Please help - I may be falsely accused of cheating on an AP Calculus AB Exam

The day before, I had been studying with my sister for our AP Exams, and we usually go walking to quiz each other on exam content. During those walking sessions, we usually write down notes on our arms and visible parts of my legs, especially our ankles, so that we can look at it whenever and therefore not be burdened by flashcards or textbooks. This is also a superstition we picked up from TikTok-- people wrote Grabovoi numbers to “manifest” what they wanted. I don’t believe in it, but my sister and I do it as a little weird bonding thing. Anyway, I erased the content on my arms this morning, and while I had erased content from my legs, I had neglected my ankles.

I walked in to take the test, forgetting that I still had it on my ankles. I only realized after one of the exam proctors asked me to stay after the end of the test to ask about the writing. I explained to them the issue, and they also acknowledged that I never looked at my ankles even once. I didn’t even go to the bathroom during the break-- my friends can verify that. I was always in public view, and I never looked down at my ankle. Ever.

I would really not like this ludicrous mistake to result in cancellation of the rest of my AP scores, or even worse, have this permanently on my record, being sent out to colleges, or result in me not being able to take other College Board tests such as the SAT. I understand that cancellation of this particular AP test score is inevitable.

After doing some research, this is what I have seen:

“College Board will prohibit individuals from taking the SAT, SAT Subject Tests, CLEP, or AP Exams when we conclude they have deliberately gained or attempted to gain or share an unfair advantage on any College Board test, or otherwise threatened the integrity of the test. Examples include viewing or capturing images with a cell phone on test day or being caught with a “cheat sheet” containing test content, answer keys, or other content that would provide an unfair advantage.”

The part I am focusing on is the word “deliberately” and “attempted”. I have done neither of those; this happened due to neglect. I have not shared any information, I have not used the written information to gain an advantage-- moreover, it would have been extremely impossible to look at the writing on the ankle. Had I even attempted to cheat, I would have been caught looking at my ankle at a very unnatural position. There is absolutely no possible way that I would have written very obvious Calculus formulas with thick sharpie on a bare ankle with short socks, all the while contorting my body while sitting in the open around multiple proctors roaming around. Cheating while looking at the writing would have been impossible.

Moreover, I found this article, and it says this:
If you’re accused of cheating on the SAT or ACT, don’t worry: your life is not over. You will not be banned from retesting, and colleges will not be told you cheated. You can still get into college! I repeat, the College Board and ACT don’t tell colleges you are an accused cheater or tamper with your college application process in any other way.

The worst case scenario is that your score is canceled, and you have to pay to retest (which would likely only happen if you were accused of cheating at the test site). The more likely scenario is your score is canceled, and you have a free retest. Both of these scenarios are not ideal, but both are a lot better than being banned from testing and having colleges be told by the College Board or ACT that you’re a cheater.

Does this apply to AP Exams?

The fact of the matter is that this is so out of the blue for me. I have never cheated on or been accused of cheating on tests before in my entire life. I’m a good student. I’ve never had a history of breaking the rules or being a generally immoral person. I’ve taken multiple AP Exams before. I’ve scored well. I am an academically honest person and am known for being good. I do not do stuff like this. All the people who’ve known me can vouch for this. Many teachers I know will also stand up for me, because they know that I am many things but NEVER a cheater.

How do I prove that I did not attempt to cheat? Will this ruin my whole life?

I think your test score is going to be cancelled. It may be true, but I find your story to be unbelievable, so I suspect that any person involved in making the decision will come to the same conclusion.

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I am fine with my test score being cancelled. Will it affect my college admissions and will I be banned from testing despite all of the evidence that the proctors and the other students have that say I never looked at the writing?

And I have no idea what else to say. That is the truth and the whole truth. And if anything, the rest of the post where I explain how impossible it would have been to cheat with the numbers being written on my ankle should be even more proof about how I did not write them with the intent to cheat. Look up Grabavoi numbers. People write them on their wrist, and we picked it up from that.

I totally hear you. But the story is… unbelievable. And I don’t mean that as “Wow, that’s so cool, so weird, it’s unbelievable!!!” I mean it as not believable.

I did a LOT of math studying, and equation-based science for my degrees. And I NEVER did a “walk and talk, and let’s write equations on our skin” review. Not because it’s not a cute idea, but because it’s not a PRACTICAL way to review. Review sessions meant big tables, and paper on which to write out the equations, and work the problems - kind of like what one might be doing when one was actually doing the test!

Again, I’m not saying you are not telling the truth. I’m just telling you that what you have related is unbelievable, meaning not believable. But I do think that the worst consequence you will face is that your score will be cancelled. If you’re a senior, your colleges will only care about whether or not your grade in the class has fallen too low. If you’re a junior, I doubt that they would look at your good grade in the class, and ask, “Why didn’t she take the AP exam?”

I don’t think that it will be more than that. Other students vouching for you is meaningless - they were working on their own tests, not monitoring you. The proctor didn’t need to catch you looking at your ankles - it was enough that you carried in information with you that compromised the integrity of your test.

That being said, I do think that the worst thing that could happen is your test being cancelled. They’re opening themselves up to a HUGE liability if they notify colleges.

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Oh yeah, the wording makes it seem like I solved multi step U substitution problems on my ankles. It was just like those basic derivatives that I had to memorize. But yes, I understand. If the only thing they’ll do is cancel my test score, I am completely and totally fine with that. Thank you SO much for clarifying- I’ve been extremely worried.

I think the worst case is that your score will be canceled, and I’d bet more likely than not that it will be, especially if the proctor reported it to CB. They don’t take any chances. A similar situation happened when I was taking the BC Calculus exam a few years ago. During our break, I was excused to use the bathroom. However, unbeknownst to me, another student had placed their backpack in the restroom (we had it in our gymnasium, so the bathrooms were large inside the locker room), and apparently used it to cheat during the exam by putting his notebook and formula sheets inside of it by accessing it during trips to the bathroom. I had absolutely no clue that this had happened until after the test, and everyone who had left the room during any part of the testing administration had their scores canceled out of an abundance of caution, and I had to retake the exam a few weeks later.

I was assured that I would not have this put on my permanent record and that CB wouldn’t be reporting it to colleges when I had to send scores. It didn’t seem to impact my college application process, as I got into a few T20s and LACs (WashU, Vandy, Notre Dame, Pomona, Emory). I have a hard time thinking that I would have still gotten in with some kind of integrity mark on your record.

In the long run, you’ll be fine. In the short term, you’ll have to have the inconvenience of retaking the test. I’m not usually one to pass judgment, but I’m not exactly sold on your explanation of innocence. If I was a teacher and this was a normal in-class test, I’d likely let you off this time, but my suspicions would be piqued the rest of the year during assessments.

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I believe you. But before the test you could access the numbers on your ankles so it is hard not to surmise that access would be possible during the exam. Possible. I am not saying you did access them. Unfortunately, I have learned, actions matter more than intentions in this kind of thing. Objectively you had access to the numbers on your ankles and subjectively noone can tell if you did. I really hope you meet with understanding. Retake the test and make sure it isn’t on your record, which is sounds like it isn’t. It may be considered an irregularity in the test administration.

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If collegeboard decides that you were cheating, they will unfortunately notify any colleges that you apply to according to my teacher.

I think the OP is being viewed more like the student with the backpack, than the student, like you, who just went to the bathroom. So not sure but @hellothere101111 may be right about CB notifying schools. The OP needs to find that out and prepare explanations in that case.

Was there evidence of washing the numbers off the arms? That would at least support the story.

I still have faded marks of marker on my wrist that obviously look a couple of days old. Would that help?

It is extremely unlikely CB will report this to colleges. I’d be more concerned if the AP test happened at/during school, and the school took disciplinary action on their own on top of whatever CB does. THAT could be potentially reported to colleges.

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It did happen at my base school, but I do online school now. I don’t know what disciplinary action they might take, especially if both the proctors said they believed me but they have to report it anyway. I’m hoping you’re right about CB not reporting this to colleges. They won’t ban me testing other exams, too right?

The faded marks on your wrist at least support your story, which otherwise seems to have a credibility problem. But then it would still be hard to believe you didn’t see the marks on your ankle when showering or getting dressed. I believe you, but others might still have to act on this as if the numbers on the ankle were intentional. I think you will get a lot of sympathy but policies are still followed unfortunately. Find out what the consequences are for you, first.

Another thread involving cheating was recently resolved when the family talked to a lawyer. They never had to retain the lawyer, but just mentioned to the school that they had talked to one.

Is it possible that other students could have read your ankles? Sometimes there is a “test irregularity” that doesn’t actually blame anyone. In that case the whole class has to take the test over again though.

The other issue is that the formulas were visible to people sitting around you. I don’t think additional faded sharpie on your arms helps your story at all - especially if it was still readable. And I find it incredibly hard to believe you “erased” your arms and legs, but forgot your ankles - they are attached to your legs and all. I have no insight on whether CB will allow you to sit for further exams, but if I was the proctor I’d absolutely report it as cheating. And you really can’t rely on anyone attesting that you never looked at your ankles. Your friends presumably spent the majority of the time looking at their own test, and the proctor wouldn’t be able to spend the entire time just watching you.

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No, they couldn’t read exactly what was on my ankles. They just saw that something was on it, and they had to wait until the very end to ask. Even I couldn’t read what was on it.

As I replied to @compmom, no, they couldn’t read exactly what was on my ankles. They just saw that something was on it, and they had to wait until the very end to ask. Even I couldn’t read what was on it.

Also, I was wearing long sleeves and long skinny jeans. The faded formulas on my arm weren’t visible to anyone. And the ones on my ankle were literally only visible at the end to the proctor and me AFTER the test was done.

Sorry to keep adding things, but there were like 7 or 8 proctors, not just one. If they thought I was being suspicious, they would’ve kept watching me too. And they said they never saw me look at it themselves, I’m not just saying this.

Your fate is in the proctors’ hands now. It all depends on how seriously they take it. Was there a lead proctor/supervisor? Did they say anything in absolute terms? (Along the lines of “I have to alert your dean/principal” or “There will be some consequences”) If they think that you were cheating I think there would be serious pushback from both college board and your school. Moreover, this year especially I think that cheating accusations are going to be harsher from both sides.

Honestly… things aren’t looking too good for you. I know that I am talking worst case scenario, and personally, I believe your story, but this is a serious allegation and you have a right to know what could happen. Emphasis on could. I’m not trying to scare you or make you lose hope, just telling what I know.

Maximum the school board could do is disciplinary action + a mark on your transcript. I think College Board is the one you should be afraid of.

Before the AP exams, you definitely signed your test book agreeing to the terms of conditions. There’s 2 major things that you should know.

College board explicitly bans what you’ve done.

Having subject-related information on your clothing, shoes, or body.

And you can’t make a case against them or fight for your innocence. While you could fight a school cheating mark, college board have covered themselves pretty well.

All disputes between you and College Board will be resolved through binding arbitration in accordance with Section 8 of this Agreement. You understand that by agreeing to arbitration, you are waiving your right to resolve disputes in a court of law by a judge or jury except as otherwise set forth in this Agreement.

Terms and Conditions

College Board’s view on punishment:

The duration of an individual’s ban may vary depending on the circumstances and severity of the violation, as determined by College Board. College Board reserves the right to share information, including the names of banned test takers, with their attending high schools and interested higher education institutions.

If your proctors follow the manual, they have to report this to college board, with full detail.

I’m hoping that none of this happens. That you learn your lesson but walk away scot free. Unfortunately, it’s all up in the air. There’s nothing you could do now. If nothing happens and the proctors take pity on your situation, count your blessings and move on. I don’t know what to tell you if things get serious.

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The proctors did not say anything along those lines. They just said “I believe you, but CollegeBoard doesn’t play around” and that they said they’ll add that I never looked at the ankle.

That is very scary. I can’t appeal the ban either?