Change to examination format

Changes to examination format can be made by the course convenor, with recommended approval from either the Department Teaching Committee Chair or Exam sub-board Chair, and recommended consultation with the External Examiner.

This might include changes to the following:

  • the duration of the examination
  • introduction or removal of reading time
  • the duration of reading time
  • the number of questions available for students to choose from
  • the number of questions students must answer
  • the number of sections in the paper
  • any substantive change to the style of questions or how the student should answer the questions
  • weighting of questions

Changes to existing permitted materials or the use of calculators do not always need approval; however, departments must ensure that the Exams Team is notified of these changes by the examination question paper submission deadline.

Approval procedure

Changes to the duration of the examination, introduction or removal of reading time or the duration to reading time should be considered as part of the annual course guide review and finalised prior to publication of the course guide. Exam duration, including reading time, should not be changed in-year.

Departments should liaise with the Exams Team about examination format changes that impact permitted materials or examination set up in advance of considering format changes.

Departments are asked to consider examination format modifications by the end of Week 6 of Michaelmas Term for the January examination period and by the end of Week 4 of Lent Term for the Summer examination period. Consultation with the external examiner for the course is considered good practice.

Following approval

If the change is approved, the department must give all students on the course clear advance warning in writing of the examination format changes. A sample examination paper, or a mock examination in the new format must be provided for students to revise from.

For more information on changes to exam format and other course and programme modifications, please see the table of modifications and devolved responsibilities.

Change from 'unseen' to 'seen' examination format

The majority of School examinations are 'unseen' i.e. students have no sight of the  paper's content prior to the start of the examination itself.

A 'seen' examination is one where the examination questions are released to the students before the examination date. Students then prepare their answers before writing them in a formal invigilated examination environment.

Approval procedure

A proposal to hold a seen examination requires approval from the Department Teaching Committee Chair or Exam sub-board Chair.

Examiners should consider details of how the questions will be released to students to ensure equal access and any relevant contingency plans. Examiners should also consider whether the change to a seen examination will result in any changes to the course's learning outcomes.

Following approval

The department must provide a sample examination paper, or a mock examination in the new format for students to revise from.


 Last reviewed: October 2018