Taking Exams When You Are Sick

My second semester of sophomore year, I ended up getting food poisoning right before I had to take a midterm. The night before, my friends and I had gone out to a restaurant to celebrate nearing the end of midterms, and since we went near closing time, the food turnover wasn't high. I've also had to take other tests and exams while dealing with various short term health issues. By request of a friend, here are my tips for taking an exam when you're sick.

Ask to reschedule

If you have supporting documentation, request that the exam be rescheduled to no later than the next day. Some departments may not allow exams to be rescheduled though (mine didn't), so be prepared if they deny your request.

Getting documentation

Visiting the student health center on campus is an easy way to get documentation of illness. In my experience, they have not been very good at giving me treatment ideas other than "wait it out," but they did help me rule out a lot of possible reasons I was sick. Read more about being sick in college here.

Peppermint is your friend

Inhaling peppermint essential oil is great for managing nausea. No one stopped me from bringing a small bottle of it into an exam room, but check with the proctor before doing so. 

Take exams in a private setting

I always take exams in the disability testing center because I use a lot of assistive technology. If you aren't registered with Disability Services, you may be able to get permission to take an exam in there if you are sick and have documentation. In addition, if your dorm or apartment is on quarantine for a contagious disease, you can request a single room testing environment.

Request additional breaks or time

I normally have time and a half for my exams, but when I was throwing up every twenty minutes, I received double time on my exam instead, and untimed breaks when needed. I very much appreciated this, as I didn't have to worry about running out of time on the exam.

Bring a comfort item

One of my friends had horrible stomach pain right before taking an exam, and decided to bring a heating pad they had been using that helped to keep their pain levels down. They called and asked permission before bringing it, though the proctor was fine with it.

Remote exam location

If for some reason you are told to shelter in place, you can request an exam extension or take it virtually using a testing software. My school uses Respondus LockDown browser for all online tests, and there is video recording capabilities built in to prevent cheating.

I hope no one else ever has to take an exam while sick, but hopefully these tips will be useful if it ends up happening to you. Feel better soon!


Read more about: Assistive Technology