Australian schools dis-koala-fy Apple Watch from exam halls

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The Apple Watch is gorgeous (and comfy, too).
On test day, leave your Apple Watch at home.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

The University of New South Wales in Australia is the latest school to tell students that wrist-worn devices, especially smartwatches like Apple Watch, are not welcome during exams.

Administrators issued the ban to get ahead of any possibility that the new gadgets could be used to cheat.

UNSW issued the updated rules today, which say that “Due to advances in watch technologies, the UNSW exams rules have been updated: No wrist or handheld watches are to be worn or placed on your desk during exams.” The university requires students who do bring forbidden devices into tests to place them “in a clear, resealable bag under [their] exam chair before the exam begins.”

This is just the latest move in schools’ battle against new and potentially cheat-enabling technology. Universities in the United Kingdom started dropping the ban hammer before the Apple Watch was even available, although other companies’ smartwatches were already out to ruin things for everybody. Administrators offered to provide students with plain, dumb clocks if they really needed to know what time it was.

In the United States, major standardized tests also ban wrist-tech of any kind from their testing centers. The SAT rules forbid “Any devices, including digital watches, that can be used to record, transmit, receive, or play back audio, photographic, text, or video content,” while the ACT’s list of prohibited behavior lists “using a watch with recording, internet, or communication capabilities.”

And those are just for college-entrance exams. Things get more serious at the graduate level, with the GRE rulebook stating:

Do not bring cell phones, smartphones (e.g., BlackBerry or iPhone devices), PDAs, digital watches, smartwatches, and other electronic, recording, listening, or photographic devices into the test center. If you do, you will be dismissed from the test, your test fees will be forfeited, and your scores will be canceled even if dismissal is not enforced on the day of the test.

That’s right: Not only might they kick you out, but could also nullify your test and pocket the $160 you paid to get in. And that’s just mean, but it provides a couple more reasons to take these rules seriously.

Most of these rules specify smartwatches, but in practice, you can probably expect that administrators will just go ahead and ban watches of any kind so that they don’t have to examine each one for intelligence.

If people ever start getting smart chips implanted in their heads, I can’t wait to see the tin-foil hats universities will make everyone wear.