Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

We're on lookout for cheats, pupils are warned

Uni admissions body to scrutinise applications for copying from net

Schools across Northern Ireland were today urged to warn sixth form pupils not to cheat on their university applications by copying material from the internet.

UCAS, the Universities and College Admissions Service, is writing to every school in the UK warning students to ensure that all information on their forms are correct.

Every application submitted for entry in 2008 will be scrutinised for lifted material and unique plagiarism technology will be used for the first time on more than half a million forms.

UCAS has found that large numbers of teenagers cheat by copying material from websites offering advice on how to apply.

A study of 50,000 forms concluded that one in 20 pupils lifted text for their personal statements, a compulsory part of the application where candidates write about themselves and their interest in a subject.

The move has been welcomed by Sue Turner, who set up Student Fingerprints - an online series of modules that guides students step-by-step through every area of their lives to help them find the evidence to support their UCAS application.

Ms Turner said that unlike other sites, studentfinger prints.co.uk does not offer sample applications that can be copied, but has a process which enables students to find rich, detailed content to include in their personal statement and write it in their own words.

Last year UCAS says 800 medical students all lifted chunks of text from the same site - 234 candidates included the same anecdote saying their interest in chemistry began when, at eight, they burnt a hole in their pyjamas. There was a similar sense of deja vu when 370 applications from would-be doctors began with "a fascination for how the human body works" and 175 students attributed their interest in the subject as a result of their "elderly or infirm grandfather".

This year UCAS is warning students that cheating could damage their chances of winning a university place.

Steven Harrop, technology and strategy manager at UCAS said: "A personal statement should be the student's own work. We found that approximately one in 20 applications had some element of plagiarism, from a very low level through to candidates who cut and pasted the whole thing."

The new detection system, Copycatch, will compare every application submitted for entry next year with thousands posted on websites and 1.5 million from previous years.

If three sentences or more - 10% of the statement - appears to have been copied, the form will be passed to staff for further scrutiny.

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