Aged 13-30? Brands pay to hear your opinions Sign up and get paid in £25 vouchers Sign me up
Sign me up
Articles > Student Life September, 25, 2018

What Happens When You Get Disqualified From An A level Exam

Jake Haynes
View Profile


7.24 / 10

You’re a number, not a person!


When you’re at school or college, this is what they might as well say to you. A number can be easily discarded. You can try your absolute hardest, but if you do even one thing wrong, they don’t seem to care. It’s not like that number represents a human being with their whole life depending upon passing their exams(!) It’s been nearly 2 years since I got disqualified from my law A level and as you can probably tell, I’m still bitter about it.

disqualifies from exam - notes on hand

Pic by Alex Carr

I can distinctly remember the nerves I suffered with for months on end. Revision, revision, revision… I’ve never worked so hard in my life. During mock exams, I got C’s and B’s which, for me, weren’t good enough. I wanted A’s.So when it came to exam season, I was bricking it. I felt like throwing up and running out of every paper. And my law exam was no different. It started like any other: I walked in, found my seat, waited for the clock to reach 9am and then started the exam… but it all ended up being for nothing.

Half way through the exam, a single yellow post-it note with only one piece of information fell out of my pocket. When I saw it on the floor I mentally kicked myself for forgetting to empty them. I had been completely unaware that it was still in there, but I couldn’t dwell on it – I had to get on with the exam. I was sure to make a point of the fact that I did not even glance down at it. But as soon as the invigilator saw it and picked it up, I knew it wasn’t going to be good.

He took me to the exam office once the paper had finished, where they told me I would be reported to the AQA exam board. I tried to argue my case, but they weren’t having it. Instead, I got a letter through the post telling me that I had been disqualified. I couldn’t believe it! The punishment was so disproportionately unfair, and my Law teacher agreed. She was very adamant on getting them to lessen the punishment because she knew how hard I had worked, but it was to no avail.

“It affected my whole education, and the rest of my life as a result”

The whole situation was made even more unbearable when my mate told me that he’d heard of a girl who had written notes on an entire subject all along her arm and received exactly the same punishment as me. For someone who intentionally cheated by writing a year’s worth of answers along her arm to get the same punishment as someone who accidentally kept a post-it note in his pocket is, to me, quite frankly despicable.

I’m not going to lie, I feel I bossed that exam. But what happened? I understand that I should have had some sort of punishment, maybe a few marks deducted, but no. Because I had one post-it note (which, in reality, couldn’t have given me more than 1 mark on the test) they disqualified me from the entire subject. To make matters worse, the information on the post it note wasn’t even on the exam! I didn’t and would never cheat, and I’d worked so hard all year, but they didn’t care.

It affected my whole education, and the rest of my life as a result. I had to do a BTEC in Public Services instead, all because of this. After studying Public Services, I’m now hoping to do a Psychology and Criminology course at uni, for which I have applied and received offers. But I’m still left with the knowledge that if they hadn’t given me a ridiculously harsh punishment, I would be studying Law at university right now.

I’m a whole year behind with my life, and it was completely unjustified. Thanks, AQA.

Rate this Article
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars6 Stars7 Stars8 Stars9 Stars10 Stars

Join our community!

Join and get £10 free credit

Earn points for completing surveys and other research opportunities

Get shopping vouchers and treat yo self!


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Name

    Harsh yes but before the exam everyone is constantly reminded to empty their pockets. Can’t really argue when it’s your fault.

  2. sham

    It was pretty harsh but you should have checked your pockets when the invigilator asks everyone to.

  3. Jack

    I think a lot of the people in the comments here could stand to have a bit of empathy with the position in this, and how harsh the punishment really was – especially seeing as the post-it had no information on it that could actually have enabled cheating. By all means a null-and-void on this exam would have been fair, but disqualification from the subject is something else.

    I’ve been in an arguably worse boat myself. My school left me without a teacher to do my AS Level Biology, which I needed for the university course I had at the time been aggressively encouraged into pursuing. There had been a mix-up with my timetables, and they just left me without a teacher – too close to the start of term for me to maybe find a place at another school or college. I worked tirelessly in my spare time teaching myself AS Biology from a textbook. I’m also not particularly wealthy and at the time had no computer at home. Working to deadlines was a nightmare, all my grades took a hit, and I was getting severely depressed. It came to a head at the end of Year 12 when, queuing up to go into the AS Biology exam, it emerges the school never actually put me in for it. I was turned away, having wasted all that time, and enabling all my other grades to take a hit. What could have been near-Oxbridge levels of good was suddenly not enough to get me into university at all. I lost all my motivation and confidence through Year 13, and my grades suffered again. In the end I walked away with a few passable grades and a few that really weren’t. I’m still an A Level short and have since experienced the hardships of actually gaining A Level’s for mature students – they don’t make it easy. I’ve also been grappling with mental health which has since spiralled out of control in various other ways – for which the school isn’t accountable, but they definitely triggered it. Nearly a decade on and I’m still having to work hard, trying to fix their mistakes – a well-behaved, hard-working, high-grade student with promise… and they basically deprived me of a decent young adulthood. They’ve so far ruined my life, which I haven’t yet succeeded at getting back on track. Thanks to them, and the less-than-helpful exam boards as well.

  4. Danielle

    I think that this is very unfair. It’s not right that the person who had writing all across their arm had the same punishment as the person who’s post it note fell out. There should be different levels of punishment.

    • yavie

      Yeah, that girl could’ve argued that she usually learns by writing on her hand and she woke up too late and forgot to take a shower to erase them before the exam… I know it’s ridiculous but the point I’m trying to make is that the same rules have been broken in both cases. Ultimately, having any sort of help during exam, even if you don’t use it, is cheating.

  5. Ahhyun

    I am sure the AQA exam board had no choice. There’s no way for them to know that you didn’t do that deliberately. It wouldn’t make sense for you not to get disqualified. But really, I wouldn’t put the blame on you. Your teachers and the invigilators should have reminded you at least 3-4 times that you should empty your pocket before entering, and checked your pocket. If this did not happen, it is the exam centre’s fault, and if it did, it is your fault.

  6. john

    i think what happened was fair if i’m honest. any leniency and it can be argued one rule for one and another for another. to some other comments about not having teachers, my business AS level teacher got cancer and our school couldn’t find another one so i put my head down and got an A. it’s all down you

  7. spotify95

    They should have removed marks only or scored the exam as zero, not disqualified from the entire subject

  8. rey

    that’s so horrible – clearly it wouldn’t have helped that much anyway, and to get disqualified from the entire course? That’s altered your entire life I can’t even imagine something more frightening, I do admire you for managing to get through it though, despite how despicable the entire situation was. I know when I did my first exams, we were never reminded to empty our pockets so I definitely think this was unjustified.

  9. Aysha

    God I agree that’s so harsh. It’s so easy to forget to take your notes out even when the invigilator says so, because we’ve heard it so many times, right? And our brain just kind of goes past it.
    They shouldn’t have disqualified you, taken marks off or something would have been more fair.

  10. Name

    I’d expect all that AQA were told is that you had some form of law notes on your person during the exam. With this information they can’t really do anything except disqualify you. The teacher is never going to want a student to be disqualified so the exam board isn’t going to let the story change after the initial incident. For all they know you had everything including how to spell your name on your notes. although it was an accident the exam board can’t investigate every time a student cheats in an exam and has to make a decision, quickly, based on the facts they are given when the incident occurs.

  11. Quinson Hon

    As much as I empathise with your disqualification, I don’t think dwelling on your failures is the best course of action.

    Life will not always be smooth sailing and obstacles like these are very discouraging. However, I believe that it is more important to stand up again after you’ve fallen down. These terrible memories are all in the past now. You can’t change the past, but you can still change your future. So, why not set a new goal for yourself? See if you can take the A Levels again. If not, find other ways you can get another qualification. Or, maybe pick up something entirely different, perhaps another subject or skill. I’m sure that once you start trying again, one day you will succeed.

    I wish you the best!

  12. Rachel B

    I think that this is a good reminder to everyone to check the have nothing on them before going into an exam. Always check your pockets to avoid being disqualified.

  13. Phynux Desmond

    I think the best things to do is never to give up on life but rather learn move on and never to fall in foolish mess twice cuz there is a saying that gose once betten twice shame twice but once betten three times shame for ever cuz what gose around comes around

  14. Ramshah

    Wow that’s harsh.

  15. Tamzin

    I agree that the punishment shouldn’t have been harsh as it was however if they had let you off with it, imagine how unfair it would be everyone else that went through the same. They couldn’t just let one person off.

  16. Conor

    They almost always remind to remove anything that can be seen in regards to cheating. While the punishment was harsh, it only shows the importance that people have to always double check themselves to remove anything that can be detrimental

  17. Name

    just don’t cheat lmao its not that hard

  18. VIKASH

    I think…very good this blog

  19. Kathryn Blacknell

    I think that it is harsh but they do have to have some kind of rules and if they aren’t strict then they won’t be followed. If they are strong rules that have no exceptions then there is no chance that people can say that they don’t understand the rules.

  20. Raiyaan

    They have the punishment so harsh because they expect it to threaten people and stop them from cheating, this clearly isn’t the case for some people and it is generally their fault when they cheat, so overall if you don’t want to stall your educational life do not cheat in the first place and abide by the rules. If you revise and work hard you will pass and won’t have to worry

  21. Olusoji Falade

    No. But had help friends while in the examination hall to pass their papers.

  22. harry

    I think… cheating is bad

  23. Adam Mwakatage

    Its all about justice implementation hence i think this situation is there for making people remember the rules in the exam room.

  24. Name

    A cheater is a cheater. Punish them all eqaully!

  25. Halima

    If I didn’t know the consequences for cheating then I might have cheated but obviously I know them so why should I take a big gamble for my life.

  26. Tegan

    Is this classed as cheating?
    My teacher gave us a test for the holidays, but then we had the test for an exam I remembered the answers and got a really good score

  27. Katrina

    That’s pretty unfair on you, especially considering that in my school nobody even suggests we should empty our pockets. Three kids have been disqualified just last year because something was in their pocket even if it was completely unrelated. One kid I knew had their paper disqualified because they had notes for a different subject. It’s ridiculous.

  28. Ebrahim

    I think I got upset coz it is unfair and each person have to get his score .Fair marks main a lot to student ,teacher and even society .

  29. Jo Grant

    There is no way for invigilators or exam officers to tell who intended to cheat and who just made a mistake. It is their integrity and often their jobs on the line if the dont report something that has happened in an exam. There are exam concessions if you have serious anxiety etc. that would allow you a separate room if that is easier. The JCQ publishes loads of documents for students explaining what is acceptable in exam rooms, and it is actually not the fault of the school if you forget to check your pockets. You were really unlucky, but the punishment is fair.

  30. Joel

    Sorry to hear that, however, being a student myself in the exam rodeo – exam figureheads i.e teachers and exam proctors explicitly advise not to bring anything “illegal” into the exam halls and that the onus is on you to check and ensure that you are complying to the board’s standards.

    You seem to relegate BTEC due to your own negligence – you make BTECs sound like a second class qualification compared to A-Levels when in reality they are the same.

    You never know this can be a blessing in disguise for you and you could be extremely successful in your “BTEC” chosen career – compared to Law. All the best.

  31. Dawn Tate

    I had to retake my freaking cooking exam which never even exsisted again

  32. Mihai

    The punishment was too harsh indeed. I believe it would be better if they had a graph to guide them into applying the correct punishment for each offence: deduct 10 marks fir cheating, 5 marks for attempt of cheating, 2 marks for phones ringin, etc.

  33. Vinu

    Take it easy 🙂 all the people do mistakes. Mistakes are good even if they lead us to be punished because we get moral from our mistakes to not to do those kind of mistakes again. According to the college rule in an exam hall Whether you do fraud intentionally or unintentionally You will be punished. It should be an awareness that every student must check their pockets before entering exam hall

  34. Ana

    I think…it is harsh but every one need to be treated the same even if it was accidental

  35. Ana

    I think…it is harsh but every one need to be treated the same,

  36. Kt

    The punishment seems harsh but you had notes on you for the exam. It is your responsibility before you go in to check your pockets, turn off your phone etc. The invigilator isn’t going to know that you forgot they were there because the expectation is that people check before they go in. So the punishment is justified in my opinion.

  37. guest

    I went through almost the same thing. for my English coursework, my teacher put my essay through a plagiarism checker and it came up as plagiarised. I swore that I hadn’t and I rewrote the essay just to be sure and it can up again. I got into so much trouble and the exam board was contacted and they wanted to see the essay. Turns out the website they were checking it on was fake and no matter what they put in it said plagiarised. I can’t believe I spent weeks being sick over this and then the school didn’t even apologise

  38. Jana

    This taught me a lesson. I would like to say that exams are just a result of your effort but that’s not the end.

  39. anu

    I think life is about enjoyment and people should not always worry about different things likes exams as life is too short to be happy

  40. ssabar

    I think there’s no way for them to know that you didn’t do that deliberately.but there’s always a reason why things happen .i am sorry to hear about what happen.

  41. anaid


  42. Fran

    Whether you intended to or not, you cheated. Your punishment was the one they reserve for people who cheat. Seems pretty fair.

  43. CJ

    I think the punishment was very harsh and disqualification was too far. If a student has worked hard for months to ace their exams only for it to go down the drain because of a small mistake is ludicrous. There’s a lot of pressure put on students to do well and slip ups happen. There should be consequences but not to the extent of a disqualification!

  44. Jidemma

    I feel the punishment was not proportionate. Even if they caught you they could have found out whether or not you used it through a camera or something and should have also allowed you to explain what happened, that would have been just. However, you should always ensure you check yourself before you go in for an exam.

  45. yavie

    I think that’s quite fair, I mean, if someone would’ve intentionally done that, the punishment seems fair, and unfortunately you can’t prove you didn’t do it on purpose. It’s understandable that shit like this happens (one time I forgot my phone in my pocket and it wasn’t even on silent, I can’t believe I was lucky enough not to receive any notification whatsoever – ultimately, I would have considered a punishment like this fair enough). All in all, it’s each and every one of ours responsibility and we have to face the consequences of our actions. I hope you’ll do the degree you want in the end!

  46. NAME...

    I am sorry to hear about what happen. However,the invigilators tell you to empty your pockets. So, since you were warned then the outcome is reasonable.

  47. Geoffrey Adevor

    I guess on second thought its another chance for you to rewrite the exams and who knows from your experience you will hopefully do well in the subsequent exams

  48. othmane

    nice my brother

  49. Asma

    I think that it is a pretty harsh story

  50. Koki

    That’s what most of the students do, taking risks with their studies. Many should learn from you cause it’s true, it is there. You have wasted all the time you went to classes and money

  51. Ammish Naqi

    A pretty sad story it is, but in my opinion this story served as a lesson for you. You will now make sure that you do not have any unnecessary material whenever going in the examination hall. Furthermore, I would like to say that these exams are not the end of the world. Probably or in fact it was written this way for you. So instead of getting disheartened and effecting your current studies, you should focus on them and stay positive. Moreover, I agree to the fact that their treatment with you was a bit harsh and they should have actually listened to your side- the actual reason- and then should have announced their decision. Seems unfair.

  52. Yaeesh Khan

    Wow… Talk about being cruel. The exam board should have been more lenient as it was it is very obvious that it was a genuine innocent mistake. The candidate should have been punished but only by deducting a mark, not through disqualification!!!

  53. Ruby

    we all have to go through the same exams (if you take A levels) therefore its only fair there are the same rules for everyone, it may seem harsh but who leaves notes in their pocket anyway? If the exam was that important you would have checked

  54. Apple Joy Cabay

    I think instead of arguing with your professor or crying after you fail. Make your failures as a challenge or motivation to study harder for the next exam. Everyone would experience that, that’s why you should be always ready for any problems you encounter this will serve as a preparation for your future.

  55. Mel

    I feel bad for you. But there’s always a reason why things happen. I hope you enjoy what you’re doing now and take that as a life changing experience

  56. C Williams

    I believe that’s uncalled for if it’s not even on the exam you’re sitting then it’s not cheating it’s obviously just an honest mistake. There is no need to disqualify someone over that. There should be different levels of punishment and this shouldn’t have when been punished at all.

  57. Vicky

    Why didn’t you retake the year of A-Levels?

    • jake haynes

      My english a level exam went very wrong too with miscommunication with our teacher. I ended up failing along with half of the class because of this and resitting two exams on top of the second year would have been too stressful. The teacher was complained and reported by the class and it is believed he was sacked. I did have a horror year.

      • Ayesha

        I think what she means is to retake the whole year, which is possible, just as some people take a gap year at age 16 and start a-levels later. A levels are tough, they are meant to be and it’s good to get into the habit of not relying too much on good teachers and becoming more independent minded. It’s good preparation for uni. I’m not sure why you felt that this disqualification was enough to stop you studying law at university, a law a-level is not required, in fact it’s not that useful because it’s the tip of the iceberg compared to what you need to learn at uni level, I know, I did it. It sounds to me that it might not be the right course for you though, it’s heavily exam-oriented and one of the toughest courses you can do. If you really wanted to do law it’s never too late, though, in fact personally I wish I had waited until I was older to do my course, mature students have a much better approach to it and tend to be more successful. The punishment does sound harsh in your case but there have always been strict rules about these things for a reason. It’s to send a message to all other students as well that cheating is not tolerated. One girl on an exam I took was disqualified because she’d left her phone switched on in her bag on the other side of the hall and it rang. I would say however, if they didn’t, they really should have reminded everyone to take the time to check pockets, remove bags etc and declare if they still had any notes before the start. Do not let this one mistake ruin your life as you are saying. As long as you are alive you always have time to make it up. BTEC is a well respected qualification and there are plenty of other routes to your ideal job. Just do a bit of research.

  58. Name

    I think that they shouldn’t have disqualified you, but instead taken marks off or something would have been more fair.

  59. Name

    I think…Make sure you empty your pocket next time

  60. Scarlet

    I think…you should probably have read the rules if it’s that important too you

  61. Ernest

    Yes ✔️ I think the fault came from you. You should have checked several times before entering the hall and that is not the end of your life is not only school that can better a person in future.

  62. Teej

    It’s your own fault mate. You get told at the start of the exam to empty your pockets and you didn’t. You’re the reason it fell out and there’s no way for an invigilator or AQA to verify that you didn’t use it. You can blame everyone else all you want but ultimately, the fault lies solely with you.

  63. Ciara

    I notice a lot of people saying that invigilators tell people to empty their pockets. Through my 24 GCSE exams and 7 AS exams I (or any of my colleagues) have never been told. After reading this though, I will definitely make sure I do.

  64. name

    I think it was a harsh punishment. I would have made a formal complaint to the exam board.

  65. A

    I think you should be allowed another chance, everyone is equal

    • Sally

      If everyone’s equal why would he be allowed another chance? What about all the student that didn’t bring any material into the exam. I think having a uniform punishment is fair. Cheating is cheating. Invigilators always read a set of rules reminding you to check pockets and ensure any electronics are handed in, so it’s only fair to be penalised for not doing so.

  66. adam

    its a helpfull article thank you

  67. Raditya

    I think this is a good article

  68. Colm Grimes

    This is a very good article

  69. Oumaima

    This is a very good article

  70. mira

    this is a really interesting article

  71. Babar Ali

    I think it’s bad luck to fail in a level because it is very easy to study