Exam boards find it difficult to stay "ahead of the game" when it comes to pupils using modern technology to cheat, the chairman of an inquiry into exam malpractice has said.

The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) announced a review last week to tackle cheating, but emphasised that cases were "extremely rare".

However, Sir John Dunford, who will lead the independent inquiry, told the Daily Telegraph that exam boards were faced with "known unknowns".

He told the paper: "Traditional exam cheating is something the system has faced for generations. The exam boards, schools and colleges are alert to it."

But he questioned how the system could be made future-proof, saying: "That is to say, thinking about the implications of technology that is just around the corner.

"I think it is not easy for the exam boards to keep ahead of the game."

Announcing the new commission, Mark Bedlow of the OCR exam board said: "Malpractice that is deliberate is still extremely rare.

"But we are seeing the occasional story pop up and it is getting profile and we are also seeing students increasingly use technology in different ways."

He added that a lot of work was already done to combat malpractice, but that more could be done to look at issues such as the role of social media, and to understand the reasons for cheating.

Official figures show that last year, 2,715 penalties were issued to candidates (0.01 per cent), along with 895 to school staff and 120 to schools and colleges.

Exam boards said the inquiry was not a response to any particular issue, but part of ongoing work to prevent malpractice.

Work on the inquiry will begin in September, with a final report published next spring.