Many essays have been written about the consequences of cheating, whether at the post-secondary level or at other academic stages. People who cheat on tests, essays, or assignments find themselves facing repercussions such as failure, suspension, expulsion, and lack of credibility. And if someone succeeds at cheating once, they are likely to repeat the task – perhaps next in a work environment. But not as many pieces of writing examine the causes of cheating. In other words, what leads children and adults to deceive in the first place? Are there definable factors that lead to cheating in the first place? I would say yes. Factors such as: stress, procrastination, and lack of study skills leads to cheating in academic settings.
One of the main factors that cause people to cheat is the pressure and stress revolving around exams and grades. In many cases, so much relies on one exam: status, awards, scholarships, advancement. Who would take the risk of bombing a test or project when so much of the future depends on the result? Students need to be able to see the path beyond success or failure and strategies to deal with anxiety and pressure in the interim. They can be taught how to do deep breathing exercises to minimize test anxiety and they can write in a journal to help put their thoughts to paper. Both of these strategies can aid students in working through difficult times, instead of avoiding them.
Sometimes students feel the need to cheat on final evaluations due to lack of preparation. They have procrastinated, by putting off studying, and now have no other avenue to pursue other than the route of deceit. Students need to be taught, at an early age, that studying is important and cannot be put off until the last minute. Studying in small increments is more effective than an all-night cram-a-thon. Plus, it helps alleviate stress by taking work and sectioning it into manageable doses. Parents can model this by not waiting until the end deadline to get their taxes done or stressing at the store because they need to buy something just then when they should have picked it up a week ago.
Lastly, students lack some skills that go into test preparation. Perhaps a reading of Stephen Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens, should become mandatory reading for those still in school. The author offers advice on ‘putting first things first’ which, in essence, teaches about organization and prioritizing – a skill that many students lack. They might want to study, but aren’t sure how to go about it or find time for it in their busy schedule.
There are more factors that can be explored in terms of the causes of cheating in academic settings. No one reason can cause a student to cheat. But by analyzing certain key factors, change can be implemented. Students can be education about working through their problems, and not avoiding them. There are better options out there than cheating.