Exam survival: What can you take into the exam hall?

Exam season is stressful at the best of times.

Panicking about timetables, whether your mate’s done more revision than you or if you're getting enough sleep can take up a lot of your time.

students sitting an exam
Apart from anything else, there's not enough room on your desk for clutter.

One thing you shouldn’t have to worry about, though, is what you’re bringing into your exam. So to make life easier for you, we’ve put together a list of things you can and can’t bring into the exam hall.

Do remember that every school is different and, while this list will be useful, it’s always worth checking your school’s individual rules in case there’s any differences.

1. Black pens in a clear case

You might wonder why such emphasis is put on what type of pen you use to write with in an exam.

Well, it’s because once the papers are scanned to be marked, anything other than black comes up very faintly and is difficult for the examiner to read.

Also, put your pens in a clear pencil case. This is so the exam invigilators can see that you’re not trying to sneak notes in - not that you would anyway!

2. No mobile phones

This one’s pretty self explanatory: to prevent any illicit googling or texting, smart phones (or any phones for that matter) are prohibited.

But it doesn’t stop there. Electronic watches, fitness devices and even pagers – if you’re feeling retro – are not allowed within the confines of the exam hall.

Specifically, if you’re spotted with anything that’s ‘web-enabled’ you can get in serious trouble. In fact, it’s considered an act of exam malpractice and can lead to you losing marks or even having your entire paper disqualified.

Check with your exam officer to see if there are any arrangements in place for storing your devices outside the exam hall or, better yet, leave them at home.

no mobile phones sign
There may not be signs like this around the exam hall, but phones are definitely not allowed.

3. Scientific calculators

For some exams, such as Maths and Physics, you’ll need a scientific calculator. Your school will let you know which exams to bring one to.

However, you need to take it out of its case and leave the instructions behind. This is because notes could be carried inside them. Just pop them in your bag before you enter the exam hall - the calculator’s the important bit anyway.

Scientific calculator
Don't attempt to use the calculator on your phone in an exam.

4. Water bottles and tissues packets

This rule might vary from school to school, but if you follow it, you won’t get in trouble.

Your water bottle needs to be completely transparent, so make sure you take the label off. Some schools may also ask you to take tissues out of the packet so that they can be sure you don’t have any notes on or in them.

Some schools may even provide their own water and tissues to ensure that they’re not tampered with - check with a teacher before your exam to find out.

5. Food

Some of your exams are likely to be quite long, so there’s a chance that you’ll get quite peckish.

The general rule is that, as long as it doesn’t have a label on it, you should be fine. But it’s ultimately the decision of your exam centre, so make sure to check. Sometimes you might have food provided for you.

Of course, if you have specific dietary needs, it might be necessary for you to take food into the exam hall with you. If that’s the case, make sure to organise it with your exam officer in advance.

6. Some other bits and bobs

There are a couple of other things to note before going into your exam.

Unfortunately, most centres won’t let you bring in a mascot or lucky charm, except under very specific circumstances. This will have to be agreed in advance with your exam officer, though, so make sure you check with them what the procedure is.

However, don’t let this stop you from wearing lucky clothes or jewellery, or using a lucky pen - as long as it uses black ink!

Lastly, if you wear henna for religious reasons, this is allowed, as long as it’s not hiding any mathematical formula or other notes. You’d have to have a creative henna artist to get away with that!

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