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Tips & Pitfalls



Even if you're not cheating on an exam, you might be accused of cheating if you act suspiciously. Protect yourself by following these tips:

  • Copy and sign the honor pledge on all exams: “I affirm that I will not give or receive any unauthorized help on this exam, and that all work will be my own.”
  • Make sure the instructor has approved using old exams to prepare for the test before you look at them.
  • Don't bring a backpack or other unnecessary bags to the exam. If you have a bag, set it far away from you.
  • Make sure all of your bags are zipped shut and that no loose papers can be seen or slide out from under your desk.
  • Set all of your materials on your desk before the exam starts. Don't reach down for pencils, calculators, etc.
  • Even if the instructor doesn't require it, sit far away from other students, or sit at the front of the classroom near the instructor.
  • Don’t talk to anyone other than the instructor or TAs, even about things not related to the exam.
  • If possible, do not bring your cell phone into the exam room. If you must have it with you, turn it off and keep it in a closed backpack or other bag. Do not keep it on your person in a pocket, in your hand, on your desk, or otherwise visible to you.
  • Follow the instructor’s rules for bathroom breaks. Don’t bring your cell phone or any study materials with you during bathroom breaks.
  • Start studying early. Reviewing material during the semester will help you learn.
  • Consult your instructors about the best ways to prepare.

Resources promoting time management and study skills are found at the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning page.


You are responsible for understanding and avoiding plagiarism. Be sure to learn academic citation rules before turning in any assignment, even if they are drafts, proposals, or ungraded assignments.

Write academically honest papers using these tips:

  • Learn about citation from the library's Writing and Citing Guide. You can use the signal and pathway concepts to help you understand citation.
    • Signals tell your reader each and every time your assignment contains material that originated elsewhere.
    • Pathways bring your reader from each signal to the corresponding complete information needed to locate that outside material.
  • Always cite everything that isn’t your idea including:
    • Internet sources
    • Images and diagrams
    • Materials you changed into your own words
    • Course materials, discussions, and lectures (unless your instructor states otherwise in writing)
  • Always follow the citation method required for your discipline (MLA, APA, etc.) and ask your instructor if you aren't sure which to use.
  • If you had an idea but then found it in a source, read our page on what you should do. 
  • If you want a friend to give feedback on your paper, or a friend wants you to give feedback, read our page on what is permitted. Be sure to follow any rules that your instructor sets for collaboration and peer review.
  • You can get help and find resources to promote your research skills and writing skills from the Library and Writing, Speaking, and Argument Program.

Group Projects

When you work in a group, every group member is responsible for the final product. Create group projects safely with these tips:

  • Be sure to read the instructor’s rules for how to structure the assigned work as soon as you receive the assignment. Ask the instructor for clarification if you aren’t sure how to divide the work.
  • Once you understand your instructor’s rules, clearly define the responsibilities of each group member.
  • Start early and set deadlines before the due date so you can ensure your group project is on track and is being completed in an academically honest way.
  • If you are assigned to complete independent sections of a larger project, be sure that you are not collaborating if your instructor’s rules do not permit collaboration.
  • If you are assigned to complete a whole project as a collective group, be sure that you are checking the work produced by other students, since you will be responsible for any academically dishonest work done by your group members.


Since the rules for collaboration can be different for every course and every assignment, be sure that you know exactly what your instructor permits before you work with other students.

  • Read your course and assignment materials carefully as soon as you get them. Ask your instructor if you do not see or do not understand the rules for collaboration.
  • If you don’t know your instructor’s rules for collaboration, you should always work independently until you can get specific information from your instructor.
  • You can be found responsible for violating the academic honesty policy if you help others in ways that are not permitted. You are responsible for taking reasonable measures to keep your work to yourself and for providing other students only with authorized help.


Be sure you know what kinds of technology your instructor permits and in what ways you are allowed to use it.

  • Don’t ever share your login information. Sharing your NetID and password violates both the academic honesty policy and the student conduct policy.
  • Don’t use translation software unless you are sure that your instructor permits it.
  • Don’t use computer code that you didn’t write unless you are sure that your instructor permits it.
  • Don’t leave your Blackboard account logged in on your devices.
  • If you find internet resources relevant to your studies, be sure to clear them as acceptable resources with your instructor before using them.


Learn all the rules upfront and ask your instructor for clarification in advance.

  • Common associated pitfalls:
    • I didn’t intend to cheat.
    • I didn’t know I was violating the policy.
    • I didn’t understand the rules.
    • It was too late to ask the instructor to clarify the rules.
    • I assumed I knew what counted as cheating.
    • I assumed what I did was similar enough to what was permitted.
  • Solution:
    • Learn the rules upfront. Since the Arts, Sciences, and Engineering (AS&E) policy does not take intent into account, you are responsible for knowing and following the AS&E and course policies.
    • Read both the AS&E policy and your course and assignment materials, since your instructors set course-specific rules in addition to the general rules set by AS&E.
    • Ask your course instructor if you think something you are considering doing might be academically dishonest before you do it.
    • Read over your course materials as soon as you get them so you can ask for clarification before assignments are due.
    • Ask your instructors about the rules for collaboration, group projects, and citation, which are always specific to the assignment or course.
    • For AS&E policy questions, email the academic honesty liaison, who offers confidential guidance on academic honesty questions and cases.

Only submit academically honest work.

  • Common associated pitfalls:
    • I thought drafts don’t count.
    • I thought ungraded work doesn’t count.
    • I thought proposals don’t count.
    • This seemed like unimportant busywork.
    • I thought it was just a form.
  • Solution:
    • Only submit academically honest work, since the AS&E policy applies to everything you submit to a University employee as part of your progress toward a degree, including drafts, ungraded work, proposals for unexecuted projects, add/drop forms, exit exams, etc.

Ask for help.

  • Common associated pitfalls:
    • I ran out of time.
    • I was really struggling with this material.
    • I was studying more hours, but I wasn’t performing better.
    • I couldn’t get my team members to work together.
    • I didn’t understand citation.
    • I couldn’t find and/or organize sources.
    • I needed support for my disability.
    • I was worried or upset about my family or a loved one.
    • I was struggling with mental illness.
    • I was sick or injured.
    • I was assaulted or harassed.
    • I was hungry or homeless.
    • I was working too many hours.
  • Solution:
    • When you need help, ask. If you don’t know who to ask, start with a trusted University employee or your advisor. Even if that person doesn’t offer the kind of support you need, they can connect you to the right resources. See the student resources page for more information about campus resources.

Academic dishonesty is always your worst option.

  • Common associated pitfalls:
    • I thought I would lose my scholarship, my 4.0 GPA, or my place at the University.
    • I was going to fail anyway.
    • I knew I couldn’t do it without cheating.
    • Everyone else was cheating.
    • I didn’t think I would get caught.
    • I didn’t think cheating was a big deal.
  • Solution:
    • You always have a choice, and academic dishonesty is always your worst choice. Not only do you face serious academic honesty sanctions, possible visa consequences, and lost future opportunities when you have to disclose a violation on future applications, but you also don’t learn your course material. You always have other options, including:
      • Asking your instructor for more time.
      • Turning in a partially completed honest assignment.
      • Taking a zero.
      • Dropping or withdrawing from a course.
      • Switching majors.
      • Asking your instructor for extra credit or changes to assignment weighting.
      • Getting help so you can perform better on the remaining assignments.