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Best Practice Guide to Reducing Exam Paper Errors

Examinations are a significant part of assessment for many courses across the University. It is important that schools put in place robust quality checks of exam papers before sending them to the Examinations Office in order to reduce the number of errors detected at the exam venue.

In March 2015, the Quality Enhancement Committee (QEC) endorsed that after every major exam period, Learning and Quality Support (LQS) would notify relevant Heads of School and Executive Deans of any school identified where either 10 or more exam paper errors have occurred or 3 or more exam paper errors have been identified at the exam venue.

The following information is intended to assist schools in identifying the common errors that are encountered at the University and to provide some guidance on processes that can be put in place in order to ensure errors are avoided in the future.

Examples of Exam Paper Errors

The following are the most common error types (with examples) that occurred in exam papers at the University:

1. Incorrect question content including incorrect formulas

  • 'figure 2' rather than 'figure 5'
  • '1,500,000 units' rather than '150,000 units'
  • 'depression' rather than 'high blood pressure'
  • 'n=4' rather than 'n=3'

2. Unclear or incorrect instructions

  • front cover tells students to answer 2 questions but they need to answer 3
  • times allocated to each section differ on front cover to the questions
  • no instructions when multiple books are supplied - students are unsure whether to answer each question in a different book and if so which one

3. Incorrect question numbering

  • two question 3's and no question 4
  • no question 28 in multiple choice questions (MCQ)
  • missing MCQ options on answer sheet

4. Issues with attachments, tables & materials

  • tables cut off
  • missing case studies, tables, pages, MCQ's
  • illegible tables
  • poor quality graph paper
  • formatting issues which arise after the document has been transferred to PDF

5. Issues with marks

  • questions not adding up to the total
  • questions not having equal marks as indicated

Lodgement Form Errors

Errors that occur on the exam paper lodgement form and detected by the Examinations Office are recorded as an exam error. Common lodgement form errors have included:

  1. Incorrect course ID. The correct ID can be found in the exam requests panel of PeopleSoft.
  2. Incorrect number of candidates. The correct information can be found in the exam requests panel of PeopleSoft.
  3. Incorrect total number of pages. All pages including the front page and attachments should be included.
  4. Incorrect printing format or unclear printing instructions.
  5. Special instructions or information for supervisors needs to be on the lodgement form and the front cover.
  6. Inconsistent information between lodgement form and front cover.

Best practice checklist to avoid errors

Schools should follow the checklist below in order to minimise errors in examination papers.

  1. Consult the Examination Paper Preparation Guide produced by the Examinations Office (website) which contains information and templates.
  2. Ensure that staff responsible for completing lodgement forms have attended training offered by the Examinations Office. For more information on training email the Examinations Office,
  3. Establish internal timelines to ensure professional staff have enough time to process exam papers within the University timelines.
  4. Ensure that written instructions on the front cover of the exam paper are clear and concise.
  5. Attachments should be legible and appropriately labelled e.g. attachments copied from text books must be clear and labelled in accordance with their use in the exam paper.
  6. An academic staff member should proofread the printed version of the exam paper and sign the lodgement form only once they are satisfied that the paper is free of errors.
  7. PDF versions of exam papers and the lodgement form should be sent to a second designated person to proofread for both technical and administrative errors. The lodgement form should only be signed once they are satisfied the paper and lodgement form are free of errors.
  8. Professional staff should conduct a final check of the exam paper to identify any errors (not of a technical nature) prior to uploading papers into TRIM.
  9. Monitor exam error numbers to identify persistent offenders (e.g. those who repeatedly have exam paper errors or who are not available to take questions during reading time). Heads of School can email Learning and Quality Support,, to obtain this data.
  10. Analyse the data supplied annually by Learning and Quality Support to identify patterns and/or underlying causes and identify areas where processes or staff training could be improved.

Note: The examinations office is not a proof reading service; their role is to print and distribute exam papers.

The information provided above will be updated to ensure that it reflects current issues and current best practice.
If you require any additional information to be added please email

Division of Academic and Student Engagement

The University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005

Street Address

Level 7, Wills Building
North Terrace Campus


T +61 8 8313 5901
F +61 8 8313 8333