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.

Unforeseen circumstances on exam day


If you are sick on the day of an exam you should contact your school or college as soon as possible.

Severe weather or major travel disruption

If your school or college can open, exams will be held as normal. If you’re unable get there due to severe weather or travel disruption, schools or colleges may send you to an alternative venue or withdraw you from the exam and ask you to sit it in the next exam series.

If severe weather is forecast:

  • allow extra travel time
  • check for updates from your school or college
  • contact the school or college if you think you may arrive late (you may still be able to sit your exam).

Arriving late or leaving early

If you think you may be late for an exam, contact your school or college as soon as possible. Depending on how late you arrive, you may or may not be allowed to sit the exam.

Students are not allowed to leave the exam room in the first hour. If, in an emergency, someone needs to contact a student taking an exam, they should call the school or college directly.

Missing an exam

If you miss an exam due to circumstances beyond your control, you may be able to apply for special consideration. For more information see JCQ’s guide to the special consideration process.

In the exam room

What to take

Your school or college will provide the question papers, answer sheets and additional materials. You should check with your teachers beforehand whether there are any specific instructions or additional equipment/materials needed, such as a calculator for maths exams.

Generally the following can be taken into an exam:

  • a black pen (plus spares)
  • pencils and erasers
  • a clear pencil case
  • a water bottle with no label on it.

JCQ’s information for candidates documents have a full list of instructions for exam day.

Before the exam starts

To help ensure things go smoothly you should:

  • arrive on time (aim to get to the exam 10 to 15 minutes before the start)
  • leave phones and any kind of watch outside the exam room (you can be penalised if you’re found to have these items with you during an exam)
  • listen carefully to the teacher/invigilator’s instructions.

During the exam

These techniques may help during an exam:

  • be quiet once the exam starts – talking to, or disturbing, other students can lead to a penalty
  • read the instructions carefully
  • take the time to read each question carefully and make sure you understand what is being asked
  • look out for command words and identify key words before answering
  • use the answer book to brainstorm and mind-map ideas
  • remember to cross out any draft work that you don’t want to be marked
  • write neatly
  • answer the question being asked, not the one you were expecting
  • use the allocated marks as a rough guideline for how much time to spend on each answer
  • if you can’t answer a question, move onto the next and come back to it later
  • leave space between answers in case you want to add to them later
  • allow time to check work before the end of the exam
  • if you have a question, feel ill or need to leave the room, raise your hand and wait for the invigilator to come to you
  • if you think there may be an error in the question paper, notify an invigilator immediately and continue with the exam as normal (your school or college will notify us and we will ensure that if there is an error it will not affect your result).