Cheating via social media suspected during Japan’s university entrance exam

Provided by a University of Tokyo student
An image that appears to be from the World History B test of the Common Test for University Admissions is seen with the time the image was received, 11:06 a.m.

Cheating during the Jan. 15 Common Test for University Admissions is suspected after questions on the world history test were sent to university students who provided answers, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned. The Metropolitan Police Department has started an investigation into the matter after receiving the report of suspected cheating from the National Center for University Entrance Examinations, the administrator of the test usually taken by third-year high school students.

A social media account identifying itself as belonging to a second-year female high school student was found to have been used for an online site to find home tutors in Tokyo. Two university students who received the questions were registered with the site as tutors. The sender of the questions had written on the site’s messaging board seeking advice on how to prepare for entrance exams for private universities.

The sender solicited tutors through the site in December last year. The two university students said they each had responded to the message. The sender wrote on Dec. 12, “I want to measure your capability as a tutor,” and then sent photos of the World History B test questions via Skype on Jan. 15, the day of the common test, asking for the answers.

The university students said they believed it was a practice test and had sent back answers to the sender.

According to a university student who received the questions, the images were sent during the exam period of Geography and History and Civics, which was held from 9:30 a.m. to 11:40 a.m. on Jan. 15.

A 19-year-old male student at the University of Tokyo said he received 20 pictures of the test through Skype at 11:06 a.m. He said he answered 14 of the 19 questions and sent them back separately at 11:28 a.m. and 11:39 a.m.

A 21-year-old male student at the same university received 10 images at 11:08 a.m. and sent back his answers by 11:26 a.m.

The images the two students received were consistent with the questions of the common test given that day.

The two students told The Yomiuri Shimbun that they did not think the questions were those of the common test when they were answering them. They later found the case suspicious and reported it to the university entrance examination center.

The sender had also asked the university students to answer questions on the Japanese Language and English tests administered that afternoon.

According to the 19-year-old, he received a message from the sender that read, “I’ll send contemporary Japanese next,” which likely corresponded to the Japanese Language test scheduled from 1 p.m. on Jan. 15. The sender then asked for answers to what was likely the English test, which was held later in the afternoon. The student accepted the tasks at first, but then found it suspicious about an hour later and sent a message, “How are you going to use the answers?”

He then got a reply: “Sorry. I’ll take back the request about contemporary Japanese for now.” He said that was the last contact he had from the sender.

The 21-year-old student also received the same messages about answering further test questions. He replied to them shortly after noon, asking, “Are they questions from the common test for this year?” He said he also lost contact with the sender after that.

“We’re aware of the possibility of cheating during World History B,” the center’s spokesperson said Wednesday.

It is prohibited to take photos of the test questions. Test takers can take the question sheets home after the exams, but cannot take them out of the room during the test.

According to an operator of the home tutor site, people seeking tutors must enter their name, phone number, credit card information among other personal information, but the operator does not confirm their identity in principle.

“If cheating really was the case, we didn’t expect that to happen,” the head of the operating company said. “We hope to improve users’ identification. I just can’t believe it.”

The 21-year-old student said: “I thought at first that it was a practice test for a preparatory school. Later, I realized that they were questions from the common test, so I checked the time that I received the images and realized I might have just helped someone cheat.”