Some students found that their answer for the first section had been deleted by the softwareMichael Behrend,,_Sidgwick_Site,, via Wikimedia Commons

Second-year English students encountered significant technical issues while taking an in-person exam on Monday (27/05), leading to widespread disruption in the exam hall.

The exam was run on a new version of the software ‘Inspera’, designed to enable students to complete exams on their own locked computer in a controlled exam setting.

This comes as the University has been trialling the new version of the software in a pilot phase across multiple triposes this exam season.

Most students reported completing the first section without difficulties. However, a technical issue meant that dozens of students were unable to complete the second section.

They were instead provided with lined paper to complete their exam, which allegedly took up to 15 minutes.

Some students also found that their answer for the first section had been deleted and they were forced to stay back an hour to rewrite their work after the three hour exam.

Following the problems, the English faculty sent an email on Tuesday morning which informed students that “the faculty has asked the Universities Exam Operations and Inspera Admin teams to address [the problems] asap”.

They also assured students that “the Faculty’s part IB Exam board will be able to make mitigations with the aim of ensuring that no student’s mark will be negatively affected by having faced difficulties in the exam”.

One student said that during the exam “quite a few people were crying behind me and some had to go to the toilet because they were in such a state – one guy ran out about 10 minutes until the end saying it was so unfair”.

Another student effected by the problems told Varsity: “This year counts for 30% of my degree and I lost the opportunity to show some of my best work.”

The same cohort of students sat a second exam using the Inspera software on Tuesday (28/05), which the faculty confirmed as still going ahead despite the previous day’s disruption.

Varsity understands that there were no technical difficulties in the second exam.

A spokesperson for the English Faculty said: “During Monday’s Part 1B English exam, some issues arose resulting in disruption. We regret any distress this caused and are investigating further.

“We are working with the University to establish what mitigations can be put in place to ensure those who sat the exam are fairly assessed.”


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A spokesperson for Inspera told Varsity: “The University of Cambridge raised 2 support requests with Inspera this week (both 30/05/24) and, as such, we are aware of issues impacting 5 students encountered when sitting an exam at the University this week.”

“We understand that these students reported issues including work being lost and being removed from the test after a period of time.

We recognise the disruption that this issue has caused for the students impacted and are in contact with the University of Cambridge regarding these specific issues. We will pass on details of our investigation directly to the University.”

“Inspera supports millions of assessment submissions around the world each year and technical issues are very rare.

“Where they do occur, they are investigated and resolved swiftly to minimise the potential impact on students. Inspera has been used to successfully support 100,000s of assessment submissions with the University of Cambridge over the course of our partnership.”