I Cheated On a Test–and I Regret It Majorly
I've always gotten good grades, but not always for the right reasons.
It seemed I was more driven by the desire to do the best and not my best. I wanted to get the highest grade, not gain the most knowledge. But can you blame me? Sometimes school feels like a series of tests invented to torture us seven hours a day.
So, during a total moment of weakness, I cheated on a test. All at once I made a huge mistake and learned a valuable lesson.
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The class was chemistry, and my teacher, who I'll refer to as Mr. Teapot* (this was a joke between me and my best friend–you had to be there), was the classic chemistry teacher. You know, the kind of boring, nasally, monotone character in a television show who can't possibly be real, but is. Every day he wore short sleeve button-up shirts tucked into his khaki pants. His glasses had never been in style and he practically interrogated a student if they asked to be excused to the bathroom.
But Mr. Teapot was a good teacher. He loved chemistry. He loved it so much that he put up with students–who he didn't seem to like quite as much–just so he could talk about molecules and reactions all day long.
I always did my homework and, for one of the first times in my life, it was because I actually had fun doing it and not just because it was a graded assignment. I enjoyed picking through the words, scrambling the information until it made sense, and finding answers in tables full of funny names like Selenium–which totally sounds like a pop star element.
The chapter test was on Friday. Teapot's tests were notoriously hard but I wasn't worried because I had studied so much I could solve the problems in my sleep.
I was feeling confident up until Friday morning. Word had spread that the test was impossible and everyone was flunking it. Even though I studied and totally understood the topic, I was starting to doubt myself. I couldn't stand the idea of this test weighing down my GPA.
A whisper was making rounds that Erin*, one of the smartest girls in Teapot's other period, had jotted the test answers on a slip of notebook paper. My friend Ryan* had the slip. And he was asking if I wanted it.
Suddenly I felt like the knowledge was escaping me like a leak I couldn't patch up. I couldn't remember the steps but had the element name, Selenium, looped on repeat like a song you can't get out of your head. I panicked. And I took the test answers.
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"Okay," I told myself, shaking nervously, "You'll only look at the answers if you get stuck. You'll only use the cheat sheet to check yourself."
I had never cheated on a test before. Sure, maybe I'd copied a friend's homework once or twice when I ran out of time, but I had never ever cheated in class, in front of the teacher, on a huge test.
I looked down at the exam, which was color-coded so every other student had a different version. Every question utilized the step-by-step equation that had dissolved from my brain only hours before. But I closed my eyes and pictured the chalkboard full of Mr. Teapot's chicken-scratch handwriting. Slowly, I worked my way through the first problem. I was doing it! I didn't need the dumb cheat sheet. I had this. Until I looked down.
They say to never look down and this is why: instant, heart-stopping fear. I made the irreversible mistake of glancing at the cheat sheet that I had slid under my test. I had bubbled in A and Erin had written D.
It couldn't be. I was so sure of myself.
In that moment I was faced with the decision of trusting myself or trusting the reputation of a stranger. I sort of knew Erin because I had taken Spanish with her the year before. It was true, she was really smart and always got good grades. I didn't know anything else about her, but for some reason I trusted her more than myself.
I erased my answer and bubbled in D. That's when everything went downhill. I tried to go back to my plan of solving the equation before checking the cheat sheet but I couldn't. Any ounce of composure I had maintained went out the window when Erin and I had conflicting answers.
I battled over every question. Change it to Erin's answer or keep my own? In the end I copied all of her answers with sweat beading at my hairline.
I had to wait for the perfect moment to turn in my test so that I could discretely cram the cheat sheet into my backpack before Mr. Teapot could see. Our tables were lab stations and our chairs were metal stools. Basically, it wasn't easy to hide. I finally stood abruptly, but as I went to take a step, my foot got caught on a leg of the stool causing the seat and I to fall flat on the floor. As if out of a movie, the slip of answers floated into the air and wafted gently to the tile floor like a feather.
I almost came clean right then and there, from the cold floor of the chemistry lab. But as I looked up to confess, Teapot still had his eyes on his desk, no doubt flunking students from earlier periods. I grabbed the slip and stuffed it into my pocket. Classmates were smirking from my truly embarrassing fall. I bolted to my teacher's desk and profusely apologized for the commotion. I hovered probably too long trying to look completely innocent.
A week later Mr. Teapot handed back my test with a big red C- next to my name. Never in my life had I gotten a bad grade before. I mean, to me a bad grade was anything lower than a B. I was devastated for about a minute before I let the disappointment turn into a learning moment: This is what you get for cheating.
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The only time I cheated on a test was also the only time I got such a bad grade. I would never find out what happened with that answer sheet, because word on the street was that Erin got an A. Had she mistaken the test version she took? Had she deliberately marked the wrong answers? Had I ignored her answers, would I have gotten a better grade?
It was too late for these answers to make a difference. But at least I learned my lesson: Always trust yourself.
*Names have been changed.
Cheating on a test is something you will never forget. You know what else never escapes your memory, no matter how hard you try? Your first kiss. Especially when it's as awkward as THIS first kiss story.