Exam irregularities

The University offers help and support to students who are preparing for exams. We encourage you to access the support available to enable you to maximise your academic potential.  

What is an exam irregularity?

An examination irregularity occurs when a student:

  • Seeks to improve their performance in an examination by accessing, or attempting to access, material not listed on the front of the question paper (the rubric).
  • Fails to follow instructions about the conduct of the exam, either given on the question paper or by the Invigilator.
  • Possesses or accesses non-permitted materials during an examination, including mobile devices and notes.
  • Creates a disturbance during an exam.

Avoiding exam irregularities

We want your exams to go as smoothly as possible, so we have put together an easy guide to exam conduct to ensure you know what the rules are and what is expected of you.

Students often feel under pressure during exam time and may be concerned that they will not perform to their academic potential. The University encourages you to access the support services provided rather than risking a serious penalty by trying to get an unfair advantage in exams though the use of unauthorised materials.

If you are stressed about exams and find it hard to cope, the University Mental Health and Wellbeing Service runs workshops and drop-ins to help you manage anxiety and overcome procrastination.  The Academic Skills Centre offer advice on efficient revision and examination preparation. If you are experiencing other difficulties, you can speak to your Wellbeing Officer about the possibility of deferring the examinations, or the Extenuating Circumstances procedures.

The investigation process

Initial procedure

An independent Student Conduct Officer will investigate each allegation of an exam irregularity. You will have an interview with the Investigating Officer, who will make a decision, based on the evidence, about how to proceed. The Investigating Officer may decide to deal with your case summarily, which means a sanction will be agreed before the case is closed. However, for more serious allegations the case may be referred to a College Misconduct Committee.

Our guidelines, Guidelines on exam irregularities (PDF - 65 KB), explain more about the initial investigation process.

During this process a 'Hold' may be placed on your student record. As a result, your marks may not be formally processed or released to you online and your progression or graduation may be affected.

Referral to College Misconduct Committee

If, based on the evidence, the Officer considers that your case is serious it will be referred to a College Misconduct Committee. This committee will hear your case in strict accordance with the Code of Practice on Misconduct and Fitness to Practise Committee to ensure fairness. We will send you a copy of this Code of Practice before the Committee and you should read it carefully so that you know what to expect. Further information about what happens and how to prepare for a College Misconduct Committee can be found on the College Misconduct and Fitness to Practise Committee webpage


The University takes all instances of exam irregularity very seriously. A range of sanctions can be applied if you are found, based on evidence, to have committed an irregularity.

If your case is dealt with  by way of a low-level sanction, the Investigating Officer can apply one of the following sanctions:

  • a formal written warning
  • community service
  • an agreement regarding future behaviour or to engage with support
  • requiring the student to make good any damage

If your case is referred to a College Misconduct Committee  and Academic Misconduct is found proven, a range of sanctions could be applied, which may include: 

  • engaging with appropriate remedial tuition
  • allowing the examination mark to stand
  • reducing the examination mark and permitting a resit which may be capped at the pass mark or a mark which would enable progression
  • reducing the examination mark with no opportunity to resit
  • reducing the module mark with no opportunity of a further attempt to pass the module
  • limit the award of a postgraduate certificate, diploma or degree to a pass or merit
  • reduce the degree classification
  • suspension for up to one year
  • withdrawal from the University, with an award
  • withdrawal from the University, without an award

Appealing the decision

You may appeal in writing within 15 working days against the decision of the College Misconduct Committee, specifying the grounds of appeal. Further information and the form to complete is on the Appeals to the University Misconduct and Fitness to Practise Committee page.


All cases will be recorded on the Student Conduct database and this information will be retained in accordance with the departmental record retention policy. Any documentation we receive will normally be held for a period of 7 years before it is confidentially disposed of. Your personal data will be processed in accordance with data protection legislation and our data privacy policy: https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/privacy/students.aspx

Help and support during the investigation

We know that the investigation can be a very stressful time for you. Use our sources of help and support to find the help you need, whether it is advice on the process or simply someone to talk to.



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