11. Timed examinations

11.1. Presence of examiners

Chairs must arrange for an examiner or assessor acquainted with the particulars of the relevant question paper to be present for half an hour at the start of an examination to address any questions concerning the paper, and must satisfy themselves that this duty is properly carried out.  Examiners should arrive at the examination venue at least 20 minutes before the start of the examination so that they have time to do a final check of the examination paper.

When there are candidates taking a variety of question papers in the room at the same time (as happens with options) and several people have participated in setting questions, the examiner present must know where the other examiners can be contacted directly by telephone at the time required.  Since candidates are most likely to get prompt answers to any queries raised when the examiner is present in the examination room, candidates should be made aware of how long the examiner intends to be present; this must be for at least the first half hour. If the numbers of candidates have required that they are accommodated in more than one room, the examiner or assessor must make himself or herself available for consultation in each room.

Examiners, like candidates, must present themselves at the examination venue in full academic dress, i.e. cap, gown (and hood) and ‘subfusc’ clothing, which is defined as a dark suit, skirt or trousers with dark socks, black tights or stockings, black shoes or boots, a plain white collared shirt or blouse and white bow tie, black bow tie, black full-length tie or black ribbon, and, if desired, a dark coat.

For particularly complex papers, examiners may wish to remain at the examination venue for the duration of that examination paper in order to respond to queries raised via the Head of Examinations and Assessments. In such cases, it is helpful if the chair could let the Examinations Manager know in advance that examiners intend to stay so that desk spaces can be found for them.

Examiners and invigilators are reminded that the announcement of changes to or interpretations of examination papers must be heard by all the candidates concerned.  It is vital that any advice given to any individual candidate about the question paper must be communicated to all candidates, including those sitting examinations in colleges.  Inconsistency of treatment, however apparently trivial, may give rise to complaints.

Whenever examiners are present in the examination room they must not engage in activities distracting to candidates, e.g. working on laptops; nor must they mark examination scripts in a room where an examination is taking place.

All corrections to or clarifications of examination papers must be reported immediately to the Head of Examinations and Assessments, so that the information can be conveyed to colleges or other locations where candidates are taking papers under special arrangements.  Examiners should not seek to convey this information themselves.

11.2. Invigilators

Invigilators are present in all examination rooms. They will have received formal training in the required procedures and are responsible for the ‘housekeeping’ aspects of the examination process.

Invigilation is arranged on the basis of one invigilator to every 50 candidates. (Examination Regulations, 2014, Regulations for the Conduct of University Examinations, Part 15, cl. 15.3,p. 33, ll. 32-34) The Head of Examinations and Assessments will deploy invigilators as necessary and may consult with chairs as to how far examiners will be involved (e.g. for subjects such as maths, sciences and languages in which frequent ‘technical’ questions arise).

The University Safety Officer requires all invigilators to be fully briefed about what action to take in the event of a fire during the course of examinations.  The Examinations and Assessment Section is responsible for drawing the attention of all invigilators to the detailed fire instructions, which are displayed in each examination room.

If, for any reason, an examiner or invigilator needs to speak to an individual candidate, (s)he should take care not to unsettle him/her during the examination nor to disturb other candidates. If a candidate insists on a protracted conversation with an invigilator, (s)he should be invited to pursue the matter outside the examination room so as not to disturb the other candidates. Problems should not be raised with a candidate during the examination if they can be dealt with at the end.

A log-sheet is provided in each examination room and will be used by those invigilating the examination to record any incident (and its time) which the examiners or the Proctors may need to consider later in the examining process. Log-sheets will be held in the Examination Schools and will be made available to boards of examiners on request. Where the log refers to a medical incident, chairs of examiners should not take this into account unless separate medical evidence has been provided via the Proctors.

The Proctors, or Pro-Proctors, may attend at any point in an examination to satisfy themselves that it is properly conducted.

11.3. Timing

Examinations must begin and end at the advertised times unless special authority has been obtained from the Proctors.  If circumstances have caused a small delay in starting, the examination must continue for its full advertised duration.  Invigilators will arrange to admit candidates in good time before the start, so that they have time to find their seats.  However, candidates will not be given sight of the exam questions, nor will they be allowed to begin writing, until the start time for the examination. Invigilators will ensure that all candidates finish writing when they are told to at the end of the examination, including any who may have arrived late.  If a candidate fails to finish writing when told to do so, the Head of Examinations and Assessments will notify the Proctors.

11.4. Seating and attendance of candidates

Invigilators will be provided with lists of candidates’ numbers, names and seat numbers for use in seating the candidates, in checking for absentees and in checking off scripts at the end of the session. During the examination all candidates must display on their desks their University Card (Examination Regulations, 2014, Regulations for the Conduct of University Examinations, Part 20, cl. 4, p. 41, ll. 37-38). Failure to provide proof of identity by a candidate is taken very seriously by the Proctors and will be investigated as a possible case of impersonation. Before the start of the paper, invigilators will ask for candidates who do not know their candidate numbers to raise their hands. If any candidate does not know his/ her candidate number, the invigilators will be able to confirm the number from the lists provided.

Invigilators will check the log-sheet on their table and then announce the names of unrecorded absentees to ensure that a candidate is not reported as absent when he or she is known to be sitting elsewhere or is simply in the wrong seat. Invigilators will note on the forms (also provided on the invigilator’s table) the names of any candidates absent when the examination began and not accounted for by this procedure. Absentee forms will be collected by Schools’ staff soon after the start of the examination; the absence will be investigated through the candidate’s college, and information will be relayed to the invigilators. Invigilators will also report, on the form provided, the names of all candidates absent thirty minutes after the beginning of the paper; the form should be given to a member of Schools’ staff.

11.5. Unauthorised absence

If a candidate is absent from a particular paper without explanation, the Head of Examinations and Assessments will inform the Proctors and the college. The Examination Regulations, 2014, Regulations for the Conduct of University Examinations, Part 14, cl. 14.2 state that, with minor exceptions, a candidate who fails to appear for any part of a University examination ‘will be deemed to have failed the entire examination or, in the case of a Second Public Examination taken over more than one year, the entire Part of the Examination’ (p. 29). Candidates whose absence was a result of acute illness or other urgent cause may make a submission to the Proctors through their Senior Tutor that they should be permitted to remain in the examination (ibid,. Part 14, cll.14.13-14.16, p. 32, ll. 1-32).

11.6. Candidates who enter or leave the room

No candidate may leave the room during the first thirty minutes or last thirty minutes of the examination without the Proctors’ permission, except in the case of medical emergency or fire. (Examination Regulations, 2014, Regulations for the Conduct of University Examinations, Part 19, cl. 13, pp. 40-41)

A candidate who arrives more than thirty minutes after the time when the examination began should be allowed to attempt the paper, finishing at the same time as the others, but should be advised that the work cannot be taken into consideration without the consent of the Proctors. The invigilator will report the circumstances to the Head of Examinations and Assessments, who will contact the Proctors.

No candidate is allowed to leave the examination room for any purpose during the examination without an invigilator’s permission. Details should be recorded in the log-sheet, except when the reason for absence is to use a lavatory. Invigilators are strongly encouraged not to allow more than one person of each sex to go to the lavatory at any one time, and to note if any one candidate repeatedly requests to visit the lavatory.

The Head of Examinations and Assessments will put arrangements in place to ensure that candidates are not able to confer outside the examination room (e.g. in the lavatories) or to contact someone outside the building by using a mobile phone or other communication device.

If a candidate is taken ill while an examination is in progress, or expresses a desire to leave the examination room with the examination incomplete, the invigilator will call a member of Schools staff. The invigilator will not leave the examination room. The Schools staff will take whatever action is necessary, which may include making arrangements for the candidate to be escorted back to college or, with serious illness, calling for an ambulance. Once a candidate leaves the examination room due to sickness, he or she will be advised that they will not be able to continue that same paper in college. If the candidate chooses to return to the examination room he or she will not be allowed to leave and return again owing to sickness. (ibid., Part 20, cl. 3, p.41)

11.7. Paper in an examination

Writing paper is provided for all examinations. For most examinations this takes the form of booklets. Candidates should be advised to write any plans, drafts, or rough working in the writing booklets; this may be done in the same booklet as the fair copy, in which case it should be clearly indicated to the examiners what is to be marked (e.g. by striking through rough work); or rough working may be done in a separate booklet, which must be clearly labelled and handed in along with the fair copy.

At the start of an examination, invigilators will remind candidates that they are not allowed to remove from an examination room any answer booklets, but only the question paper and such books or papers, if any, as they were authorised to take into the room. (Examination Regulations, 2014, Regulations for the Conduct of University Examinations, Part 19, cl. 16, p. 41)

There should be no paper on a candidate’s desk other than the question paper and answer booklets. If those invigilating an examination suspect that any candidate has crib-notes, they will inform the Head of Examinations and Assessments, who will contact the Proctors. The candidate will be observed closely but not challenged in the examination room; at the end of the examination, or sooner if the candidate leaves the room, the candidate will be challenged and instructed to hand over the notes to the Head of Examinations and Assessments for delivery to the Proctors. If those invigilating an examination suspect that any candidate is removing writing booklets, they will challenge the candidate when (s)he leaves the room and immediately inform the Head of Examinations and Assessments, who will contact the Proctors.

11.8. Announcements

Before the start of each paper, and with 30 minutes remaining and at the end, the invigilator will read out to the candidates the standard announcements provided in the folder on the invigilators’ table.  This is the responsibility of the Senior Invigilator. 

It is essential that these announcements are made by invigilators to ensure the appropriate and fair conduct of the examination.  The starting announcement is particularly important to ensure that candidates are reminded at each session that unauthorised items are not permitted in the examination room and that failure to surrender them will constitute a breach of regulations.

11.9. Candidates’ personal possessions

  • Only transparent pencil cases containing personal items and permitted calculators may be brought into the examination room, and candidates must offer them for inspection if requested. 
  • Candidates may also bring a watch, a wallet/small purse, yellow individual timetable, and a small packet of sweets (chewing gum is not allowed). Invigilators may remove any items of food that might cause a disturbance to other candidates.
  • Candidates are permitted to bring non-carbonated water into the examination room, in a spill-proof bottle (sports cap). No other drinks will be permitted (except on medical grounds, and with prior approval).
  • Candidates are permitted to bring asthma inhalers, silent blood testing kits, epi-pens, over-the-counter or prescription medicine, and medical aids (such as a wrist splint or back support pillow) into an examination provided there is a medical need and the candidate has a letter of support from their Senior Tutor or college nurse.
  • Items of food and drink other than water are not permitted in the examination rooms except on medical grounds and approved by the Proctors, the candidate’s Senior Tutor or college nurse.  
  • Candidates given permission by the Proctors, their Senior Tutor or their college nurse to take items, such as medicine, food or drink, into an examination must carry a copy of the permission letter with them and produce the letter if requested by an invigilator. 
  • Where permission has already been granted for their use, dictionaries brought into the examination room must remain there until the end of the examination: they may not be taken away at the end of each paper but must be left in the examination room until all papers are complete.
  • Bags and other personal belongings must not be taken beyond the areas designated for the deposit of such items (e.g. the marquees specially erected in the quad in Schools and outside Ewert House). 
  • The use of communication devices such as mobile telephones and hand-held electronic organisers is forbidden anywhere in the Examination Schools and in the Ewert House examination hall; such devices must not be taken into the examination room.

If candidates are found or suspected to have unauthorised materials the same procedures as outlined above concerning ‘Paper in an examination’ will be followed.  Mobile phones, or other electronic devices which may go off during the examination, must be switched off and handed to an invigilator.


Candidates must present themselves for examination in full academic dress, i.e. cap, gown and ‘subfusc’ clothing, which is defined as a dark suit, skirt or trousers with dark socks, black tights or stockings, black shoes or boots, a plain white collared shirt or blouse and white bow tie, black bow tie, black full-length tie or black ribbon, and, if desired, a dark coat.

If any candidate arrives at an examination dressed improperly, the Proctors require that an invigilator simply ask the candidate, at the conclusion of the paper, to dress correctly for his or her next appearance, and make a note in the log-sheet.  If the candidate appears at a subsequent session still improperly dressed, or at the last session, the Proctors should be informed at once. The Proctors do not wish improperly dressed candidates to be refused admission to an examination.

Candidates should be allowed to remove their caps during the examination, and also gowns or jackets, if they find these uncomfortable or inconvenient. Invigilators will ensure that the candidates are properly dressed when they leave the place of examination.

11.10. Conclusion of an examination

In arranging for the handing in of scripts, invigilators will take care that the identity of the markers on the address sheets is not visible to candidates.  This is to preserve the anonymity of markers.

Responsibility for handing in a script rests with the candidate, who must give it to the invigilator when requested, along with any answer-booklet(s) used for rough work.  Scripts must not be removed from the examination room. A candidate who decides not to hand in a script must report the fact to an invigilator before leaving the building.

Invigilators will follow a checking-off procedure to confirm that all scripts have been received.  Examiners should not remove scripts from the examination room until the invigilators have confirmed that all scripts are accounted for.

Candidates will not be allowed to remove any examination booklets (used or unused) from the examination room.  During handing in, there is a great deal of movement in the examination room; wherever possible, an invigilator will be stationed at the doorway to ensure that booklets are not removed from the room. Candidates in the Schools will be instructed to leave quietly as others with extra time will not have completed their papers.

11.11. Packaging and delivery of scripts

Invigilators will check the scripts handed in against the list of numbers provided in the room and the list of absentees before any scripts are taken out of the examination room.  Missing scripts will be reported to the Head of Examinations and Assessments at once, so that the room can be searched, and to the Proctors thereafter. Unless a search is made at once, it is much more difficult to establish later whether a missing script had in fact been handed in. This procedure will inevitably take some time after the end of the paper.

Scripts should never be left unattended.  Where a single invigilator is in a room, assistance will be summoned.

After checking, all scripts will be packaged with an address sheet showing the name of the relevant examiner or assessor, the number of scripts enclosed and the candidate numbers of any absentees.  All script delivery instructions should be clear and accurate.  Copies of the question paper will also be enclosed. (Bags and address sheets are provided by Student Administration.)

Where relevant, the scripts of candidates with dyslexia or other Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs) should be identified and the SpLD pro forma cover sheet attached before they are sent to the examiner or assessor.

Packages of scripts will be taken from the room and handed to Examination and Assessment staff; arrangements will be made for their delivery. If examiners take packages of scripts away with them, they must sign the appropriate documentation, stating they have taken the scripts away.  Scripts must never be left in the examination room.

A script delivery service operates from the Examination Schools’ building during exam periods; scripts from examinations taken at Ewert House (if not collected by examiners at the end of the session) will be returned to the Schools (by Schools’ staff) and distributed from there; this may add a couple of days to the delivery times.  Scripts delivered from the Schools must be signed for at their destination.  Examiners are recommended to deliver scripts in person to the second marker, or to the second marker’s college lodge or departmental office.  Any query about the script delivery service should be discussed with the Head of Examinations and Assessments on 2-76911.  If scripts are left with a departmental office or college lodge, the examiner should record the name of the person taking delivery and emphasise that the package contains scripts and should be held securely, preferably in a safe.

Scripts which exceptionally have to be mailed to examiners outside Oxford should be sent by Courier or by Recorded Delivery, and a certificate of despatch or posting obtained, unless permission has previously been given by the Junior Proctor for some other form of delivery.  Under no circumstances are scripts to be faxed.  The Examinations and Assessments Section will arrange for approved posting if requested.

Scripts from candidates taking papers in special locations will be returned to the main office within the Examination and Assessments Section, and these will be distributed to nominated markers in the same way as scripts from the main room.  Alternatively, a chair (or deputy) may arrange to collect such scripts.  The nature of the special arrangements (e.g. extra time, special location) and the number of candidates involved means that these scripts cannot be available immediately the session ends, but will be ready for delivery or collection by mid-way through the next exam session, that is:

- scripts written in the morning session are available after 3.30 pm that day;

- scripts written in the afternoon session are available after 10.30 am the next day (excluding Sunday).

Invigilators are alert to the possibility of scripts being deliberately removed from the examination room.  Chairs may wish to consider if additional precautions are required in their own examinations, and the Head of Examinations and Assessments will be able to advise further about this.  If requested, invigilators may follow a more rigorous checking-off procedure.

If scripts are found to be missing (or incomplete because not all answer-booklets appear to be present) at any stage of the examination process, the examiners should contact the Proctors immediately.

Examiners are advised to take away all spare copies of the question papers at the end of the examination or to request the Schools to store them until the final examiners’ meeting.