Which Types of Students Cheat Most?

A Rutgers professor surveyed different fields of study to find out how many students admit to cheating.

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So, which field of study faces the most problems with cheating? Business, according to research by cheating expert Donald McCabe of Rutgers University. A majority of grad students in business—56 percent—acknowledged that they had cheated at least once, compared with 47 percent in other fields. "Some business students have developed a bottom-line mentality," explains McCabe. "Getting the job done is what matters; how you do it is less important."

McCabe's data, collected from 54 colleges and universities, were designed to measure cheating behaviors on tests and written work across fields. Engineering students took second place with 54 percent. Law school students clocked in at just 45 percent. "The stakes are much higher for law students," McCabe says. "There's a fear you may not be able to take the bar exam after having spent these three years in law school." (Among med school students, the sample size was too small to report.)

Why do they do it? "Students today are much more willing to make their own decisions about what's OK and what's not OK," says McCabe. Although participants were assured their answers would remain anonymous, his surveys elicited a response rate of only 13 percent. "I'm picking up the numbers from those who are willing to answer my survey," McCabe says. "There's an overwhelming number [of cheaters] that don't report, so you would think these numbers underrepresent the case. And that is a cause for even greater concern."