BEIJING - Hi-tech items, such as neatly disguised wireless transmitters, are becoming a headache for China's exam proctors as exam sitters look for new ways to cheat on highly competitive national exams.
The Beijing Radio Administration Bureau detected 16 cases of unidentified signals, indicating cheating in this year's national exam for graduate study. Roughly 1.25 million sat the exam from Saturday to Monday,
Zhu Li, a director for the bureau, told Xinhua Wednesday that cheaters of this type normally use earphones the size of a soybean and a neatly hidden wireless transmitter to get the answers from a hired "Qiangshou" -- someone who provides answers to test questions from outside the exam room. These Qiangshou are known for their academic prowess.
While Qiangshou are able to transmit answers to test takers, it is unclear how they obtain the exam questions in the first place, Zhu said.
"Technically, they could have someone in the exam room scan the papers and send the pictures through wireless transmitters," Zhu said, "but, it's almost impossible in reality as it would need very strong signals."
The bureau also caught two hi-tech cheaters in the latest national civil servant exam on November 30, 2008.
In China's highly competitive national exams, where chances of success are very slim, many applicants, especially the less academically inclined, are lured to cheat.
Statistics from sohu.com, a popular Web portal, show about one third of the exam applicants last year were successfully enrolled to pursue graduate study. However, hot universities and majors usually see an enrollment rate of less than 10 percent.
More than 770,000 people took part in the civil service exam, the success rate for which is less than two percent. More than 4,500 applicants competed for the most popular post.
The Beijing Municipal Bureau of Personnel said early December that major exam sites in Beijing were covered by wireless signal interrupters that could locate and cut off unidentified signals.
"We are trying our best to act faster when abnormal signals are detected and we will increase the number of signal detectors in the near future," Zhu said.
The China Youth Daily reported Monday that some people make a living out of the business of selling cheating devices and hiring "Qiangshou." They put out advertisements on campuses using official-sounding company names, but most of them are not registered in the official system.
A middle-aged man from a "company" called Beijing Hell and Heaven Sci&Tech was quoted as saying, "We hire training school teachers, college professors and foreigners to provide the answers, which are very reliable." The man said it cost them more than 8,000 yuan (about US$1,170) to hire the "professors or foreigners" for half an hour only.
The exam sitters, on the other hand, had to pay around 3,000 yuan for the answers to one single test such as politics or English. The "company" is said to be giving discounts or wholesale prices if a customer buys answers to two or the whole set of tests.The hi-tech devices are mostly made by electronics companies in the southern city Shenzhen, the China Youth Daily's close tracks on the devices' brands showed.
Watches that could receive and display texts through wireless transmitters were believed to be made largely by the Shenzhen-based Sunlips (Hong Kong) Internet Technology Co., Ltd. The company's Web site is now out of service.
Shenzhen Wireless Sci&Tech Development Co., Ltd, reportedly another maker of the watches, does not give a detailed company address on its Web site.
To better fight the hi-tech savvy cheaters, Zhou said, "If cheating with wireless apparatus becomes rampant in future exams, we may be forced to disturb the city's whole signal transmission system, which unfortunately would cause trouble for regular users of wireless devices."
The radio bureau and other exam-relevant departments are discussing for further steps, Zhou said.