An inquiry into cheating in exams across the UK has concluded that all watches should be banned from all exam halls to discourage cheating.
Smart watches that connect to the internet are already banned from use by students taking public exams, but the review – by the Independent Commission on Examination Malpractice – said it is becoming difficult to distinguish between hi-tech and traditional watches.
The Commission, set up by the UK’s exam boards to investigate cheating in public exams in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, said that overall there is a “very low level of malpractice”. But it warned of the increasing “sophistication of internet-enabled devices” that could be used unfairly in exams.
Review chairman Sir John Dunford, a former head teachers’ union leader, said smart watches could look like conventional watches, leaving them open to misuse by cheats. “It can look as if it’s a time-telling watch and actually, you press a button and it becomes an email-type watch.
“If you don’t ban them all I think you’re giving a very difficult job to invigilators who are looking round an exam room. So I think the obvious thing to do here is to ban watches.”
Some exam centres already prohibit exam sitters from wearing watches, but the review said there needed to be clarity, with such a ban applying across all exams.
The review also raised other concerns over the illegal sales of exam papers on the Dark Web.
The report also highlighted concerns about the rise in schools seeking extra time for pupils in exams, such as if they have a particular special need or emotional problem.
The Joint Council for Qualifications is to consider whether a ban on watches could be in place for exams taken next summer.