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There has been ‘hue and cry’ concerning the fall in the standard of Education in Nigeria. Arguments being raised by those in support of this assertion include among others: the myopic academic capability and standard being displayed by students of today’s educational institutions vis-à-vis their counterparts of yester-years and the prevailing cases of examination malpractices that have enveloped the entire educational system. This paper, examines this issue from the perspective of its causes and effects and challenges on the educational system. Also, suggested solutions towards combating the social menace such as pragmatic approach towards implementation of legislation by government and other agencies, empowerment of teachers, special welfare packages for examination officials were discussed.


Western education has become synonymous with modern civilization, enlightenment and socialization. This is because the more advanced nations of the world, with their superlative and result-oriented qualitative education have become the unassailable parameters for human transformation, innovation and social change. Education is expected to train the mind of its recipient for high level of human functioning. To be regarded as an educated person, an individual is expected to pass through the whole process of examinations conducted by a competent and recognized body. Adequate and proper acquisition of relevant knowledge and skills in school subjects and disciplines of study is invariably a function of quality education (Okara, 2012).

Examination as part of evaluation is aimed at determining a learner’s level of skill acquisition or intellectual competence and understanding after a given training. Evaluation usually enables the teacher to be effectively ready for further teaching as this form of evaluation is often regarded as a feedback. But when examination is not properly conducted, the expected feedback may not result. Consequently the result of such evaluation leads to wrong decision and judgment which affects the teacher, the learner, the entire education industry as well as the society. A reality that can not be ignored is that no matter how lofty, how enviable, how laudable, how gigantic the education goals are, how relevant the school curriculum is organized, if no provision is made for accurate evaluation of learning progress, all these efforts will be a wasteful venture (Duze, 2011). Examinations could be conducted for the purpose of selection, classification and certification. For examination to be valid and reliable it has to be administered under conducive and uniform conditions where examines are made to adhere to stipulated rules and regulations.

The essence of testing is to reveal the latent ability of an examinee. The term ability connotes the characteristics of the examinees that the test is intended to measure. It includes factual knowledge, specific skills and general skills. For an examinee’s ability to be measured, the examinee has to respond to a sample of questions. A test score based on this sample of questions would be an approximate indicator of  examinee’s ability.

In Nigeria the educational system and other systems are crisis-ridden. Nigerian educational system has degenerated into a decadent, morbid institution plagued with fear of blood-thirsty secret-cult members, drug-driven violence and anarchy as well as rampant cases of examination malpractice. Some Nigerian students have become so wild that they abduct their teachers and even heads of institution and yet get away with it. Some institutions of higher learning can no longer boldly claim to be the citadel of excellence they have hitherto been noted for in Nigeria. The sanctity of examination process has been trivialized by a lot of malpractices.  This paper examines the concept of examination malpractice, causes and challenges and suggests the way forward.

Examination and Examination Malpractice

Examination has been viewed in various perspectives by many educational scholars. Maduka (2003) defined examination as a way to ascertain how much of a subject matter in a particular field of study the candidate has mastered. Homby (2005) defined an examination as a formal test of somebody’s knowledge or ability in a particular subject, especially by means of answering questions or practical exercises. Balogun (2009) also considered examination as the process through which students are evaluated or tested to find out the quality of knowledge they have acquired within a specified period of teaching and learning process.

Examinations could be internal or external. It could be oral, written or both. Examples of internal examinations are continuous assessment tests, terminal semester and annual or promotion examinations. Examples of external (public) examinations common in Nigeria schools are Common Entrance Examination for admission into secondary school. School certificate examination are conducted by West African Examination Council (WAEC) and National Examination Council (NECO). The Joint Admission Matriculation Board (JAMB) and National Teachers’ Institute (NTI) conducted admission tests into tertiary institutions while the National Business and Technical Examination Board (NABTEB) conducts professional examinations for teachers and technicians respectively.

On the other hand, Examination malpractice according to Usman (2005) is cheating in the examination or any intention to benefit or giving undue advantage to oneself or another by deceit or fraud, before, during and after examination. Examination malpractice is already becoming a culture in Nigerian educational scene because it is been condoned by most parents, students, teachers and lecturers (Ojerinde, 2010). Students often go into examination halls with pistols and daggers ‘to take care’ of anyone that would forestall them from cheating. At risk are invigilators and question papers; hence Nigerian educational system is gravely threatened. The frequency of occurrence of examination malpractice indicates a state of hopelessness and helplessness. The incidence of examination malpractice has become so endemic that the penalty hitherto melted out to its perpetrators is almost having no statistical significance effects on them.

As a result of frequent cases of examination malpractice, the society is losing confidence in the certificates awarded by some institutions and examination bodies (Eba & Emaikwu, 2007; Ogum, 2007). Cheating in examination has become so ‘internalized and legitimized’ that some people now regard it as a normal process of passing examination in Nigeria.

Examination malpractice occurs in both internal and external examinations. In short, it has become an epidemic in the nation’s educational system, which needs a prompt attention. The situation of examination malpractice is so embarrassing to the nation that the federal military government in 1984 promulgated Decree 20 to deal with it. Part of the decree reads:

However, Examination Malpractice Act 33 of 1999 revised the above decree but now stipulates punishment ranging from a fine of N50,000.00 to N100,000.00 and imprisonment for a term of 3 – 4 years with or without option of fine. This new development is due to the inability of the appropriate authorities to enforce the old Decree 20 of 1985. Despite all these laws, examination malpractice has been on the increase and this may be due to non implementation of laws. Reasons for it being the low moral standard in schools, candidates’ fear of failure, lack of confidence in themselves, inadequate preparation, laziness and ‘419’ syndrome that have eaten deep into the life of the society.

Forms of Examination Malpractice in Nigerian Schools

Year-in-year-out, students come up with new dimensions of examination malpractices. This is the more reason why drastic steps must be taken. The instances of examination malpractices vary. They range from impersonation, leakage of questions, tampering with results, computer fraud to fraudulent practices by invigilators, officials and security personnel charged with supervising examinations. Parents are not left out of the business. Some of these dimensions are discussed below.

Bringing of foreign materials into examination hall:  This is a situation where students bring into the examination hall notes, textbooks, and other prepared materials. The method is nicknamed as hide and seeks, microchips, tattoo and magic desk. Sometimes, students bring into the hall unauthorized materials like sophisticated and scientific calculators or four figure tables. Abba (2008) indentified some methods like giraffing, contraband, bullet, super print, escort, missiles, pregnant biros and so on.

Assistance from Educational Stakeholders:  Examination stakeholders include parents, teachers, lecturers, supervisors, security agents, printers and staff of examination bodies. Some parents go to any length in buying question papers for their children while some others even buy certificates for their children. Supervisors colluding with teachers, school principals or students by allowing teachers to come around to teach the students during the examination period; lecturers or teachers releasing question papers or giving underserved marks or allowing students to illegally re-take examination papers. Security agents, printers and staff of examination bodies also sell question papers. Afolabi (1998) stated that leakage is one problem which appears to defy all solutions. Its persistence, despite methods of blocking loopholes, is an indication of the malaise and corruption in society.

Irregular Activities inside and outside the examination halls: Students who had the mind to cheat exhibit strange and unwholesome behaviors. They use various such methods as:

  • Stealing, converting, substituting or misappropriating the scripts of other candidates.
  • Substituting worked scripts during or after an examination.
  • Tearing part of the question paper or answer booklet during the examination to enhance cheating.
  • Seeking and receiving helps from other candidates.

Impersonation: This is a situation where a candidate sits in an examination for another candidate, thereby pretending to be the real original candidate. Impersonation is becoming very rampant, even among school candidates. Afolabi (2008) listed various methods that have been devised by students and these include:

  • Posing as a bona-fide candidate: Impersonators write the examination on behalf of the candidate they are impersonating. Under-graduates and graduate youth Corpers engage in this type of cheating.
  • Entry for similar subjects:  The plot is hatched right from the entry stage by making the impersonator to enter for the same subjects and sit for the examinations in the hall with the candidate; he writes the candidate’s name and number on his booklet while the candidate writes the impersonator’s and they exchange scripts before submitting.
  • Multiple entries: That is candidates entering for the same examination in several parts of the locality. It has also been observed that several candidates struggle unnecessarily for live question papers at the beginning of a paper which are then passed to touts for assistance. Also, candidates deliberately come into the hall with the sole aim of smuggling the question paper out as soon as the paper starts and bringing the solution inside later.


Insult or Assault on Examination Officer:  There are cases of students insulting examination officials as they carry out their businesses. The aim is to distract them from effective supervision, so that they can have a way out. Sometimes students disturb the conduct of examinations due to poor preparation.

Electronically assisted malpractices: In recent times, it has been discovered that students make use of electronic gadgets to cheat during examinations. Such things as unauthorized scientific calculators, organizers, compact disc (the smallest size) and mobile phones (GSM) to take advantage of others.

Collusion:  This is a situation where two or more candidates agree to receive or give assistance to each other. If it is verbal, this is called ECOMOG or ECOWAS. Maduabum (2008) indentified the use of terms like ‘laya’, Ecomog, and so on, which are also common among students. Afolabi (2008) said that collusion involves exchange of scripts, passing notes for help from outside and inside the hall; delaying commencement of examination in one centre to obtain question paper from nearby centres which has started, collusion, arising from bribes or threats to the lives and/or property of supervisors.

Mass cheating: Candidates in an examination hall at times are massively involved in one or some of the irregularities aforementioned.

Inscription: Students have now advanced to the level of inscribing materials or information on anything like parts of their body, for example palms, thighs, baby pampers; dresses, handkerchiefs, rulers, purses, chairs, tables, walls of examination halls and so on. Some student even code points and synthesize their notes in such a way that they will be the only one that could understand and use them for cheating.

Personality Connection: These are cases where some influential students make use of godfathers in politics, economic high towers, parents, and cult members to influence the outcome of examinations.

Causative Factors of Examination Malpractice in Nigeria Schools

Fayombo (2004) categorized the reasons for examination malpractices into psychological and sociological causes. The over dependence on certification has led to ‘mad rush’ by the populace and the resultant effect is that people either acquire certificates legitimately or otherwise. This messy situation is having a negative effect on the nation’s quality of education and the kind of certificates issued to students at different levels. So many people can no longer defend their certificates.

In a separate contribution, Okwilagwe (2006) opined that many factors contribute to this menace. They can be grouped under the following headings:

Students’ Factors: Evidently on the list here is laziness and inadequate preparation for examination. This confirms the saying, “he who fails to prepare, prepares to fail”, and since many who failed in preparation are bent on passing at all cost, cheating becomes their only option. Another factor contributing to examination malpractice in relation to students is crave for paper qualifications without  the willingness to acquire relevant knowledge and skills.

Parents’ Factors:  The fact that examination malpractice is traceable to parents is not in doubt (Afolabi, 2008). It is no more news to hear of parents paying for mercenaries to write examinations on behalf of their children. Some go to bribe teachers or buy live examination papers for their children. This of course has contributed in no small way to the menace of this terrible monster. It is good and proper for parents to desire good success for their children/wards, but wrong and condemnable if they would find no way of helping them succeed other than aiding them one way or the other in examination malpractice.

Teachers’ Factor:  It is common to say that many teachers participate in examination malpractice or encourage it cannot be argued against. It is bad enough that many students cheat because they would not study on their own, but, it is worse when the action or inaction of teachers encourage examination malpractice. Some teachers leave their students with no option than cheating because of the lack of proper teaching before examination. Some go to the level of collecting money from students in exchange for examination questions or papers. Many female students pay their way through to excellent grades using what some people call “the bottom power”.

National life Factor:  To say that corruption has been institutionalized in this country is but to say the least. Examination malpractice is just one of the corrupt practices. It is no more a shame to be caught cheating in examination, because corruption has become a way of life for many and almost a daily routine of the vast majority. Office holders cheat and embezzle public funds, men and women do same in their offices, housewives cheat on their husbands and would steal too, if given the opportunity. But that is not all; law enforcement agents are not free from bribery, teachers in schools and even school administrators are not exempted from one corrupt act or the other, politicians deceive the electorates and many religious leaders do worse using the name of God. Tell me then how and why students should not cheat. Poor state of infrastructure in schools, long closure of schools following strike actions, poor funding for education, loss of the true sense of value or faulty value system; all point to one thing, corrupt system of national life. This has affected all aspects of our national life and is playing out in the educational sector; it could truly be said to be at the root of examination malpractice.

Examination bodies’ factor: It is unimaginable why examination bodies would be listed among those facilitating examination malpractices. It is however not in doubt that many officials of examination bodies join fraudulent teachers and sometimes school administrators not only to allow cheating in examinations but promote same with impunity. Some internal and external invigilators are bought over with money, material gifts, and surprisingly with women. This indeed is a sorry state. Poor examination facilities, poor conduct of examination, inadequate spacing of students in examination halls, slack supervision of examination, inefficient invigilation are some of the ways examination bodies contribute to malpractices.


Challenges to Our Educational System

The calamity of examination malpractice is not just the havoc it wrecks in our educational system but the gradual introduction of youths into the practice of fraud. Owing to malpractices in universities, examination results tend to give a false picture of the state of affairs; hence a good number of school graduates cannot defend the grades obtained in examinations (Ada, 2004). A crisis situation is bound to develop in the educational sector, if the trend is not prevented. Malpractices in examinations have become so widespread that many people doubt the quality of graduates from the Nigerian educational system. It has led to the questioning of the validity and reliability of the examinations as well as the authenticity of the results and certificates obtained. A widespread examination malpractice in tertiary institutions in Nigeria has led to a situation where the use of formal examination as basis for determining the level of candidates’ proficiency at absorbing, reproducing and applying knowledge has become impossible. The ugly incidence of examination malpractice accounts for the existence of several qualifying examinations in Nigeria such as post university matriculation aptitude tests, job placement aptitude test, among others to authenticate candidates’ certificates. Since academic credentials are the only acceptable indices of educational attainment, the school going population now see passing examination as ‘a do or die affair’ in Nigeria. As a result of examination malpractice, some Nigerian graduates can not even write comprehensive letters, let alone read and understand newspapers articles. Some university graduates who are products of examination malpractice have become a reserved army of the unemployable (Duze, 2011).

There is a general worry about the poor quality of education in Nigeria. The image of Nigerian education has been greatly tarnished as a result of examination malpractice which characterizes the nation’s institutions of learning. Maduabum (2009) noted that examination malpractices are noticeable in every state of the federation in Nigeria and in all the school systems. Uzoagulu (2008) affirmed that giraffing, copying, and taking handwritten materials and textbooks into the examination hall rank first among other types of examination malpractices. Onyechere (2006) observed that perpetrators of examination malpractice employ different methods camouflaged with various code names. He reported that examination malpractice could be caused by fear of failure, undue emphasis on paper qualification and lack of resources for teaching and teacher-related factors. Cheating has become a national phenomenon to the extent that forgoing certificates to gain admission or employment is a usual habit among desperate Nigerians even among the political class.

Examination malpractice has adverse effects on all facets of society, the individual, the home, the school, the government, the private organization and the international community negatively (Obasi, 2009).


Suggested Solutions as the Way Forward

Examination malpractice, which started in Nigeria as a minor misdemeanor has not only assumed a frightening dimension, it seems to have become a permanent feature of Nigeria education system. Efforts by governments, examining bodies, institutions, individuals and concerned groups towards eradicating it have not yielded meaningful results. Rather, the situation has become worse in recent times. The new trend involves an organized system of the supervisors, invigilators, teachers, and in some cases heads of schools. There is therefore the need for a team effort to stem this social malaise that has become inimical to educational development in the country. Since previous approaches aimed at curbing this hydra-headed problem seem to have yielded no dividends, the writer advocates the following strategies for curbing the problem:

Pragmatic Approach towards Implementation of Legislation by Government and Other Agencies

In the past and even recently, decrees, laws, edits (Decree No. 27 of 1973, Special Tribunal (Miscellaneous Offences) Act Cap 410, Examination malpractice Act No. 33 of 1999) have been promulgated and enacted with sanctions and penalties spelt out for offenders and participants in examination malpractice. But these penalties have not been effectively enforced by the authorities and bodies initiating them because of the Nigerian factor. In addition, these laws lack institutional framework for the implementation of their provisions (Orbih, 2006). Since earlier approaches have not curbed examination malpractices, the writer is of the view that a more pragmatic approach to the problem should be adopted. The Federal Government should establish an examination ethics committee and all states and local government councils should do same.

Empowerment of Teachers

Teachers cannot provide experience and activities that guide students’ progress towards understanding of ideas if they themselves do not know what these ideas are; neither can they provide experiences that challenge students understanding if they themselves share the same misunderstanding. The implication of this is that greater emphasis should be placed on teachers’ performance. Teachers should be able to carry out their duties properly. Teachers’ continuing education programme must be linked to curriculum change and practices that can influence learners’ achievement. Teacher empowerment should not be limited to professional development alone; it should cover his reward system and job environment. A properly trained teacher in their field can device a means on how to finish the syllables for a particular term or semester or at least cover a large part of it. Also an enhanced salary structure will boast the teacher’s moral to remain focus on his job.


Less Emphasis on Certificates and Paper Qualification

Nigeria’s education system is largely certificate oriented. So much value and emphasis is placed on certificates instead of knowledge, skills and competence. According to Nwandiani (2005), the market place value and reward for the level and face value quality of certificates promote tendencies for and acts of cheating in the process of certification. Many school leavers and dropouts have certificates without knowledge and skills. Most of the social maladies like manufacture and sale of face drugs by pharmacists, collapse of buildings, massive fraud in banks and miscarriage of justice are consequences of over emphasis and value on certificates. And if this trend is allowed to continue, the country will end up with doctors who cannot differentiate between vein and artery, lawyers who cannot differentiate between an accused person and the complainant and teachers who may not be able to spell the names of their schools correctly (Orbih, 2006). It is high time the nation took certificates no more as passports to jobs or higher education; more emphasis should be placed on the competence and skill acquisition. The implication of this is that assessment of students should no longer be based on one almighty examination; rather, it should be continuous, from the very first day at school to the very last day. Continuous Assessment should be properly implemented.

Improved Funding of the Education Sector

The education sector in Nigeria is grossly under funded. United Nations Education and Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and other stakeholders have consistently advocated for an increase in the funding of education. UNESCO, for instance believes that for the sector to be properly rejuvenated and offer the needed impact, government of member countries ought to channel atleast 26% percent of their national budget to education. The federal government in 2013 budget of N4.92 trillion appropriated the sum of N426.53 billion to education. This shows a modest increase of 5 percent over the 2012 budget of N4.697 trillion. Relying on the bench mark advocated by the UNESCO, it is still implicit that the education sector faces the problem of inadequate funding. One of the consequences of this is involvement in academic fraud to cover the deficiency of under funding. With space facilities in short supply, examination halls will always be over crowded. An improvement on the current funding efforts will provide conducive teaching and learning environment devoid of academic fraud and other sharp practices associated with the assessment process in the school system.

Campaigns and Seminars on the Dangers of Examination Malpractice

To be able to curb examination malpractices, there should be continuous grassroots campaigns and seminars organized by all stakeholders in the education sector on the dangers associated with examination malpractices. This will help to sensitize and conscientize the people. These campaigns will help the people to internalize the true values of life, and over time shed the vices associated with their existence. As the attitudes of the people change, external misbehaviours will also be positively affected. The examination Ethics Project (a non-governmental organization) will make large scale and far reaching impact in this regard. In addition, these seminars and campaigns will help restore the lost cherished moral values of honesty, hardwork, dedication and uprightness that hitherto characterized the Nigerians society.

Special Welfare Package for Examination Officials

In addition to the above measures, a special welfare package should be put in place for examination officials to discourage them from financial and material inducements from students, parents and others who may want to subvert examination process. These examination officials include teachers who invigilate examinations, supervisors who oversee the conduct of examinations in schools, officers of examination bodies who monitor the conduct of examinations and law enforcement agents who are in charge of security in examination centres. The rate of examination malpractice can be to some extent reduced.



Examination malpractice is a social problem that has wrecked unimaginable havoc to the entire fabric of Nigeria. It is a hydra headed problem that requires a multi-dimensional approach to its resolution. Any effort aimed at resolving this problem must be collaborative, that is, involving all stakeholders in the education sector, if not, such effort will end up being an exercise in futility.


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