I'm looking for a word that means you were cheating on a test by using another person's answers with their approval/cooperation. This also might be between two people, or an entire group of students could be passing answers to one another in a more organized effort. I could simply use the word "cheating" here, but I was looking for something more specific to my scenario. The students are definitely "cooperating" in a sense, but that doesn't really convey the feeling that they are doing something wrong/forbidden.

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    How relevant is it to your choice of word whether student B knows that student A is using his answers? So far you got 4 viable answers of which two imply that it was done knowingly and one implies that it was done unknowingly. I'm sticking with "copying" cause it's the only proposed word that works regardless of whether they were cooperating or not.
    – J_LV
    Dec 3, 2014 at 20:08
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    Your scenario isn't very specific. In fact you kind of covered all the aspects of cheating, a single person copying where the other person knows or doesn't, or multiple people sharing. Which specific scenario do you want? (cheating is the best word that covers all of them).
    – Mitch
    Dec 3, 2014 at 20:16
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    Cheating-by-passing-answers-around. Dec 3, 2014 at 21:03
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    The question's last sentence contradicts the first sentence.
    – pfff
    Dec 4, 2014 at 2:58
  • The question needs to narrow down the possible scenarios. The fact that you've accepted 'collusion' as the correct answer means that you are disregarding the scenario where the person is unaware that he is being cheated off. Please edit and rephrase your sentence by either removing those scenarios which you do not care about or by specifying in the question that the word you are searching for need not cover all these scenarios Dec 5, 2014 at 4:32

6 Answers 6


There is no single word for widespread or organized cheating; if there were, I think it would have appeared in the press by now.

collusion does carry the proper connotation:

secret or illegal cooperation or conspiracy, especially in order to cheat or deceive others; an often secret action taken by two or more parties to achieve an illegal or improper purpose. -AHDEL

Likewise conspiracy (a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful) can work.

Cheating scandals are not rare enough;

  • The 2009 CRCT statistics are overwhelming and allow for no conclusion other than widespread cheating in APS. The BRC expert, Dr. John Fremer, wrote an op-ed article for the AJC in which he said there was widespread, organized cheating in APS. -WSJ
  • Governor's Report Details Widespread, Organized Cheating In Atlanta Schools -NPR
  • Organized, systematic cheating is the inevitable result of attaching high stakes to standardized tests, and it will continue as long as we're invested in the illusion that the system is working. - Huff Post
  • The probe involves about 125 students over cheating on a take-home exam for the course, called Introduction to Congress. Harvard officials called it the biggest such probe in living memory. - Bloomberg.com
  • Nailed it with collusion. That was the exact word I needed. I wanted to wait to mark as answer, but this is really the correct response. Dec 3, 2014 at 20:19
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    It's not collusion if the person being copied is unaware of the situation.
    – chepner
    Dec 4, 2014 at 15:16

Given the Holiday Season, I would throw in:

cribbing (informal) - copy (another person's work) illicitly or without acknowledgment.

For example, Mark cribbed his answers from Peter; Mark was cribbing Peter's answers.

I think there's implicitly the idea that Mark is acting without Peter's knowledge/approval.

  • When I was in school, "cribbing" didn't necessarily imply that there was or wasn't implicit permission on the part of the copied party.
    – Hot Licks
    Nov 20, 2015 at 20:28

If the students are knowingly and deliberately working together, I'd go for "conspiring," especially if there are a lot of them and the cheating is elaborate.

For other cases, you'd probably want a different word such as "copying." I'm afraid it will be difficult to find a single word that covers every situation, other than "cheating" or a synonym.


Cheat and/or copy - perfectly appropriate.

A student cheated during math tests by copying from the student beside him.

For an entire group of students passing answers to one another in an organized effort, I can not think of anything more apt than 'mass-cheating'.


The best thing I can come up with is "To copy something from someone". It is used in the particular way you mentioned as well.

"Mark copied his exam answers from Peter".

"I couldn't be bothered doing my homework, so instead I just copied the correct answers from my mate".

However, this does still convey that what's being done is wrong and essentially cheating although it's less harsh than using the word "cheating".


This qualifies as plagiarism per OED def. 1:

The action or practice of taking someone else’s work, idea, etc., and passing it off as one's own.

This sense and definition, and its application to text-cribbing, strongly prevail in academic discourse on academic integrity.

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    I'd prefer using "plagiarism" for something like an essay or other long-form written content (e.g. a piece of code written for a computer science course). But I don't think it's strictly incorrect to use it in the context of an exam or short-answer/multiple-choice material.
    – Kevin
    Dec 3, 2014 at 21:52

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