Schoolteachers are complaining that students are cheating with secret digital “cheat watches”
In the good old days, a student may have been a little naughty (or adventurous and resourceful, depending) by sneaking into school exams with a little “help”.
An algebraic equation scribbled on a tiny piece of paper, for example, or a historical date on the back of a ruler.
Today, pupils are being cunning in more technological ways. They’re making use of “smart” (sort of) digital watches, or “cheating watches”, as teachers call them.
There’s no denying that what these devices provide is answers. It’s cheating, 2016 style. The timepieces hold data or written information that can be accessed during exams and tests.
Many of the watches also feature an “emergency button”, which can be activated to display a regular face if a suspicious teacher arrives to investigate.
Apparently there’s quite the black market for these watches. Many are advertised on Amazon, and the product pages don’t hide the fact that they might be used in controlled examinations.
There are models with 4GB of storage data, capable of storing images and text. Some even provide enough space to hold video files.
Obviously, taking one of these watches into an exam is disallowed, but teachers are only just waking up to the fact that these watches exist. Mobile phones and other devices have long since been banned, but watches are harder to diagnose. What’s more, students may argue that they need a watch to keep a closer eye on the time.
One watch, listed on Amazon for less than £50, had a long description and pictures highlighting its capability.
An extract reads:
This watch is specifically designed for cheating on exams with a special programmed software. It is perfect for covertly viewing exam notes directly on your wrist, by storing text and pictures in the 8GB memory storage. It supports various file formats, such as: TXT, MP3, JPG, GIF, WAV, WMV, AVI, etc. It has an emergency button, so when you press it – the watch’s screen display changes from text to a regular clock, and blocks all other buttons.
Joe Sidders, deputy head at Monkton Combe Senior School in Bath, contacted the BBC warning that these nondescript, small wearable devices risk becoming a “nightmare to administer”.
“I expect the hidden market for these sorts of devices is significant, and this offering on Amazon is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.
The situation prompts numerous questions, not least about recent exam results. The watches can be bought for as little as £30 (approximately) and, although mainly found in the US, are easily shipped.
Most schools are aware of the digital watches and the possibilities that some may be secret storage devices. But not all.
Exam boards are now hoping all schools instigate a zero-tolerance policy. But it could take some time.