Police: Student Paid Multiple People For Exam Answers; 18-Year-Old Suspect Referred to Prosecutors

A Tokyo-based teenager has been referred to prosecutors by the city’s police department on suspicion of cheating during an entrance exam for Waseda University. The exam was for applications to that university’s School of Creative Science and Engineering in February of this year. The 18-year-old is accused of having used smart glasses – which can take both pictures and videos – to photograph chemistry questions and then obtained answers by sending the pictures to a smartphone hidden under his desk. The suspect then reportedly relayed the questions to multiple parties using social media, paying them a few thousand yen each. He is also alleged to have sent images of exam questions from other subjects to his smartphone.

Investigative sources say that the student searched for terms including “difficult chemistry questions” and “good at chemistry” on social media site “X” prior to the examination, and looked for people who appeared to perform well academically in the subject. He then allegedly offered to reward these people for their assistance, and sent images of exam questions to them. The suspect failed to gain entrance to a national university he was targeting and claimed that he was worried that he would be unable to pass other university examinations, which was why he came up with the idea of cheating. He stated to the police during voluntary questioning that he was “sorry for those who [had] become involved in the cheating.”

The incident came to Waseda University’s attention after suspicious images were sent to it by a third party. The university then contacted the police and the matter has, subsequently, been investigated. The police believe that other parties may have provided unwitting assistance to the student by answering the questions that he sent to them.

It has been reported that the student bought the smart glasses through a second-hand app and set the glasses up to automatically send images back to his smartphone. He is, apparently, known to have attempted to cheat during another exam, for the university’s School of Commerce (which took place five days after the examination under investigation). During that exam, an examiner noticed the glasses’ camera and reported the incident to the Totsuka Police Station.

Waseda University has released a statement on its website saying that it will be taking “strict action against any misconduct” in order to maintain a “fair and equitable environment” for entrance exams.

Cheating in Japanese universities is not an uncommon problem but this remains an exceptional case, principally because of the use of smart glasses and social media. According to Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), between 2013 and 2016, it received reports of 768 cases of entrance exam fraud. This figure includes use of so-called “sekigaisen” cheat sheets (crib sheets distributed via mobile phone or the internet to the exam room). A further 496 cases were reported of plagiarism in submissions made by university students. In April a testing institution in Japan announced it was to introduce AI technology to detect “fake or pre-prepared answers” and other instances of cheating on university entrance exams

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