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A Dictionary Took A Brutal And Brilliant Approach To Thwart Cheating Students

Noticing a spike in searches, the dictionary turned the tables on cheating students

With the prevalence of smartphones and connected devices, clandestine cheaters are privy to a world of resources literally at their fingertips. Exam proctors do what they can to curb any untoward activity, but earlier this week they’ve found an unlikely ally in an online dictionary.

On Monday, eighth grade students in Romania sat for the National Evaluation, a test of basic skills for the country’s teenagers. During previous years’ exams, the DEX online dictionary noted massive spikes for very small concentrations of words, which they were able to attribute to searches by test takers during the test.

So this year, the folks at DEX got a little crafty—well, a lot crafty, actually—in the name of academic honesty.

Tracking the real-time data on searches, the dictionary actually changed the definitions for its three most searched for words in an effort to both undermine and reveal the cheating students.

DEX changed the definition of pretutindeni from “everywhere” to “eternal or forever,” and also changed a Romanian word that means “to spot” to “to rush.” According to the DEX dictionary, there had been only nine searches for those two words in the hour before the exam, but the inquiries skyrocketed concurrent with the exam’s administration.

In an unfortunate bit of happenstance, the site also gave a word for “treachery” an intentionally incorrect definition, but it was later learned that the spike in searches for that word resulted from a famous Romanian author’s blog post which included it, and it didn’t have anything to do with the National Evaluation.

Nonetheless, it’s a crafty move by the linguists and one that raises the bar for vigilance against cheating.

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