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Exams - Guide for Exam Day

So it's Exam Day


Here you can find out what to expect on the day, including guidance and advice on dealing with any unexpected issues that may come up and some tips on approaching your exam. 


Exam room etiquette


You've done all your revision and studied hard to get here, so please take these rules seriously. Don't ruin your chances at getting the results you deserve by making avoidable mistakes.


  • Arrive on time. Aim to get there at least 10-15 minutes before the start of your exam. If you are late, your work might not be accepted. Getting there early will also give you some breathing space to relax before you start writing your paper.
  • Make sure your mobile phone is not on you. Phones and other similar portable devices are not allowed in the exam room. Best advice – leave them at home. In summer 2013, 814 students were penalised for having a phone on them during an exam.
  • Listen carefully to the exam invigilators' and teachers' instructions before, during and after the exam. Follow instructions about all unauthorised materials and equipment, including phones.
  • Be quiet once the exam starts. Talking to, or disturbing, other students may be seen as misconduct and lead to a penalty.
  • If you have a question, feel sick or need to leave the room, raise your hand and wait for an invigilator to come to you. 


What you can take with you


Depending on the type of exam, your school/college will provide your question paper, answer sheets and additional materials. Always check with your teacher beforehand if there are any specific instructions for your exam, or additional equipment or stationery you need to provide, such as a calculator for Maths.


What you will need:


  • a clear pencil case
  • at least two black pens - blue pens are not acceptable
  • an approved calculator for relevant exams (clear of lids, cases or covers that have printed instructions or formulae)
  • additional equipment, such as a ruler, erasers and pencil
  • a clear water bottle (optional) - it must not have a label
  • private candidates will need photo identification.


Make sure you understand the rules

You must not take into the exam room:

  • notes
  • an iPod, a mobile phone, a MP3/4 player or similar device, or a watch.


  • Do not use correcting pens, fluid or tape, erasable pens, highlighters or gel pens in your answers.
  • You must not write inappropriate, obscene or offensive material.
  • If you leave the exam room unaccompanied by an invigilator before the exam has finished, you will not be allowed to return.
  • Do not borrow anything from another candidate during the exam.


Please read JCQ's Information for candidates for a list of instructions on exam room conduct and permissible materials and equipment.


Do your best


Writing your paper is your opportunity to apply all your hard work and show what you can do.


While your teachers are the best people to help you prepare for your exams and determine your 'exam strategy', please read our general advice to help you on the day. 


Exam Techniques


  • If you feel you've forgotten everything, it may be just nerves. Take a few deep breaths to help you stay calm. See our tips on how to manage your exam stress.
  • Read the instructions; make sure you know how many questions to answer.
  • Take your time, read all the questions carefully until you understand exactly what is needed.
  • Look for the command words. Identify key words before you answer the question.
  • Use your answer book to brainstorm and mind-map content or ideas as you go. This will also help jog your memory if you 'draw a blank'.
  • Remember to cross out any draft work you don't want marked.
  • Write neatly.
  • Answer the questions given on the paper, not the questions you were expecting.
  • Use the allocated marks to guide how much time you spend on each answer.
  • If you can't answer a question, move on to the next question and come back later.
  • Leave space between answers so if you want to expand on any later, you can add to them neatly.
  • Allow time to check back over your work. 


Spotting an error in the question paper


We do our best to avoid errors, but if this does happen, our top priority is to ensure that no student is disadvantaged as a result. An exam paper error doesn't mean you will get a lower grade. We have processes to manage the rare instances of question paper errors. 


Preventing errors


Throughout the process of creating a question paper, the questions are continuously reviewed by experts and independent reviewers.


We check our question papers at various stages, including just before and after they are printed. We also continue to review papers after they have been delivered to schools and colleges. If an error is spotted at this stage, we communicate with all schools and colleges to manage the issue before the exam takes place. For example, students might be asked to correct a spelling mistake on the paper before they start the exam. 


What to do if you think there may be an error in the question paper during the exam 


  • Notify one of the invigilators in the exam hall immediately.
  • Continue with your exam as normal and attempt the question if you can.
  • Your invigilator will contact us and we will ensure that you are not disadvantaged if there has been an error in the paper.


After the exam


Speak to the exams officer at your school or college, who will contact us.

We will ensure that if there has been a mistake this won't affect your result. If you feel that the error may have affected your overall performance in the exam, then talk to your teacher. If they agree, the exams officer at your school can apply for you to get special consideration.


Unexpected problems:




If you are sick on the day of your exam, please ring your school/college to let them know as soon as possible. Your exams officer will let us know.


You will need a medical certificate from the GP. 


Severe weather


Where possible, all exams will go ahead as planned. If your school/college can open, you will sit your exams as normal.


Please always check with your school/college if you are concerned or unsure. In some instances they may send you to an alternative venue or choose to withdraw you from the exam and ask you to sit it in the next available exam series. 


  • When severe weather is forecast, allow extra time to travel and check for updates from your school or college.
  • If weather conditions mean that you will arrive late, ring your school and let them know.
  • Depending on how late you are, you might still be able to sit the exam. Your exams officer will follow the JCQ Instructions for conducting examinations and advise you of your options.
  • If many students arrive late, you will all sit the exam. Your exams officer can apply for special consideration.


Changing school/college


If you have changed school/college, or need to write your exam somewhere else for some reason, you don't need to tell us. The exams officers at the respective schools/colleges will arrange everything for you and will let you know if they need more information.