Paying My Respects To The Pens With Pull-out Scrolls

By  Liam Stretch (he/him)

A report recently released to RNZ’s Checkpoint detailing information received through the Official Information Act showed that there had been a massive increase in cheating at universities across the country – five out of eight of our institutions, in fact. 

RNZ cited, “University of Canterbury had a 258 per cent increase in academic misconduct in 2020 compared to 2019. Lincoln University had a 104 per cent increase, Waikato University had a 61 per cent increase, Victoria University had a 21 per cent increase and Massey – 10 per cent”. 

Obviously, working from home during the pandemic had something to do with this dramatic data, but it got me wondering if I had ever cheated – the answer was yes, once… albeit, a Year 13 Religious Education internal exam. 

With that weight off my shoulders, I thought it was only fair that I expose the best cheating tool of them all and my one-time weapon of choice. I’m, of course, talking about the ultimate covert answering assistant tool, the pen with the spring-loaded pull-out tab. I must preface the remainder of this article with this, though – do not use this in your upcoming exams; those octogenarian supervisors have seen it all. Frankly, the outcomes of being caught cheating are not worth it. Insert American headmaster from a 2000’s kids’ show talking about a smudge on your permanent record. 

As shown in the accompanying picture, these pens are quite a common marketing tool, with the associated business’s details or facts enclosed within. To get a helping hand in a test, one simply would grab a glue stick and paper and record those essentials needed for an exam – often dates, names, citations etc. – and paste this onto the enclosed ‘pamphlet’. This would then be surreptitiously pulled out when the teacher had likely gotten deep into their game of computer chess. 

This was, however, one of the riskier plays when it came to a not-so-honest test result. Due to the spring within, there was a rather large chance that the paper would flick back to its chamber, leading to a click that would be amplified tenfold in a silent exam room. 

It ranked up there alongside the notes on the inside of a drink bottle label and the odd scrap of paper down your pants.  

In hindsight, it was not worth the effort because I seldom use the information I learnt in that class apart from when answering a ponderous puzzle at a quiz night or for context when watching a Dan Brown inspired film or anything on the History Channel. I’ve also carried this burden for many years, and that weighs you down, man. 

So, now, to those cheaters at our fine institution. If you find that you have to cheat to get a university degree, you may want to stop lol; it’s not a good look. 

As a side note, why do engineers get to bring a cheat sheet? If you have never seen one of these, picture size six font on an A4 sheet covering everything from fulcrums to beams. I had to recall the entire Socratic Method just from my brain, and they say arts degrees are easy, scoff.