Has your teen searched for the leaked exam papers online? Amount of students caught 'cheating' has doubled, here's everything you need to know - including consequences

Social media sites also urged to clamp down on scammers selling fake exam papers

Students sitting exams in a school hall
(Image credit: Getty Images)

In light of the exam paper leak online, Ofqual have announced the consequences for those found searching for them. This comes as the number of students found cheating has doubled in the last six years.

The season of exam stress is underway for parents and teens up and down the country. As a parent of someone sitting their exams, you might have researched the exam diet to make sure their brains are well fed, and have the top brain foods in your fridge that nutritionists assert will improve their performance. But have you broached the subject of cheating?

While nobody wants to believe their child might cheat, students studying the International Baccalaureate (IB) (find out what the IB is) recently found exam questions had been leaked online. Taking advantage of time zone differences, several versions of papers were shared by those from different countries to encrypted messaging platform, Telegram. The IB officials insist the papers aren't legitimate, but created by students memorising exam questions.  

The leak has led to concerns of an upturn in teens searching for GSCE and A Level exam questions online, believing there won't be any consequences. The incident has also seen social media scammers selling fake questions and papers, suggesting they're real. Not only is searching for papers classed as malpractice, targeting revision towards counterfeit questions will be detrimental to results. 

Ofqual have responded to reports of students attempting to find leaked exam papers online, issuing a reminder that those caught doing this could be disqualified. Speaking to TES, Ofqual chief regulator Sir Ian Bauckham said: "Students have been working hard to prepare for their exams, and nobody wants them to miss out on their grades and qualifications."

He adds "Thankfully, most students are aware of the risks of malpractice and comply with the rules. It’s important that the rules are followed so that grades reflect what a student knows, understands and can do. Students should also be aware of the risks of exam papers on social media. Accounts claiming to sell this year’s exam papers are almost always scams. Students should report these accounts to teachers."

"Students should also be aware of the risks of exam papers on social media. Accounts claiming to sell this year’s exam papers are almost always scams."

Ofqual chief regulator Sir Ian Bauckham

The reminder of consequences comes amid news that instances of cheating by taking a mobile phone into the exam room have almost doubled since 2018. There were 2,180 reported penalties for this in 2023, compared with 1,825 in 2022. General malpractice not specifically relating to mobile phone use, had 4,895 reported cases in 2023, a rise from 4,105 in 2022. 

Pepe Di’Iasio, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), discussed both teens taking mobiles into exams, and the issue of leaked papers. He said "We are sure that the vast majority of students taking exams will stick to the rules, but there are always some who do not do so, and unfortunately the misuse of digital technology is a real headache."

He adds "Schools and colleges rigorously police exam rooms to ensure that devices are not brought in by candidates, and they warn students not to try to find exam papers on social media. These are generally fake papers being circulated as a scam, but in the rare event of a genuine paper being leaked, any student accessing that paper risks disqualification."

For more on teens, if you're struggling to get through to your teen, a psychologist shares top tips for overcoming this, and these conversation starters will help. Reflective parenting could help your teen manage their big emotions, and we advise how to start practicing it.

Lucy Wigley
Parenting writer - contributing

Lucy is a mum-of-two, multi-award nominated writer and blogger with six years’ of experience writing about parenting, family life, and TV. Lucy has contributed content to PopSugar and moms.com. In the last three years, she has transformed her passion for streaming countless hours of television into specialising in entertainment writing. There is now nothing she loves more than watching the best shows on television and sharing why you - and your kids - should watch them.