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Bangkok students' cheating ring goes 'Mission Impossible'

A group of students involved in a cheating scandal for the Thai medical exam used technology that would not have been out of place in a Hollywood heist movie, say officials at Thailand's Rangsit University in Bangkok.

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A picture showing Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej is seen on a street in Bangkok, Thailand. A group of prospective medical school students have been caught cheating on entrance exams to Rangsit University in Bangkok, school officials said.

Jorge Silva/Reuters

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Entrance exams for one Thai university have been suspended after being exposed as part of a high-tech cheating ring.

Over the weekend, exam proctors at Rangsit University in Bangkok identified three students cheating during the entrance exam for the College of Medicine and Faculties of Dental Medicine and Pharmacy. The students were using eyeglasses equipped with cameras and smartwatches to communicate with tutors in real time.

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Medical degrees are extremely competitive in Thailand, as the country has become a global hub for medical treatments.

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"The university has put the three students on the blacklist and they won't be able to apply for seats with us again,” Rector Arthit Ourairat, who broke news of the scandal, told the Bangkok Post. “I cannot say whether they will be allowed to take exams at other universities."

The students developed a complex scheme to gather the test questions and receive answers that wouldn't have been out of place in a blockbuster heist movie. 

During the exam, students are allotted three hours for each subject and all students taking the test must remain in the room for at least 45 minutes after the exams are handed out.

In those 45 minutes, the cheating students used wireframe glasses equipped with cameras in the frames to capture images of each test question, school officials say. They then left the tests after 45 minutes and met up with another accomplice waiting outside who downloaded the test questions to a computer and sent them to a tutoring institution, or several, according to the Bangkok Post.

After that the students resume their tests. Answers for each questions were sent in code to the students smartwatches.

One of the students admitted to paying 50,000 baht, or roughly $1,400, as a deposit with a promise of paying 800,000 baht ($22,704.38 USD) if he passed the exam.

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The exam proctors became suspicious when they noticed an unusual proportion of students wearing glasses, Reuters reported. University officials confiscated one of the smartwatches Saturday morning and another in the afternoon session. The third student was caught Sunday, after all proctors were notified of the scheme.

"We want this to be known in public to make people aware that we must be careful, particularly for medical exams where there is high demand among students but not many vacancies," Dr. Arthit told China's News 3.

Arthit broke the news of the cheating scandal via Facebook on Sunday.

Reactions for those outside the university varied from condemnation to lightheartedness.

“Real sad right now, and there was no medical quality without ethics,” one Facebook user responded.

"Cool," wrote another user, according to MSN news. "Like Hollywood or Mission Impossible."

Further entrance exams at Rangsit University have been cancelled for the season while university officials investigate.