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Rachel Kapelke-Dale

Cheating on the ACT: What Happens?

What happens if you cheat on the ACT? Well, nothing good. But in most cases, it’s not the end of the world (though you CAN be arrested–more on this later–so don’t do it!). What happens depends on who reports your cheating, and how, though the consequences will end up being pretty much the same—it just might take longer before an investigation is opened.

How Did I Get Caught?

A number of things can set off red flags. The test proctor might report your cheating to the company. There are hotlines for other students who have noticed cheating to call. If your guidance counselor or a teacher suspects you were cheating, he or she may also call in. If you’re caught red-handed, during the test, it will be confiscated. If you’re caught after you’ve finished the test, your scores will be cancelled.

Even if you think you got away with cheating, you may still be in hot water. A score that increases dramatically in a short period of time—you get a 15 one month and a 35 the next—may set off red flags at the ACT headquarters. The time period is within 20 months, so you may have legitimately improved your score in this time (in which case, congrats!), but don’t worry–if it’s legit, you’ll have the chance to prove it.

Your test may be analyzed in comparison to the answers of those seated around you; if you have a strange number of similar answers, you may also be accused of cheating. And don’t think about paying someone to take the test for you-—if this happens, even if you can get around ID regulations, the test-maker may even call in handwriting experts to analyze the writing in the exam booklet.

But I Didn’t Cheat!

But if you didn’t cheat, and have been accused of it, you’ll have a chance to make your case. The company will pose questions to you, and if you answer them satisfactorily, the case is closed and you keep your score. If not, you’ll have a chance to retake the ACT for free; if your new score is within 3 points of your old score, you’ll get to keep the old score. If you can provide an explanation and documentation of why you were able to raise your scores so much, that’ll also work.

Okay, I Cheated.

If you did cheat? In the best-case scenario, you can cancel your scores and pay to take the test again. The Washington Post reports that the ACT won’t report cheating to a college or university that has already accepted you. In the worst-case scenario—for example, in one New York case—charges can be filed and arrests can be made (it’s fraud, people). Bottom line? Don’t do it.

For an ACT Cheat Sheet you CAN actually use, check out our video post.

About Rachel Kapelke-Dale

Rachel is a TOEFL and SAT/ACT blogger at Magoosh. She has a Bachelor of Arts from Brown University, an MA from the Université de Paris VII, and is currently a doctoral candidate at University College London. She has taught the TOEFL for six years, and worked with nearly 1,000 students in that time. Currently, Rachel divides her time between the US and London. When she’s not teaching or studying, she’s either riding (horses), or writing (fiction), a pair of activities that sound so similar that it confuses even native English speakers. Follow Rachel on Twitter, or learn more about her writing here!

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