Undercover with a ButtonCam and DocuPen

I’ve spent the last few years reading article upon article about test cheating. I’ve given numerous presentations on how students cheat on tests — all from my comfortable armchair quarterback position. It’s easy to make calls from the sidelines.

Recently I was asked to speak at a conference for the Council of Bar Admissions Administrators on the topic “What’s new in Technology and Cheating.” In preparation for this conference I decided it was time totest a couple of these cheating/piracy gadgets for myself.

I spoke with the test center director at our local college and asked her if I could use their testing center to try out a ButtonCam and a DocuPen — to attempt and steal a test. A strange request I admit, but both of us learned a lot from this little experiment.



With ButtonCam affixed, on and recording and the DocuPen hanging out of my pocket I passed the “turn off your cell phones” signs and strode up to the front desk and asked for my assigned tests. I deliberately left the DocuPen hanging out of my front pocket just to see if anyone would notice – they didn’t.
ButtonCam and DocuPen

The ButtonCam is completely inconspicuous, and the DocuPen is, well, rather obvious. I wanted to see if anyone would notice it — nobody did.I first began to work on the math test. I actually started doing the problems and then remembered, “oh yea, I’m not here to do the test, I’m here to (literally) ‘take’ the test.”Here’s my video of the math test.


The YouTube version you’re looking at has been compressed twice, so it’s very blurry. But, even the first version I downloaded directly to my laptop wasn’t clear enough that I could read the test questions. Good news for test publishers. But the bad news is yet to come.Next it was time to try the DocuPen. I simply feigned my pen being out of ink and switched to the DocuPen. Notice the red light under the DocuPen when I scan.

Unlike the video from the ButtonCam the Docupen produced a very legible copy of the test.
Scanned Test

While the ButtonCam video is very blurry I’m sure with practice and alternate video compression I might be able to eventually copy a test from the video. The DocuPen on the other hand is one scary little test pirating gadget. If you see a test taker with an oversize pen, take a closer look.

Here are some suggestions to prevent cheating and test piracy with these gadgets:

  • Provide writing instruments, that way examinees won’t be able to bring in scanners that look like oversized pens.
  • If you don’t supply writing instruments then have examinees show what they are using to write with while checking in for an exam.
  • Always recommend that examinees keep exam papers flat on the desk.
  • The proctor should constantly be walking around the room during an exam.