How to React to Being Caught Stealing a Test/Exam Key from a Professor’s Office

You know you shouldn’t be in here. You know you’re going to get caught, right? Professor Dickens would have you expelled if he saw you rifling through his desk drawers for the midterm test! But you’ve come this far. Deb is waiting outside, prepared to give a loud cough if she sees anyone coming, but that does little to ease your mind.

Sweat beads begin to drip off your forehead as you flip through a stack of papers. Nothing! Where is that test? You open drawer after drawer. Though you giggle when you come upon some laxatives and enemas, you quickly catch yourself and go back to the search.

You are about to open his laptop lid when you hear it: Deb starts coughing up a lung. You freeze. As Dickens walks into the room, briefcase in hand, you at least manage to slam the laptop lid shut and run out from behind his desk.

“Billy, what are you doing in here?!” exclaims Professor Dickens. “Can I help you?”

What possible reason could you have for being in the professor’s office without him? The next words out of your mouth could save you from explusion, so you need to choose your words extremely carefully.

  • Telling the truth, but in a joking fashion, is a good stall tactic, but you’re going to have to think of something else as a follow-up. “Oh, nothing much, just rifling through your drawers trying to find the mid-term! Ha ha.” Because why would you openly admit to such a crime? This at least gives you a few moments to think of a real reason why you were in the office.
  • Say “I was looking for you! I had a question about the exam. I saw you coming down the hall so I figured I’d just wait for you in here.”
  • Say “I knocked on the door and thought I heard you say something, so I walked in. I quickly realized it was just my imagination.”
  • Bend the interpretation of the professor’s “open door” policy. “Well, the syllabus said you had an open door policy, I thought that meant I could just hang out and wait for you.”
  • Telling the truth outright and admitting to it is also a gamble, but at least you won’t also be caught in an inevitable lie. Breaking out some tears may help your cause with a sob story of some sort. “I was going to steal the mid-term. I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me. I’m just trying so hard and failing in this class. I’ve never felt so hopeless!” as you wipe away tears and play his sympathy.
  • You could reach into your billfold and hand him some money. “Umm, here, it’s the $20 I owe you. I was just gonna leave it on your desk.”
  • You could hand him your entire wallet and say you found it outside his office door. “I found this in the hallway and thought it might be yours. I was going to set it on your desk.” You then have to hope he just tells you to turn it in to Lost and Found and doesn’t look through it and realize it’s yours.
  • Tell him you saw a cockroach or mouse scurry into his office and you were chasing it down. “That damn cockroach went right under the door. I was chasing him all over the building! Ugh, he got away. Well, keep an eye out.”
  • You could subtly grab the trash can and carry it away, pretending to be a new student custodian.
  • You could also run to the trash can and force vomit, claiming you were walking down the hall when you suddenly felt ill and bolted for the first door you could find.
  • Start with “well, this is a long story” and proceed to tell the most bizarre lie that comes to you off the top of your head.
  • You could blame it on another class, like “I was conducting a social experiment for my Psychology class to see how each professor would react to entering their office and finding me. You definitely had the most normal reaction. You should have seen Dr. Kleinsasser!”
  • Just pretend to be in the wrong room. “Oh, oops! I thought this was Dr. Hoven’s office. I was told to meet him here. My mistake!”
  • If you have time to hide, do so… if you’re caught, jump out and say “boo!” and scurry off, giggling so he thinks the whole thing was just a scare prank.
  • Say that you have a dark secret and feel you can confide in Dickens. “I have been abusing drugs and I need help. I just needed to talk to someone. I thought I could count on you.” Hopefully this overshadows the fact that you were just standing there in his office without him.
  • You could play it off like you’re high on drugs or very drunk and just stumble around saying nothing, picking up objects off shelves or lying down on the floor.
  • As an absolute last resort, which is definitely not recommended, you could ambush and rob the professor. If in your estimation, the punishment for aggravated robbery is lesser than being caught stealing an exam, you may consider this angle. Again, we at How To Do That do not condone this type of activity.

Regardless of what you say, your chances of getting out of this are slim-to-none. When you are caught in a college professor’s office without him or her present, you look extremely guilty, especially if there is a test coming up. It should be obvious to any educated person that your reason for being in the office is to steal the exam.

My Hot Take:
I once knew someone who regularly stole exams from the teacher’s desk and used them to cheat on tests… and STILL managed to fail because he couldn’t find a good way to memorize the test key. In the end, is it any easier to memorize a sequence of multiple choice letters than to just know the material? Probably not.

Also, if I put myself in the professor’s shoes, I’d see myself being more lenient on a student that told the truth about stealing the exam. That would take some courage.

If caught in your professor’s office while trying to steal the answer key to an exam, you’d better have one damn creative excuse.

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