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Cambridge English (and in the case of IELTS, together with British Council and IDP Education Ltd) has a responsibility to candidates, test centres and other stakeholders to ensure the integrity of our examinations by putting in place robust measures to identify and deal with instances of candidate or test centre malpractice.
The Cambridge English Malpractice Procedure deals with cases of suspected irregular conduct.
Irregular conduct is any action which gives or aims to give unfair advantage to a candidate or causes disadvantage to other candidates. The Notice to Candidates, which is displayed outside all examination rooms, warns candidates of the consequences of such actions. In the case of IELTS, candidates are warned of the consequences of such actions in the Application Form (Notice to Candidates and Declaration).
Cambridge English, British Council and IDP Education Ltd have rigorous procedures in place to detect instances of malpractice.
Malpractice Panel meeting
Cambridge English has a dedicated Malpractice Panel which looks at cases, taking into account all relevant information, e.g. statements from candidates. After carefully considering the case, the Panel may be asked to help us to decide whether the candidate's result should be released or permanently withheld. The centre is then asked to inform the candidate.
If it is decided that a candidate's results can be released, the original results will be issued, unchanged. If it is decided that the results should be permanently withheld, the candidate will not receive a result. In the case of IELTS, candidates found to have engaged in malpractice may also be banned from taking the test in future.
This procedure is designed to ensure that all decisions are consistent, fair and based on the fullest information available. We aim to complete the investigation of suspected malpractice cases within eight weeks of the test date. In the case of IELTS, some investigations may take longer to complete.
There is an appeals procedure for candidates who wish to appeal against a decision to permanently withhold their result. Information about the appeals procedure can be found on the enquiries and appeals page.
The Malpractice procedure will start on the exam day through to the results release, up until the case is resolved. In some rare instances where new evidence of malpractice is discovered, the malpractice procedure will run after results release.
As stated in section 3.4 of the Cambridge English Regulations, the Malpractice procedure may dictate that affected candidates do not receive results, or their result may be cancelled after it is issued.
Step 1 – Suspected malpractice is identified
A candidate is identified for suspected Malpractice by one of the following:
Step 2 – Malpractice case is created
We create a case for each individual
Step 3 – Malpractice sift
Cambridge English analyses the malpractice case using our established criteria to decide whether the case should be reviewed by a Malpractice Panel. These criteria are designed to filter out cases that do not merit further review by us.
Step 4 – Candidate Statement
In preparation for the Malpractice Panel review, we contact the centre and request a candidate statement from each candidate involved. The statement asks them about the circumstances that raised the suspected malpractice case.
The statement gives the candidate a chance to represent their view of events. If the candidate’s version of events does not match the other facts of the case, this can lead to further investigation.
What should a candidate include in their statement?
Step 5 – Malpractice Review
Once we receive the candidate’s statement, the evidence for the case is given to a Malpractice Panel. If we do not receive the candidate’s statement, we contact the centre again. If we do not receive the statement within two weeks of our original request, we will proceed with the malpractice review without it. The candidate can provide a statement at any later appeal stage.
Stage 6 – Outcome
We will provide a final decision based upon the Malpractice Panel’s recommendation and will contact the centre with confirmation of the decision.
If the decision is to release the result, the candidate will receive their result via the normal channel.
If the decision is to permanently withhold the result, the candidate will not receive a result.
The candidate can appeal against our decision by requesting an appeal via their exam centre. Further information can be found here.
All decisions are made on the information that is supplied to the Malpractice Panel during the Timescale set out above. The Malpractice Panel will seek to make a reasonable assessment on the facts presented. The Malpractice Panel will have set regulations to adhere to and will seek to implement the regulations in an independent manner. The processes in place are designed to allow for robust protections of qualifications. The candidate is deemed to have accepted and understood the regulations by sitting the exam and it will be for the candidate to prove that any discretion sought is appropriate or; that a decision made via the above process is not in itself a reasonable outcome for the Malpractice Panel to have reached.
For further information or advice please contact the Cambridge English Helpdesk team.