Not often, but often enough, questions such as this one appear on the site: https://math.stackexchange.com/questions/4658795/im-in-quiz-i-need-asap-help

This question is either a blatant troll, or it is a person trying to cheat on an exam using the site. What is the appropriate course of action for such questions? So far, I have always not only downvoted them and voted to close them, I have also flagged them as in need of moderator attention. I think this is the correct response as it is clearly and harmfully against the spirit of the site. And usually, my flags were accepted, such as this one https://math.stackexchange.com/questions/4128979.

However, the first link I posted was rejected. OK, fine, so we are not flagging cheaters for moderator attention. What do we do then? Just downvote and vote to close? That feels like too soft of an approach...

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    $\begingroup$ asap indicates that the user might be cheating in a timed test. Maybe the moderator didn't think it was conclusive evidence, and only closing was appropriate. $\endgroup$
    – D S
    Mar 15, 2023 at 15:58
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    $\begingroup$ Violation of the spirit of the site seems like it would be the least of concern. It is a violation of academic integrity for everyone involved. $\endgroup$
    – Joseph
    Mar 15, 2023 at 17:42
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    $\begingroup$ That was just one rejected flag, which is not enough evidence that similar flags will be rejected. Having said that, I am baffled that it was rejected. One can always reference semantics but this question isn't one of the apparently subtle cases, it can be culled for more than a myriad reasons. $\endgroup$ Mar 15, 2023 at 18:03
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    $\begingroup$ As has been stated numerous times in the past, we cannot adjudicate accusations of cheating. Attempts to cheat on exams are not within the remit of site moderators. If you don't like the fact that people are using Math SE to cheat (1) vote to close (and delete) suspected attempts to cheat and (2) support policies on the site which should serve to decrease cheating, e.g. voting to close low quality questions in general. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Mar 15, 2023 at 20:51
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    $\begingroup$ Having looked at the question cited above, I am the one who handled the flags. By the time I saw the flags, the question had already been closed. The role of moderators on this site is to handle cases which cannot be easily handled by the community. In this case, standard votes-to-close effectively dealt with the question. There was not any need for moderator intervention. The system works! $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Mar 15, 2023 at 20:57
  • $\begingroup$ Possibly related: math.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/16774/… $\endgroup$
    – bobeyt6
    Mar 16, 2023 at 0:38
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    $\begingroup$ @bobeyt6 It is potentially related, but that policy has to do with situations where (1) there is a publicly viewable problem set, (2) there are publicly viewable rules which prohibit getting help here, and (3) there is a cutoff date. Cheating on exams usually fails on the first two. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Mar 16, 2023 at 1:05
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    $\begingroup$ A publicly viewable exam problem set usually don't exists, you must be at least a participant of the course to view the exam problems, and it may require payment. I once flagged leaked exam questions for mod attention, and they were deleted. Mods should understand the problem and react, even if this is not their direct responsibility. An official letter from university (course organizers) comes too late. $\endgroup$
    – kludg
    Mar 16, 2023 at 10:39
  • $\begingroup$ @postmortes ... by examining the flagged post? That's what flags are for, right? $\endgroup$
    – 5xum
    Mar 16, 2023 at 14:33
  • $\begingroup$ @postmortes It is a problem in conspiracy theory only. $\endgroup$
    – kludg
    Mar 16, 2023 at 14:58

1 Answer 1


I think that this remark in an answer to "Contest problem" policy applies here as well:

... we believe that the responsibility for the integrity of an exam, contest, competition, etc. ultimately falls on the shoulders of the organizers.

and even the authors of on-going contest problems are not “punished” for “cheating,” only the question might be temporarily locked under very specific conditions.

Therefore I would handle such question as any low-quality and off-topic question that do not meet the standards of this site.

Downvoting and voting to close should be sufficient in most cases. Usually such blatantly bad questions are closed quickly and later deleted (either by delete votes or by automatic deletion scripts). If that does not happen for some reason then you can suggest the question for closure/deletion in the CURED chat room.

In addition, I suggest to leave comments which explain to the user why their question is off-topic on this site. We have a list of comment templates with canned comments for many situations.

For a “solve this for me” question: https://math.meta.stackexchange.com/a/19973/42969

Welcome to [math.se] SE. Take a [tour]. You'll find that simple "Here's the statement of my question, solve it for me" posts will be poorly received. What is better is for you to add context (with an [edit]): What you understand about the problem, what you've tried so far, etc.; something both to show you are part of the learning experience and to help us guide you to the appropriate help. You can consult this link for further guidance.

For problems posted as pictures/screenshots https://math.meta.stackexchange.com/a/20529/42969:

Please do not use pictures for critical portions of your post. Pictures may not be legible, cannot be searched and are not view-able to some, such as those who use screen readers. I have [edit]ed your question to reflect this principle.

and https://math.meta.stackexchange.com/a/4928/42969:

For some basic information about writing mathematics at this site see, e.g., basic help on mathjax notation, mathjax tutorial and quick reference, main meta site math tutorial and equation editing how-to.

If such a blatantly off-topic question gets answered (which might prevent automatic deletion) then this comment to the answer can be appropriate https://math.meta.stackexchange.com/a/33600/42969:

This question seems not to meet the standards for the site. Instead of answering it, it would be better to look for a good duplicate target, or help the user by posting comments suggesting improvements. Please also read the meta announcement regarding quality standards.

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    $\begingroup$ I have my own set of comments I usually give to such low effort questions, yes. But I thought some additional action should be taken against cases of academic dishonesty... $\endgroup$
    – 5xum
    Mar 16, 2023 at 9:11
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    $\begingroup$ @5xum: Yes, I know what you mean, and we all feel that this is dishonest and an abuse of MSE. As Xander Henderson said above, moderators can not judge all cheating attempts. And the only penalty (a temporary suspension) would probably have no effect on “dishonest” users, as they might simply create a new account. – I have added a reference to math.meta.stackexchange.com/a/16775/42969 where it is also argued that it is not the responsibility of MSE users/moderators to punish cheating. $\endgroup$
    – Martin R
    Mar 16, 2023 at 10:03

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