# What websites allow students to purchase solutions to problems?

I am a college instructor who's just had an outbreak of academic dishonesty connected to students posting take-home exam problems on a platform called Chegg. Chegg collects a membership fee from students and uses it to pay contractors to answer their homework and exam problems, no questions asked.

I could editorialize on the line of Chegg being a scurrilous company that lives off of liquidating whatever trust and integrity still exist in academia while exploiting contractors who seem to be mainly from the developing world, but more important is that I currently know of no other websites where students can as easily receive complete solutions to problems quickly.

For instance, on Mathematics (Stack Exchange site), "problem statement questions" are generally closed immediately, while other platforms I'm aware of are mainly forums with a small population of volunteer participants capable of solving problems beyond the high school curriculum.

Are there other sites comparably problematic to Chegg that other instructors keep an eye on for students getting complete solutions to problems?

• Orthogonal to your comment, but perhaps useful: I make sure to put a copyright notice on all of my exams and other materials. Chegg (and other similar services---at least the ones that want to be seen as legit) are pretty responsive to requests that you remove copyrighted material. – Xander Henderson Jun 18 at 15:38
• @XanderHenderson: Chegg (and other similar services---at least the ones that want to be seen as legit) are pretty responsive to requests that you remove copyrighted material. Chegg has hundreds of the homework problems from my books, which have copyright notices in them. How would Chegg even know about the copyright notice? Students post cropped screenshots of questions. You own the copyright regardless of whether you include a notice. If you ask them to take it down, it's whac-a-mole. By the time you find out, dozens of students may have accessed the solution to an exam problem. – Ben Crowell Jun 18 at 15:47
• @XanderHenderson I agree that that's pretty optimistic. Chegg claims to also cooperate with academic dishonesty complaints, but they require a letter on official school letterhead from an administrator to do anything, and in my experience they don't take these things down even over a space of weeks, whereas to be relevant to my tests I would need a less than 1 hour response. Who sees Chegg as a legitimate service, anyway, and why should they care? It's a bare fig leaf over a pay-to-pass business, and in fact being viewed as "legitimate" would just mean they get less signups from students. – Kevin Arlin Jun 18 at 18:23
• @RustyCore I don't necessarily disagree in principle, but I think that would be very difficult to implement. What evidence does a professor giving an oral exam have that their assessments are fair and accurate, other than their word? Doesn't an oral exam massively disadvantage those with weaker skills in the language of instruction? Does the instructor ask all students the same questions? If so, then that opens up a lot of space for cheating; if not, then the instructor effectively has to write dozens of exams while trying to maintain fairness. – Kevin Arlin Jun 19 at 12:36
• I deleted the most obviously-off-topic comments here. I'd also like to encourage everyone who has an answer to the question in mind to post an answer rather than a comment. Mini-answers in comments don't work very well, since they can't be voted on properly, can't have their own comment threads, and suppress others from posting answers. – Chris Cunningham Jun 20 at 21:07

Some of Chegg's competitors are Studyblue, Course Hero, Slader, and Cramster. However, Chegg is the market leader by a mile.

It's a little difficult to sort out which of these businesses actually sell solutions, because they don't admit they do that. For example, the NY Times did a softball interview recently with Chegg's CEO, where they asked, "Many teachers believe that their students are using Chegg as a means by which to cheat. Is this a problem? And if so, what are you doing about it?" He answered with lies and evasions:

It’s always been a problem for colleges. Let’s face it: Students have always found a way, whether it’s in fraternities, or whether they go to Google. But Chegg is not built for that. We have built technology that removes copyrighted material before it even gets posted. If we’re notified by a professor or a school that there’s copyrighted material, it immediately gets flagged and then removed.

(None of this is true. Chegg is built for that, and their entire business model is based on illegal use of copyrighted material, i.e., the questions themselves. The publishers tried to get Chegg to take down copyright-violating material, and ultimately gave up because it was like whac-a-mole.)

I would actually love to see a careful, impartial analysis of which web sites do what and how their business models work, but I haven't been able to find one. It's pretty difficult to know exactly what they're doing unless you pay for an account yourself. But just anecdotally, in my department the issues are 100% Chegg. It's especially bad now that we have the campus quarantined, so that all tests have to be take-home. One of my colleagues found all of his finals on Chegg last semester. He ended up not grading the finals and assigning projects instead. The consensus in my department seems to be that starting next semester we'll start just doing a half-hour, synchronous quiz every week, instead of big exams. This will hopefully make it harder for students to post exam questions on Chegg and get answers in time.

In comments, Peter Saveliev wrote:

They are just exposing some pre-existing problems in academia.

I don't think this is true at all. When I started teaching in 1996, problems with students cheating on homework were minor and intermittent. It was easy to nip it in the bud if you cared enough to read any student work. Today it's a qualitatively different environment. In classes where professors continue to count homework as a significant portion of students' grades, cheating is nearly universal. It's very corrosive, because students come to believe that they can't compete on an even playing field if they don't cheat.

• @PeterSaveliev What exactly are you trying to argue here, anyway? Did somebody claim that cheating did not exist as a problem before Chegg? You can comment on anything you like, but you're not contributing anything to the discussion here. – Kevin Arlin Jun 18 at 18:27
• Thanks for the helpful info, Ben. That's a very frustrating interview to look at. I wonder if somebody at the Chronicle would be interested in doing a halfway-decent investigation. – Kevin Arlin Jun 18 at 18:28
• "He ended up not grading the finals and assigning projects instead." How were these projects administered? I ask because a colleague of mine did the same thing, even gave oral exam follow-up questions to each student, but found the project posted and solved on Chegg. I fear that without timed proctoring, this is an arms race we are going to lose. [Even with proctoring, Googling finds multiple Reddit threads aimed at how to cheat a timed, proctored online exam.] – Nick C Jun 19 at 17:23
• "But Chegg is not built for that. We have built technology that removes copyrighted material before it even gets posted." On the same page that I found one of my exam questions posted, there were others with things like "Rutgers Official Final Exam 2020" clearly printed on them. So, no...Chegg is not putting much work into filtering this out. – Nick C Jun 19 at 17:52

If you are teaching algebra or calculus courses, Mathway and Symbolab have algorithms that allow paying users to see full solutions with steps shown. The algorithms often do strange things that no human would do, which allows you to catch students who use them.

For example I gave the following question:

Use the comparison test to show that this series converges: $$\sum_{n=1}^\infty \frac{n+4}{n^3 + 4}$$

Symbolab* starts by comparing the fraction to $$\frac{1}{(2n+1)^2}$$ (???).

A few of my students made the same comparison. That gave me enough evidence to start looking into their other answers, which of course were also copied from various online sources. This was enough evidence to open academic integrity cases against them.

*: I think it was Symbolab. I let my subscriptions run out for the summer, so I can't check it again right now.

• Thanks. Wolfram Alpha is also well known to do this kind of thing; I hadn't even imagined trying to actually catch stuff like this. Kudos to you for making the effort. – Kevin Arlin Jun 19 at 1:43
• When you have one student make a weird comparison, you shrug and wonder what they were thinking. When three students make the same weird comparison, it's time to subscribe to Symbolab. – Chris Cunningham Jun 19 at 2:53

Not organised sites like Chegg but I try to keep an eye on several sources.

• Freelance "teachers" who solve exercises, sometimes somehow disguised as classes - classes where your exercises are solved. They can be found by Googling the name of the subject and "exams", the name of the institution or the exercise. It's easier in languages other than English because the first pages of results in English get flooded with banks of exercises and other legitimate resources. A few examples in Spanish: "exams by WhatApp", "we solve assessment exercises".
• WhatApp groups (or similar media): Although that isn't a commercial service solving exams, I've seen class WhatsApp groups where results circulate freely and exercises that are supposed to be solved individually (including exams) became a team assignment. Some independent tutors often take part on these groups in order to publicise their for pay classes - with different levels of spam.

However, keeping an eye on those groups - and even sneaking into WhatsApp groups or forums where professors aren't expected to be - just served me to confirm the obvious fact that students cheat when they can cheat. How to solve that is probably out of the scope of the question.

• Should private tutoring be considered cheating? Indeed, if a payed tutor does the homework while the students play video games, that's unethical. But if the paid tutor assists the students while the students do the homework themselves, why would that be unethical? – vsz Jun 19 at 13:57
• As far as I see, there exists the whole range of services, from explaining the concepts to just sending the completed homework. However, if the homework is graded for accuracy, it's a take home exam. However, guilty lies on the system that grades this way - or at least, that weights grades on a way that favours that kind of cheating. – Pere Jun 19 at 14:30
• @vsz: it depends on how you define "assist". Submitting someone else's work is always unethical. – Martin Argerami Jun 21 at 4:23
• @vsz I think your question is one worth asking as a separate question. – Amy B Jun 27 at 19:31

one that hasn't been mentioned is Slader. I only learned about it through this article on cheating in a Princeton math course: https://www.dailyprincetonian.com/article/2020/05/princeton-teaching-assistant-math-department-slader-mat202-academic-integrity-cheating-covid

• Slader organizes its solutions to homework problems by textbook, so if instructors assign homework problems not from a specified textbook (create their own problems or use resources that are simply not identified or easy to figure out) then the Slader site is made irrelevant. – KCd Jun 29 at 14:03