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Japan's universities confused by possible cheating case during standardized univ. exam

Exam-takers are seen taking the standardized Common Test for University Admissions at the University of Tokyo in the capital's Bunkyo Ward on Jan. 15, 2022. (Mainichi/Kota Yoshida)

Confusion spread through universities Japan-wide after it was discovered that questions for the standardized Common Test for University Admissions may have been leaked via a video chat app during the actual exam.

    Universities are now preparing their own tests. But with no new cheating prevention measures in place, many in the academic community are worried about how they will respond to the problem in future.

    "It's hard to imagine how it could have happened," said an official in charge of entrance exams at a private university in Tokyo, which will hold its own tests in February.

    During exams, only writing utensils and a few other items are allowed on the desk. At this university, rules require examinees to turn off their smartphones, put them in their bags, and put the bags under their chairs. A sufficient number of proctors to detect cheating are placed in each classroom to keep an eye on the test-takers.

    The official said in a baffled tone, "If there's even a slight deviation in their movements, such as pulling out a smartphone or some other device, the proctor should notice. It'd be quite bold of them to cheat in that situation." On future responses, they explained, "It's not realistic to frisk each examinee. Presently, all we can do is to thoroughly disseminate the rules (to test-takers) and patrol to prevent anyone from cheating."

    A spokesperson for Kansai University in the city of Suita, Osaka Prefecture, which screens applicants using the standardized entrance exam and other methods, commented, "It's a shame for this kind of thing to happen when so many other students are competing on their own merits to get into their university of choice."

    The spokesperson spoke of how difficult anti-cheating enforcement can be, saying, "Examinees tend to be nervous, and sometimes they become upset just because they're suspected of cheating. So proctors are sometimes reluctant to call them out."

    Of the university's own entrance exam in February, the spokesperson added, "We will remind (our staff) of the proper countermeasures, such as information-sharing with other proctors or the university headquarters and responding with multiple people when something suspicious occurs."

    An official in charge of the admission tests at Kindai University in Higashiosaka, Osaka Prefecture, said, "As the guidelines for the Common Test for University Admission are fairly solid, I'm surprised (someone cheated)." To get set for the school's general entrance exam starting on Jan. 29, a briefing session for proctors was held on Jan. 27, where officials touched on the recent suspected case of cheating. The official stated, "I hope to perform my duties with greater vigilance."

    A spokesperson for the Fukuoka Institute of Technology in the city of Fukuoka, where some 1,000 people took the standardized university entrance exam, told the Mainichi Shimbun, "We can't believe how such a thing could have happened."

    At this university, examinees are orally instructed to turn off all electronic devices and put them in their bags before the test. Several faculty members were apparently patrolling the venue during the examination. Looking puzzled, the official in charge said, "Someone would have noticed if an examinee was taking a photo ..."

    (Japanese original by Kohei Chiwaki, Tokyo City News Department, Kouki Matsumoto, Osaka Science & Environment News Department, and Hayato Jojima, Kyushu News Department)

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