According to Russell, Street, & Haines (2008), Moral awareness, judgement and intention and action are the important factors in understanding many ethical decisions. Awareness is needed for a decision to have moral implications, an individuals reasoning determines the judgement and moral intention is required for a individual to to understand his/her moral action.
I think moral intent component of ethical decision making best explains students cheating. Moral intent is defined by a reflection of an authority's degree of commitment to the moral course of action (Colquit, Lepine, & Wesson, 2013). Students know that cheating is unethical but due to situation they intend to do cheating. Students cheat in the examination in order to gain the higher grades. In my view, every student knows and is aware that cheating is unethical. Yet, some still choose to cheat maybe because of their own personal reasons, like laziness or could be because they're late. If you know something is wrong and still choose to do it anyway; then you are breaking the moral law i.e. ethics, to become unethical.
The other reason could be social behavior which also intends them to cheat during exam. For instance, Student have to give board exam every year. Since it is announced in society students fear that if they failed it would be ashamed to show face in the society. So, the easiest way to pass the exam is cheating.
In conclusion, even though we are aware of the facts that the path we are choosing is unethical. We choose it to bear consequences
Russell, H., Street, M., & Haines, D. (2008). The Influence of Perceived Importance of an Ethical Issue on Moral Judgment, Moral Obligation, and Moral Intent. Journal of Business Ethics, 81(2), 387-399.
Colquitt, J., Lepine, J., & Wesson, M. (2013). Organizational Behavior: Improving Performance and Commitment In The Workplace.