Investigate suspected cheating on Japan entrance exam; take preventive measures

Allegations have emerged that questions on the Common Test for University Admissions were leaked to outside parties during the unified university entrance exam that nearly 500,000 people took. The facts must be clarified as soon as possible and thorough steps taken to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents.

On the test for World History B, which was conducted on the morning of Jan. 15 — the first day of the two-day exam — images of test papers were sent to University of Tokyo students via the internet during the test. The university students solved the questions and sent the answers back, also while the test was underway.

The sender of the images identified themselves as a second-year female high school student, and had made contact with the university students through a website for finding tutors. The university students told The Yomiuri Shimbun that they did not realize the questions were from the unified entrance exam when they sent back the answers.

After being consulted by the National Center for University Entrance Examinations, the Metropolitan Police Department launched an investigation into the case, on suspicion of fraudulent obstruction of business. First and foremost, it is important to get to the bottom of who committed such an act and why.

The person who claimed to be a female high school student is said to have asked university students, including the University of Tokyo students, to solve questions in Contemporary Japanese Language and English from the Jan. 15 test, in addition to World History B. The investigation will focus on such matters as how the images were taken, the number of people to whom they were sent, and whether there were any collaborators.

Entrance exam questions have been leaked in the past. In the second-round examination given by Kyoto University in February 2011, a male preparatory school student was arrested for posting math and English questions, and asking for the answers, on an internet bulletin board during the test via mobile phone.

The preparatory school student had done the same thing on entrance exams for private universities. He was quoted by the police as saying that he never thought it would be a problem. Investigators concluded that he wanted to pass the exam so much that he used the online bulletin board without thinking carefully.

Cheating is a dishonest act that could undermine the efforts of the many examinees who studied hard, and lessen the fairness of entrance exams. If cheating took place on the recent unified exam for a similar purpose, it cannot be treated lightly.

Also during this year’s unified university entrance exam, an examinee was disqualified after they were found by a supervisor to have tried to hide a smartphone between their thighs. The examinee reportedly said that if there were questions they could not answer, they wanted to check with the phone.

Those taking the unified university entrance exam are required to turn off their smartphones and place them in their bags. In recent years, however, it has become difficult to block smartphones, because wearable devices have appeared, including products that combine the functions of wristwatches and smartphones.

In addition to universities, high school and junior high school entrance exams will soon be in full swing. Many venues may use large classrooms and keep examinees apart from each other, in a bid to prevent novel coronavirus infections. It is vital to devise ways to strengthen supervision and patrols.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Jan. 27, 2022.