How Not to Cheat on an NYU MidTerm Exam

I was a film major pursuing an economics minor and was getting my ass handed to me in a macroeconomics class. In a class consisting of mostly Indian and Chinese students, I was scoring average on every quiz, which was incredibly depressing.

I made friends with three students in the class.  We’d use each other to review notes and whatever.  It was strange because most of my friends in film school were creative and couldn’t care less about grades, but these guys were super competitive and would have pushed their grandmother in front of a bus in order to get an internship at Goldman Sachs.  

We were studying for a midterm exam worth 35% of our grade when Rishi, one of the guys from the group, revealed that through dubious methods, he had a gotten a copy of the test in advance.

Teddy, another member of our study group, protested.

“If we get caught, we’ll be expelled.”

Rishi countered.

“We should score a few points above our current average. Nobody will suspect anything.”

Jubran, the group pothead, jumped in.  

“It’s worth the risk. We have to do this!”

The plan seemed foolproof so I was in too.

We spent all night breaking down each question, figuring out which ones we were going to get wrong and which ones we were going to get right. For safety, we would each answer the test differently.

During the exam, the Chinese kid next to me looked like he was going to have a brain aneurysm and was surprised that I finished in under thirty minutes. I spent the last hour drawing pictures of cats with funny hats in my workbook. Afterwards, the four of us went to a bar in the West Village and celebrated.

The following week, the professor made an announcement.

“Your midterm results are posted online, but one person here got every question right, which has never happened in the history of me teaching this class. Jubran Patel, please stand up.”

This moron aced the exam.  He disregarded everything we agreed on.  I exchanged a look of disbelief with Rishi and Teddy.  This would have been OK if Jubran was an honor student. In reality, he had a C average, and had miraculously become John Maynard Keyes overnight.

Our worries were confirmed when Jubran informed us that the professor spoke to him after class and questioned if he cheated.  Jubran denied it, but the professor didn’t buy it, and Jubran had a second meeting scheduled with higher ups at the business school.  I remember Rishi called me at three o’clock in the morning in total freak out mode.

“We’re fucked.  Jubran is gonna rat us out.”

I was in shock too. I made the choice to cheat on an exam that had no relevance in my life.  I wasn’t even enrolled in the business school. I hated these loser friends. I hated myself for making a stupid decision that could have dire consequences. 

The next day, we anxiously waited in my dorm room while Jubran faced the jury.  Rishi was a nervous wreck while Teddy sullenly bounced a tennis ball against a wall like he was in a jail cell, awaiting a death sentence.

Suddenly, a knock on the door.  Jubran, all smiles, strolled in.

“We’re good. They can’t prove shit!”  

We collectively exhaled a sigh of relief, and thanked him for staying strong like he was a captured Navy Seal who resisted torture from the Viet Cong.  Even though it was his total selfishness that got us into this mess. 

The next semester I quit my econ minor.  I decided that three classes provided me with enough financial literacy to float me through life.  I also never talked to Rishi, Jubran or Teddy again as I had nothing in common with them.

I take responsibility for my actions and never cheated in school again but this experience reaffirmed a life theme that has consistently showed up in my life.  Who you surround yourself is important and can heavily influence thinking and actions. They either elevate or bring you down.

Choose carefully.