Up and down the country teenagers are spending hours revising as exams bear down. But, what happens if the test is interrupted by something beyond the school’s control? This is exactly the situation many pupils have found themselves in after a high number of bomb threats were called into schools throughout the UK. Obviously a bomb threat is very serious but what about a fire alarm, illness or even construction noise? All of these can disrupt an exam so what happens in these circumstances?


There is a clear set of procedures explaining how examinations should be conducted. This has been created by the Joint Council for Qualifications which represents the seven largest exam boards in the UK. As well as explaining the conditions needed for an examination, it also provides guidance on what to do if an exam is interrupted.

In The Exam Room

Invigilators are responsible for conducting an exam and have to react to any interruptions to the exam. If there is a fire alarm or bomb scare they have to tell candidates to stop writing and take a register of attendance before evacuating the room. All tests must be left in the examination room and pupils must exit in silence. When at a fire assembly point invigilators must continue to monitor the candidates and ensure they do not talk about the test. The amount of time taken for the disruption is noted and pupils are given that time back when the exam resumes to ensure they receive the full amount intended.
If a child is ill and disturbing the exam through vomiting or other symptoms, then the invigilators have a few options. They could isolate the candidate and allow them to continue away from others. Alternatively, they may simply allow the candidate to continue and notify the exam board.


Any disruption to an examination has to be reported back to the board responsible. Schools and invigilators document the interruptions but exam boards have the final decision as to whether grade boundaries will be amended for the candidates.
Special consideration can be granted as a post-exam adjustment to candidate grades. This is generally used for pupils who are ill, injured or have another distraction (such as the passing of a relative) at the time of the exam. Pupils who are evacuated from the room or are distracted by outside noises can apply for special consideration but will have to prove how the distraction affected their ability to perform in the exam.

What to Do?

As a parent you will be concerned for your children’s grades but you have to get them to re-focus and carry on with the rest of their examinations. If there are any serious concerns like continual noise complaints, you need to raise this with senior staff at their school.

Was your child affected by a disruption in their exam? How was the issue resolved? Share your experiences on our social media pages.