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What's the IB doing about the M24 Time Zone Cheating Scandal?

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Let's talk about the great time zone cheating scandal of May 2024 and what the International Baccalaureate (IB) is doing to address it.

 

Latest Official IB Response to Time Zone Cheating Scandal

 

This response was sent to a concerned student on 22nd June 2024.

 Thank you for your message received today. We share your concerns regarding the behaviour of individuals who shared their recollections of IB examination questions on social media. 

While you school's programme coordinator is the designated contact for students or their families, we are able to advise you we are confident no genuine IB examination papers were posted on social media and the integrity of the session was maintained. We are aware that recollections of a number of subjects were shared; however, our investigation highlighted wide variation in the quality and accuracy of what had been remembered. We can confirm that examinations in two of the IB’s three examination zones were targeted. Nonetheless, we recognise the importance of maintaining high standards of academic conduct and would like to reassure you we are treating the investigation into this behaviour with the importance it deserves.  

We actively monitor social media groups whose memberships include students who initiate time zone cheating. We maintain continuous contact with the social media platforms and act immediately to remove specific content and accounts.  We are able to use the information shared on these sites to identify student work which appears to have been influenced by this cheating and have identified a number of students involved, including the person who set up the main site sharing the content.  We commenced formal investigations into these students, which could result in them not receiving marks for their examination and or relevant subjects, and potentially the non-award of the IB qualification. In addition, we are working closely with schools, Associations and Heads to ensure that all students are reminded of the requirements of the IB academic integrity policy.  

The IB has extensive security measures in place to protect the integrity of examination administration, including the use of inspectors before and during the conduct of examinations.?We also work with social media platforms to remove false information or instances of time zone cheating and to help us identify users that are in violation of platform-specific policies. 

The core philosophy of International Baccalaureate assessment is a focus on acquisition and demonstration of higher order thinking skills, including analysis and critical evaluation. Rudimentary knowledge recall plays a negligible part in our assessment components.IB assessment pro-actively seeks application and conclusive demonstration of knowledge and skill sets in relation to complex problems and stimulus materials. Students are tested on argument and explanation and are required to show their working. The competencies that IB assessments seek to test take months, if not years, of consistent application to acquire and cannot be mastered in the few hours prior to examination. If students had proactively sought out partially and inadequately recalled content in the short period before sitting their examination, they would not have had sufficient time to assimilate nor apply conceptual and procedural knowledge. Furthermore, such cheating could just as easily limit understanding. 

We sending regular communications to schools to ensure they are aware of the developments and asking them to reassure students who did not engage in sharing questions that they will not be asked to resit the exams. This ensures that students who acted with integrity are not penalised. In addition, to date we have no evidence of widespread cheating, and we are confident that no grades will be adversely impacted. This means, as things stand, we will not be changing grade boundaries as a result of timezone cheating.

Yours sincerely

IB community experience

For more information about how the IB awards grades, please see this page.

 

 

Let’s break it down so you can understand what happened, why it matters, and how it affects you.

 

Key Takeaways from the Latest IB Response

 

Here are the key takeaways from the response by the International Baccalaureate (IB) regarding the time-zone cheating scandal:

  1. Concern Acknowledgement: The IB acknowledges concerns about individuals sharing IB exam questions on social media.
  2. Examination Integrity: IB asserts that no genuine examination papers were posted online, and the overall integrity of the exam session was maintained despite some shared recollections of questions.
  3. Extent of Cheating: The cheating involved exams from two of the three IB examination zones, with varying accuracy and quality in the recollections shared online.
  4. Monitoring and Action: The IB actively monitors social media to detect and remove cheating-related content, collaborating with social media platforms to enforce this.
  5. Identification and Investigation: Several students involved in the cheating, including the main site creator, have been identified. These students are undergoing formal investigations, which may result in them not receiving marks or the IB qualification.
  6. Academic Integrity Emphasis: The IB is reinforcing academic integrity policies with schools, ensuring students understand the requirements and consequences of cheating.
  7. Security Measures: The IB has robust security protocols to safeguard exam administration and works closely with social media platforms to combat false information and cheating.
  8. Assessment Philosophy: IB assessments prioritise higher-order thinking skills over simple knowledge recall, making last-minute cheating ineffective.
  9. Communication with Schools: Regular updates are being sent to schools to reassure students who did not cheat that they will not need to resit exams and their grades will not be unfairly impacted.
  10. No Evidence of Widespread Cheating: The IB has found no evidence of widespread cheating and is confident that grades will not be negatively affected, thus not requiring changes to grade boundaries.

 

What Happened During the IBDP Exam Cheating Scandal?

 

In May 2024, there were exams across multiple subjects including Maths, Business, Global Politics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Computer Science. Since the International Baccalaureate follows an international syllabus, exams are conducted across different time zones. Unfortunately, this led to significant trouble this year.

Students in earlier time zones reportedly shared details about their exam paper with those who hadn't taken the exams yet. There is talk of a main sharing 'site' but also of content being shared on platforms like Reddit, Discord, and Telegram.

Obviously sharing details of an exam paper compromises the fairness and raises a LOT of concerns with other students who have not cheated.

 

Initial Reaction and Measures

You can read the latest reaction above. I'll update this whenever I see new responses from the IB. In fairness, the IB were very quick to address the issue from the outset. They're actively working to locate the students responsible and ensure strict consequences. As you can see from their response above, the consequences include banning students from future IB exams and invalidating their scores. The IB has also mentioned that the issue isn't as widespread as reported; only a few individuals are allegedly involved and have benefited from it.

 

Plans to Prevent Future Incidents

To deter future IBDP exam cheating, the IB may consider synchronising exam schedules more effectively across different regions and enhancing social media monitoring. Yet, we know that students are usually a step ahead on social media, making it a challenging task.

 

Managing Your Mental Health and Moving Forward

 

Trust the IB

This may not come easily to you, as the IBO organisation generally seems to have the mistrust of the students who sit the exams but I encourage you that it’s essential to trust that the IB will take appropriate actions to ensure fairness. Remember, the IB has their reputation at stake and they're committed to resolving this issue. They also did a pretty good job of making sure the grades distributed during covid were fair. I genuinely think they'll want to get this right.

 

Focus on What You Can Control

Worrying about something beyond your control isn't productive. For your mental well-being, try to focus on what you can personally change. This kind of goes back to the point above. The only control you have in this situation is to trust the IB. Of course, you can contact the IB directly, but I guarantee you'll get the same response as above. 

I'm a bit of a control freak. I genuinely understand what it feels like to wait for a decision from someone else - a decision that can shape the next steps of your life. It's really hard.

BUT

You can give yourself perspective.

Let's take the worst possible scenario.

Let's say you get a 5 in IB Physics, you were expecting a 6 and you believe the cheating scandal is to blame.

You'll be angry.

It will feel unfair.

After you've gotten over all those hard feelings (and you will!) - it's honestly not going to make a HUGE difference to the trajectory of your life.

If your plans are to attend college/university - you'll probably still go.

You'll still be the same person (warm, kind, hard-working, etc) and all those qualities are what defines the trajectory of your life. These little glitches, like exam results) will rarely have a significant effect.

That's my advice, but if this situation is affecting your mental health, talk to your teachers and coordinators.

Open communication is key.

 

Positive Approach and Staying Focused

Stay positive and focus on your journey. Take things one hour at a time. The tangible impact this scandal might have on your life in the long term is minimal. Maintaining a positive mindset can make a huge difference.

 

Who Thinks it's a Good Idea to Cheat Anyway?

 

I've been thinking about why a student might decide it's a good idea to cheat - here are my thoughts:

 

Stress / Fear of Failure

We all understand the stress that IB students feel, particularly in the weeks prior to the final exams. Students feel pressure from parents, teachers AND themselves to perform highly. This pressure and the  fear of failing can lead people to search for shortcuts. There are shortcuts that work (and are legal) and there are shortcuts that most students would realise are pretty misguided.

 

Misguided Helpfulness

If you spend any time on social forums (e.g. Reddit, Discord) you'll read of students who feel that the exams are too hard. The IB themselves note that, "the competencies that IB assessments seek to test take months, if not years, of consistent application to acquire. With this in mind, some students might believe they're helping their friends by sharing exam questions. They might see it as a way to support others, especially if they think the exams are unfairly challenging.

 

Opportunism

Unfortunately, some students see an opportunity to game the system. They rationalise their behaviour by thinking, “If I don’t do it, someone else will,” and want to level the playing field. Setting up such a site can also give them a sense of power or recognition among peers, boosting their social standing.

But here's the effect it had on you and your fellow students:

Students who didn't cheat are now facing increased grade boundaries and added stress. This attempt to 'help' has actually created more problems for everyone involved.

 

Conclusion

 

Dealing with the IBDP exam cheating scandal isn't easy, but trust in the IB's process. Stay true to your values, remain focused on what you can control, and most importantly, stay positive. This journey is just a small part of your life, and with the right support you'll get through it successfully.

 

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