2016 National Qualifications – Malpractice Statistics

Students sitting an exam

On Tuesday 28 February 2017, under its statutory duty as the regulator for National Qualifications in Scotland, the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) publishes information on malpractice in the 2015-16 academic session.

The statistics show the number of reported incidents of malpractice investigated in the 2016 diet of examinations for National Courses at National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher. They also provide information on the outcome of the investigations.

The number of candidates accused of cheating while sitting SQA examinations in 2016 remains extremely low. Penalties were applied in 169 cases - 0.033 per cent of the total number of entries (516,652).

Jean Blair, Director of Operations at the Scottish Qualifications Authority, said: “Any kind of malpractice is totally unacceptable.  We will continue to work with schools, colleges and the teaching profession to ensure that our zero tolerance approach to malpractice is applied everywhere and every time. It is testament to the continued vigilance of teachers, lecturers, SQA markers and invigilators that it is only a minority of pupils who engage in malpractice. These figures send a strong message that each and every instance will be investigated thoroughly."

What does SQA and its centres do to prevent malpractice?

SQA works closely with its centres to prevent malpractice and provides detailed guidance to them on preventing, identifying, and reporting cases of malpractice.

Every school or college where candidates are sitting SQA examinations is provided with two explanatory booklets, Your Exams and Your Coursework.

Your Exams offers advice on how candidates should conduct themselves in exams, including avoiding malpractice.

The booklet details items which are prohibited in an examination, which include: mobiles, tablets, smartwatches or any other device which can be used to access or store information; music/digital devices; calculators (except in specified subjects); dictionary (except in specified subjects); cases (such as calculator or pencil cases); books, notes, sketches, paper of any kind, or any other prohibited item.

The guide informs candidates about improper conduct in the exam hall and includes notes on plagiarism and collusion. It reminds candidates that penalties may be applied, and that all cases are investigated.

Your Coursework provides advice and guidance for candidates on creating and submitting the coursework components of their courses and includes sections on avoiding plagiarism and collusion. It sets out the penalties for malpractice and that all cases are investigated.

Guidance is provided to all exam invigilators, who are appointed by SQA and led by a Chief Invigilator in each school or college. Invigilators are required to be vigilant to any potential malpractice. Invigilators are advised how to deal with candidates found with prohibited items during an exam or candidates whose conduct is inappropriate - and how to report such candidates to SQA.

Before each exam they brief candidates on unauthorised items, remind them of their responsibilities within the exam hall and the consequences of any malpractice.