Biggest Exam Mistakes of the Year

Biggest Exam Mistakes of the Year

QS Staff Writer

Updated November 30, 2023 Updated November 30

By Sabrina Collier and Mathilde Frot

It should be the case that, after endless nights and days spent revising, each of your exams goes nice and smoothly. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. Every year, horror stories emerge of university staff setting exam questions which are impossible to answer or exam invigilators causing a disruption, events which threaten the academic record of hundreds of hard-working students.

Depressingly, this year has been no different. If any of the following stories happened to you, we're really, truly sorry. If they didn't happen to you, take comfort from the fact that, even if you feel your exams went terribly, they could have been a hell of a lot worse.

Wait, I didn't revise any of this

We’ve all been there…you open the exam paper and prepare to start, only to look down at the questions and realize it may as well be in a foreign language as you don’t recognize any of it. Well, a more extreme version of that panic was felt by Language Science and Psychology students at the University of Reading, who were left baffled after they were accidentally given the wrong exam paper, as the Reading Chronicle reports.

The students reacted in different ways: some simply walked out, while some brave students attempted to answer the questions. This would have probably proved difficult – the exam paper they were given was from last year, and the syllabus had changed completely. Students were understandably annoyed with the mistake, with one saying: “Knowing that I have paid tens of thousands of pounds in tuition fees just rubs salt in the wound.”


Remember when we said you passed? About that... 

An IT engineering student in India at the Yadavrao Tasgaonkar College of Engineering & Management has been asked to resit an exam she took over two years ago, having initially been told online she had passed the exam. After delays in receiving her marksheet, she was then told by the university she had accidentally been allocated the same seat number for the exam as another student, and his result was the one being shown in their online system. She had, in fact, failed the exam and would need to re-sit it before continuing with the exams she was meant to be sitting this summer. The issue still hasn't been resolved. Read the full story here.

You have three hours...I mean, two hours

Earlier this month, final-year history students at the University of Warwick were given two hours to complete an exam instead of the three hours they were expecting. Although the reduced time limit meant they were allowed to only answer two of the three essay prompts instead of all three, several students expressed concerns their marks would be affected. Fortunately, it didn’t very long for the department to rectify the situation, and students were emailed later that day and told they wouldn’t be penalised for the invigilator’s mistake.


There's a few pages missing...

Over 300 final-year business students at the University of Leeds were told their strategic management exam, worth 100% of their module, was postponed because the department forgot to print out six pages of the case study. Read the full story here.

The ultimate revision tool – the exam paper itself

There were red faces at the University of Bristol earlier this month, as third year history students were accidentally given access to their summer exam paper on Blackboard (the university’s virtual learning system). Unfortunately for students, the history department realized their mistake and swapped out the exam paper, which was about the history of South Africa, for an alternative set of questions.


A question that doesn't make sense

An exam paper at Lucknow University made the type of blunder you'd expect from a student in their first week of university, asking students a question which was completely factually inaccurate. As the Times of India reported, law student Gursheen Kaur noticed a question in her sixth semester exam on the meaning and importance of service tax under the Service Tax Act. The problem? There is no Service Tax Act, as Kaur was quick to point out on Twitter.

Finally, a project deadline with a difference

It's not just universities making mistakes over exams and essays this month. Several global news outlets were duped into believing a viral video, which allegedly showed a student submitting his project from the middle of a nightclub one minute before the deadline. As it turns out, business student Lawrence Kemp, studying at the University of Gloucestershire, appeared in the video as a favour for his friend Danny Cotter, who had to try and make a viral video for a film project.

After the duo's ruse was eventually rumbled, Danny said: “It’s the end of our student year so everyone’s under pressure with work and exams – we thought why not play on that and try and get the video on a platform like LadBible?”

It certainly worked, and the university has had to explain it was never their intention for students to mislead the media. Maybe some journalists should have done their homework? Watch the video below.

Lead image: Wikimedia Commons

This article was originally published in May 2017 . It was last updated in January 2020