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AI Cheats Exposed in West African Exams

Hundreds of students face sanctions for using artificial intelligence to answer questions

by Victor Adetimilehin

LAGOS, Nigeria – The West African Examination Council (WAEC) has announced that it has withheld or canceled the results of thousands of students who took part in the 2023 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) for various forms of malpractice.

The most shocking revelation was that some candidates used artificial intelligence (AI) platforms to generate answers to the questions, a new and sophisticated method of cheating that poses a serious challenge to the credibility of the exams.

According to WAEC, the subject results of candidates from 235 schools have been withheld for allegedly using AI-generated answers during the exams. The council said it detected this by noticing that some candidates copied wrong answers that the AI platforms gave them.

For instance, one candidate typed in the question and the response was “I’m not familiar with the term you have used”, and the candidate wrote the same response in the answer booklet. Another candidate wrote, “I cannot detect the term you have used”. This is a clear indication of the use of AI, WAEC said.

The council also said it has cancelled the subject results of 647 candidates for bringing foreign material like prepared notes, textbooks, and printed material into the examination halls. Another 839 candidates had their results cancelled for possessing mobile phones in the examination halls, while the subject results of 4,280 candidates and the entire results of 1,005 candidates have been withheld for various suspected offences.

The withheld results of the candidates may be released or cancelled depending on the outcome of investigations, WAEC said in a statement issued on Monday (Dec 18, 2023).

A Growing Threat

The use of AI as a cheating method has alarmed the authorities and raised questions about the integrity of the exams, which are taken by over two million students every year in West Africa.

The Head of National Office (HNO) of WAEC, Wendy Enyonam Addy-Lamptey, expressed worry about the incidence of rise in examination malpractice at a one-day seminar on the council’s laws and operations for circuit court judges and magistrates in Accra, Ghana.

According to a report by Daily Graphic, she described it as unfortunate and identified the perpetrators as some school authorities, teachers and parents.

“It is sad that the youth are being trained in this manner, some candidates are desperate to take their mobile phones into the halls to use artificial intelligence (AI) to answer the questions,” Mrs Addy-Lamptey said.

She highlighted the evolving challenge of cheating methods, noting that candidates used to bring in mobile phones, take snapshots, send them for solutions, or sneak in with pre-solved answer sheets.

However, the emergence of AI as a cheating method poses a new and significant challenge.

The WAEC representative emphasized plans for collaboration with the Ghana Education Service (GES) to enforce strict adherence to rules regarding mobile phone usage in second-cycle institutions.

She also urged the judiciary to expedite the prosecution of cases involving examination malpractice and impose stiffer penalties on offenders to serve as a deterrent.

A Hope for the Future

Despite the widespread cheating, some students have shown exemplary performance and honesty in the exams.

WAEC said it has commended 1,200 candidates for their outstanding results and awarded them scholarships and prizes.

The council also praised the efforts of some teachers, invigilators, supervisors and security personnel who helped to ensure the smooth conduct of the exams. WAEC said it is committed to maintaining the standards and quality of the exams and to safeguarding the certificates it issues.

The council appealed to all stakeholders, especially the media, to support its efforts to curb examination malpractice and to promote academic excellence.

The council also thanked the governments of the five member countries – Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia and The Gambia – for their continued support and cooperation.

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