Posted by: elightkeeper | November 16, 2011

Honest Advice

This weekend, a fresh attempt at cheating appeared on Vancouver’s Craigslist. While it may not be a case connected to my school, what follows is a copy of the Craigslist posting, and my open letter to the student.

Hey! So this job is quite basic actually. Don’t judge me for this or whatever but I need Math 11 to graduate but at the same time I don’t need the course for what I want to be! Math has always been my weakest subject. Anyway, moving forward:

My course is self pace so you would only need to come in to do my test! The teachers don’t know which students come in, especially if you just have the student type of look to blend in I guess haha. So, each test would be base on each chapter after you have finished the homework, so I don’t know I guess it’d be best if you knew Math 11 without reviewing much of my textbook. I’ll pay you, just offer me an estimate money cost you’re expected to be paid. We will need to meet up first, to prove that you have a good grade (B or higher) on Math 11 and I guess just a photo ID to quickly prove that you actually received that grade on your report card. Oh and please be able to speak English properly, you can’t have a harsh accent that I cannot understand lol

Well, lol.  Here is the thing: The job you are hiring for is a little more complicated than you imagine. I’d like to help you out with a little more information. Hopefully, it will assist you in your recruitment of a suitable candidate.

You note in your ad that teachers don’t know who comes in. That may be true for exam supervision. But your course teacher is familiar with how you write and what areas you were having trouble with leading up to your exam.  For most teachers, reading student work done by someone else is as obvious as trying to smuggle a frying pan through airport security. So you’ll need to hire someone who excels in nuance.  You probably don’t have time to figure out what that word means or how that word applies to your situation, so I’ll save you a bit of work.  It is looking for someone who can hit just the right spot with their approach. Think of the Sedins and hockey.  You know how Henrik just knows where Daniel’s stick will be without even looking? It’s like that. (You don’t have a twin do you? That would be super handy.) In any event, it is important to make sure that the writer can do exactly what you would do in the exam because if someone aces the test when you barely got through the unit assignments, your teacher will be on to you in a flash and your exam won’t be worth the desk it was written at.  A failed pass results in no goal.

Now as for needing someone who can look like they blend in, my advice to you is hire someone your age.  To sell the look, have the person wear a big puffy jacket and carry a skateboard, knapsack and iPhone.  But please note that all of these props, while adding to the image, will be promptly checked at the exam door. You should therefore advise your new employee to wear a thermal undergarment to the sitting. Shivering in our chilly exam room combined with the uncontrollable nerves of deceit will only draw unnecessary attention.

This leads me to another consideration you might want to make in advance. Your ad doesn’t specify whether you seek a male or female candidate. You might want to rethink your approach here, lol, as you will find that having someone of the opposite gender arrive for your exam leads to problems at sign in with your picture ID. You could suggest your employee wear certain garments, but again, you want to be careful with that one as it can land you in hot water with the BC Human Rights Tribunal. Take the case of Mottu v. MacLeod and others (2004). Certainly, you won’t be asking your exam writer to show up in a bikini top, but if the only suitable candidate you can find is of the opposite gender and you demand cross-dressing, you will be skating on thin ice.

If the person is of the same gender and doesn’t look like you, you’re looking at having the person obtain phony ID with your name. This is another hidden cost you will need to budget for as these do not come cheap.  What can I say – it is simply the cost of doing business these days. A mangled school ID card won’t get you a bus ride, let alone in the door of an exam.  And your contracted employee is unlikely to be willing to consider more invasive solutions such as haircuts or cosmetic surgery.

You think it is best if the person knew Math.  You are bang on with that one, lol. Mind you, even someone who has recently done the course might find the exam questions challenging.  Why? Because everyone (even a good Math student) needs to review material before an exam.  If your employee doesn’t study, he or she might not do very well, even if the report card you have asked the applicant to produce shows a B standing or higher in the subject. BTW, check that report card very carefully. Students have been known to photoshop report cards when they need to present a better mark than they’ve earned.

Have you consider writing up a contract for your employee so you can ensure you get the results you seek? You wouldn’t want to fork out a lot of money and then find the person got caught, blew the exam or (shudder to imagine) turned you in to us for a slightly better compensatory package? It has happened before. I’m just saying. You can’t be too careful these days.  Promise payment upon delivery of your mark. It is a buyer beware kind of world.

Finally, your comment about the applicant not having a “harsh accent” is unfortunate. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt though – you probably didn’t mean it to come out as discriminatory as it sounds. While some agencies in our country may not accept perfectly good credentials from other countries, I urge you to keep an open mind in your hiring practices.  Also, you might want to hire an ad writer (sorry, another hidden cost) before entering into a job search next time.  Grammatical errors spoil the impression of you as a promising and trustworthy employer.

I hope I don’t sound overly discouraging with my comments. I did say the process was complicated. I am trying to be helpful.

Let me close by emphasizing things you have done well in your ad campaign: 

  • Asking your employee to provide YOU with picture ID is very wise. You never know who you might be dealing with.  Clearly, you understand why we do the same at our examinations.
  • Although gender could be problematic for this job, I must commend you on attempting to be an equal opportunity employer. It is so refreshing to see this in a young entrepreneur. 
  • You clearly want to graduate and get on with your life. This is encouraging. Your ad is surprisingly upbeat. It also shows initiative and the ability to think outside of the box.

With respect to that last point, unfortunately the box right now is school and you are still in it.  You understood this when you wrote at the start of your ad: “Don’t judge me for this….I need Math 11 to graduate, but at the same time I don’t need the course for what I want to be….”

I am not going to judge you, lol.  If you can’t do math, can’t see why it is an important subject to learn, and don’t see the relevance it has to your life, I think our system is failing you. You just want to get Math 11 out of your way. You aren’t right about how you’re going about this, however, and I hope I’m the one to catch you if you decide to go through with your cheating plan.  But if you happen to read this first, please save yourself some money, write that Math 11 test yourself and bring it to me after. I promise you, your teacher and I will find a way for you to earn the mark you need on your own.  Honesty earns more bonus marks in life than you can even imagine.


Photo by Malcolm Tredinnick on Flickr










  1. It is strange to think of hiring someone to write your exams and expect to excel in life or at work. Something going wrong in teaching profession I guess. Teachers need to review their work ethics to save the youth and make them enjoy learning.

    • Hi Lambertha,
      Fortunately, we don’t get a lot of this kind of behaviour from our students. In my opinion, it stems from a much bigger social problem. Technology can create a certain “disconnect” from reality. Sometimes people, particularly our young people, don’t see a mediated action as a real action with real consequences. We do need to teach our young people these things. In that sense, I agree that as educators we can and must do more. In distance learning, a parallel to the notion that a mediated experience isn’t real continues to present challenges. For years, even colleagues have failed to recognize that a distance education school is not second rate option that is inferior to the classroom. You can see the faulty logic that might follow for students: Distance education isn’t real like the classroom and the rest of the system doesn’t think it is very good anyway. So why would cheating matter, if that is the thinking and the message students are getting? Thanks for dropping in with your comments! Hello to Tanzania!

  2. Please, please reply to the ad on Craigslist, Cindy!

    • I don’t think I qualify, Scott. I think I only had a C+ in Math 11… 🙂

  3. So, are you going to enter this on Craigslist? 🙂

    • I hadn’t thought of that!

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