University of Waterloo officials said a 26-year-old PhD student at Toronto's York University was contacted by the first-year student through a website connecting international students to others who are willing to write exams for compensation.
The 20-year-old University of Waterloo student allegedly paid $900 to the York student, and provided a fake student ID so he could write her exam.
The pair's plan was discovered when university officials were alerted to a possible cheating scandal.
"We received a tip that this kind of thing may be happening," said Nick Manning, spokesman for the University of Waterloo.
Manning said the university upped its exam security, introducing mandatory student card scans, which would identify any fake documentation.
He said the new process spooked the cheater, who tried to make a run for it.
"As adjudicators were walking through the exam hall swiping the cards to check them against our systems, the individual got up... and attempted to leave the exam hall," said Manning.
The 26-year-old male was then arrested by members of the Waterloo Regional Police Service and charged with three counts of uttering forged documents and personation at examination.
The student he was writing the exam for has been charged with one count of uttering forged documents and personation at examination.
Unique pressures on international students
"I think this is a very very sad case," said Manning, highlighting the unique pressures placed on international students.
"They face particular stress and challenges to make sure they get their grades in order to maintain their status and all the pressures that go into university life," he said.
Still, Manning said the charges fit the alleged crime.
"It's one thing to cheat by writing notes on the back of your hand or trying to take pieces of paper into an exam to help you out," said Manning.
"Those circumstances are very different to seeking out and paying someone to impersonate you in an exam ... that moves into the criminal realm."