Students known as 'high achievers' are more likely to cheat in their exams than dropouts, according to a new study.
Previously it was held that lower-level students had more to gain from cheating.
However, smart kids who took highly competitive courses were in fact more likely to try their luck, the study found.
Research also showed girls were just as likely to swindle their results as boys - with half of all cheating being done by 'repeat offenders'.
It is traditionally difficult to get accurate statistics on cheating because most students won't admit to it.
Self-reports suggest that less than 50 per cent of university students cheat at some point in their academic career.
For decades it has been assumed lower-level students were more likely to do it but researchers from the University of Guelph in Ontario found the opposite was true.
'In a physiology-based department, we had a concern that students were altering written tests and resubmitting them for higher grades; thereby compromising the integrity of our primary assessment style', researchers wrote in their paper.
Regrading - submitting an unaltered exam for another look by the professor - is a common practice offered to students who think their original grade was not accurate.
The research team scanned more than 3,600 original exams from 11 undergraduate physiology-based courses to determine how frequently academic misconduct was committed.
They examined 448 resubmitted tests for additions or deletions of text or additional markings that were not present on the original exams.
The researchers found 78 cases of cheating, almost half of which were submitted by 'repeat offenders' - students who had cheated on more than one test during the study period.
The difference between male and female cheaters was insignificant.
Two-thirds of the cases of academic misconduct were identified in one highly competitive course.
'Our results point to high-achieving students as a specific group who may be more likely to commit these acts and show no indication that men are more frequent offenders than women, which goes against much of the existing [academic misconduct] literature,' the researchers wrote.
'Vigilance should be employed by all faculty who accept tests for regrading', researchers said.
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