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Hi-tech cheating gadgets flood market as Vietnam’s national high school exam nears

Thursday, June 13, 2019, 11:51 GMT+7
Hi-tech cheating gadgets flood market as Vietnam’s national high school exam nears
An ATM card-like mobile phone used for exam cheating is seen in this photo. Photo: Tr. Tan / Tuoi Tre

As the all-important national high school exam scheduled for late June draws near, online and brick-and-mortar retailers in Vietnam are cashing in on the booming market for hi-tech gadgets designed to help students cheat on tests.

More than 886,000 high school seniors from across the country are expected to sit for the 2019 national high school exam slated for June 25 to 27, the results of which are used to determine if a student qualifies for high school graduation and as a placement test for colleges and universities.

While most of those candidates are doing their best to cram during the final weeks before the exam, some are opting to spend their time hunting down other means to give themselves an advantage on the test.

Exam proctors, on the other hand, will spend the next two weeks developing plans to catch students who use James Bond-esque cheating devices, a task which becomes more and more difficult each year as modern technology ingeniously turns unsuspicious items like ATM cards, key chains, erasers, and even invisible tape that can be suck on teeth.

‘Armed to the teeth’

A popular cheating device that has hit the market this year is a mobile phone with dimensions similar to an ATM card, except its double thickness. 

According to an online retailer, the phone includes one SIM slot and a battery that can last two to three days. 

Cheaters who use the phone can smuggle it into an exam by taping it to their chest or putting it in a T-shirt pocket. 

Once inside the testing room, the phone automatically accepts calls and the user only needs to mumble test questions to the person on the other end.

“This phone is very good at picking up sound, so listeners can hear what you are reading, even if you’re two meters away from the device,” the seller said during a phone interview with a Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporter posing as an interested customer.

A more ‘advanced’ mobile device is also available on the market, this one with miniature earpieces and a built-in 4K quality camera the size of a T-shirt button.

This device can take a photo of the exam paper every three seconds and send it to the user’s regular mobile phone outside the exam room.

The mobile phone then automatically sends the photo to a third mobile device manned by an “assistant” who can read answers into the test taker’s headset.

Combating cheating

Most hi-tech cheating gadgets are made in China and sold wholesale for just VND80,000 (US$3.44) to VND1 million ($43). 

Local retailers hoping to cash in on test takers’ desperation vend the devices for ten times higher in Vietnam, according to an officer with years of experience as an exam inspector in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak.

To combat rampant exam cheating, the Dak Lak officer has asked border guards in nearby provinces to keep an eye on traffickers hoping to smuggle cheating devices into Vietnam through inland routes.

“In addition, authorities also have to prevent the advertising of cheating devices on the Internet,” the officer added.

In preparation for this year’s impending national exam, the Ministry of Education and Training has invited technical experts from the Ministry of Public Security to train exam proctors to catch cheaters, according to the education ministry’s Department of Quality Management director Mai Van Trinh.

The education ministry will also employ several technical solutions to help catch cheating candidates, Trinh added.

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