write them down. This happened repeatedly.
Teacher never noticed.
I'm a teacher, but this is MY cheating method. At GCSE languages you could have a dictionary, mine was on the list of allowed dictionaries but it had a few sheets of explanation in it. I used the schools computers to print mock letters, key answers, descriptions in the same font and format and then I unbound it, slid in my new pages on top of the explanation pages and then rebound it. It just looked like everyone else's battered dictionary.
I went to university with didn't finish his essay on time, so he stapled 7 blank pages to the back of the 2 actual pages he'd managed to write so far and handed that in. He then went to the library that afternoon, smashed out the rest of the essay, waited until the department had closed for the evening, broke back into the office and filing cabinet, found his essay and replaced the blank pages with the finished ones.
Got away with it too, the clever dude.
In high school a few friends and I tried to learn morse code to help each other on test but it didn't work out how we wanted it to. We found more success placing math formulas around the room in plain sight about an hour or two before a test.
I'm a proctor. It's literally my entire job to ensure that students don't cheat. You can't have a drink at your desk because of that printed-out-label-with-answers one. You can't use your own calculator unless I've inspected it first. You can't wear a hat or baggy sleeves without showing me if you've got anything in there. If you're too fidgety I can investigate you. If you're not fidgety enough I can investigate you. There are some exams we proctor where they're so gung-ho about making sure cheating never happens that we have to look at your ears, your tattoos, the inside of your glasses. It's ridiculous.
All that being said, I'm vigilant about all of this. If someone still managed to sneak a cheat past me, knowing that it would absolutely get them expelled from school, maybe I'd be willing to look the other way. If you're that desperate to cheat, you clearly need it more than I need to uphold some weird moral code.
In 7th grade I found that the way my teacher graded scantrons was by putting a clear projector sheet with the correct circles filled in on top of our copy. If there was a wrong answer there would be two circles and she'd mark you wrong. For whatever reason everyone else in the class was bent on answering every question but Id just leave the ones I wasnt sure about blank. Since there was only bubble filled in I got a perfect grade on every test!
For the first 3 weeks of school I did random things like stare at my sleeves for 15 minutes during tests, stare at my desk for 15 minutes straight etcetera. The teacher thought I was cheating at first but when she came to look she couldn't find anything. After a while she stopped checking and just assumed I was weird. THEN I wrote my answers on my sleeves and desk and nobody noticed.
To the students looking for ideas in this article nice try.
Do your homework!
This was not necessarily creative, but intelligent: I had a few classmates who knew Morse code. The teacher never caught unto what was going on. They all got bad grades because none of them studied for the test. It still is the biggest question in my life, if you're dedicated and disciplined enough to learn Morse code, why not just study for a geometry test???
Writing the answers on their nails
Stretch an elastic band over a big book and write useful info on it. Then place it around your wrist, it looks like a grubby rubber band but when stretched out contains loads of information.
I did this a few times....
We got a copy of our 100 question multiple choice history final out of our teachers desk. We went home and got all the answers laid out in ABCDBBDCCAA etc. format. At the time "Got Milk?" was a big advertisement campaign and one of our friends had a silk screen machine for an art project (this was a rich kid school). We were all really into surfing as a hobby and the teachers knew this, so we made several shirts that said "Got Surf?" on the back of them in large font then right underneath that wording just rows and rows of the letters "s, u, r, f" where "s" corresponded to "a" (as a multiple choice answer) and "u" corresponded to "b" etc. So rows of "SSRFFRUUSFRRU" etc.
We all wore these shirts on the day of the final and sat in a row behind each other in class so we all could just look at the person's back that was seated in front of us. We just gave an extra shirt to the guy who wasn't in cahoots with us who sat in the first chair of the row. We were kinda seen as the "cool guys" so we gave it to him and got him to wear it as though it was part of this "cool shirt thing", since we were all wearing the same shirt too. We all agreed to just get like 5 random questions wrong, so it wasn't too shady........ I know this may seem kinda far fetched but I swear it's true. When I snagged the copy of the test, we had like a week to answer all the questions and devise a plan that was fool proof. It was a bit of work, but we were stoners and surfers and idiots who put more effort into this rather than just studying. Oh well. Needless to say we all got A's.
I made a system with my friends in 8th grade, my teacher then would format his tests where it starts out with a page of multiple choice, then in the back some short answer questions and maybe a diagram or something (Science).
We made it so we would move our foot up and down and the amount of times ='d a number, 1 up and down = A, 2=B etc. If no one knew the answer no one did anything.
We did it a few times and made sure to got one or two questions wrong and it worked well. It only works if all of your friends who are in on it sit close together.
Also my brother once was wearing his Apple Watch and had sent notes or something to it. It was pretty new at the time so at the start of an exam the teachers took his phone but not his Apple Watch. He went to the bathroom and got all his notes and read them, then went back.
One girl also took some masking tape, similar to the colour of the desk and would tape it on the desk and write formulas on them, but she got caught since she's an idiot and used duck tape one time.
One of my fellow students literally brought the entire answered exam into class with her. Our teacher told us the two or three written exam questions a few days in advance so that we could study/prepare, and we were to regurgitate our best answer to each in essay form in about 2 hours. Each student was to bring in a blank 'blue book' notebook to write in. This girl just wrote hers the night before. She sat there for 90 minutes fake writing and then turned it in when enough other students had done so. I noticed the fake writing, and was more mad that I hadn't thought of it than mad about the cheating - she did as much prep work as any of us, and took a risk of getting caught just because she didn't trust her short-term memory to write the essays again. I didn't turn her in, but I told her I knew. She felt really guilty about it and I thought that was punishment enough.
For German class in high school, I invented my own sort of Runic character set to replace normal letters, and then before a test I would draw an elaborate fantasy/scifi scene on the cover of my notebook (which would just be sitting on my desk during the test), embedding all the German words I needed to have memorized into the scene using my Runic characters. So all the verb declensions would be written on dudes' swords and shields or tattooed on the dragon etc.
The teacher never had a clue, and neither did I, really - I now don't speak German fluently.
This is a story about my friend and I.
I was terrible at math (probably have undiagnosed dyscalculia), but was pushed into advanced classes regardless due to my mom- she taught at my high school and insisted. Plus, I had to start cheating in math around late elementary or get severely punished (swearing at me, yelling for ages, no computer for months in the golden age of IM, isolating me from any friends), because I just could not make the grade. Mom insisted on not even a B+ being good enough. So, my grades were decent enough once I figured out workable systems to cheat.
I was in waaaaaay over my head by age 14 or so. But I couldn't stop or I would wreck my GPA for college in a non-math field. Around that time, I also had a problem with my brother constantly trying to read anything I wrote (I did fiction and poetry and sometimes journaled).
I grew up bilingual and so I looked into what languages have different alphabets. Passed over Arabic and Hindi because they lacked some letter equivalents common in English. I chose Russian.
I started writing anything I could in a simple cipher. I replaced each English letter with the approximate Cyrillic equivalent, modifying slightly to make letters that fit "c" and "w", which don't exist in that alphabet. It took maybe two weeks, until I could write in it fluently.
I realized the cheating potential, and taught my best friend. We would either look up math answers and formulas online for similar problems as would be on the test, as close as we could get them, and use that to answer, or she, who was a solid A- student, would have the same class before me, use scratch paper to cipher down the answers. Shove it in her bra, then pass it to me in passing period.
I would then relabel the paper as "Russian practice", write some extra nonsense on and around the page so it didn't look the same, and drop it on the floor by my desk.
She is a first generation immigrant, so she needed help in spelling and grammar tests. I am freakishly good at those. Same method in reverse.
By the time precalc rolled around, we even modified the hell out of the alphabet to accommodate mathematical symbols. Nobody at the school even taught or could read Russian. I was known for being smart, math aside, and would just tell people, "Oh, we are learning on our own." I even got some exchange students to teach us basics because we loved languages and needed to look legit.
I programmed my calculator with equations. Eventually, I taught myself the programming language for my calculator and instead programmed it to solve the equations for me.
I'm now a professional programmer.
I was unable to remember all the trigonometric formulas, so I decided to put up a chart with trigonometric formulas in place of binary codes (which was already hanging on the wall) chart in my class.
Guess what, I got away with it.
This is a story from someone I know. He told us that in university, he knew people that would go to the bathroom midway through an exam where they had hidden their notes or stuck them on the back of the door.
People in my school would write answers on an index card and tape it to the back of their ties.... it worked really well.
I got the inspiration from Pokemon Emerald. I Taught myself Braille, poked the letters through a line of tape and then stuck it to the bottom of the desk. Would just read it under the desk with my eyes on the test the whole time.
Not really a cheat, but a amusing story: For the dynamics and vibrations course in my final year engineering, we were allowed to bring anything. One guy brought in a bicycling wheel, which he used to verify his answers by conducting rotational torque experiments at his desk during the exam.