Power drills & noisy cars

Exams, interrupted

Do you ever get this: just when you’re about to start your exam, builders outside start drilling. It happened during the most recent exam period. The UK paid a visit to five exam locations and made an overview of the biggest annoyances.
By Kevin Schilder and Rob Siebelink / Illustration by Kalle Wolters / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

The artificial intelligence exam had only just started in Expo 3, the RUG’s exam hall at the MartiniPlaza, when an ungodly noise started. It was an impact drill that builders were using in the room next door. People taking the exam immediately lost all their focus. None of the supervisors present did anything to stop the noise, annoyed students said later. For three hours, while they tried to do their exams, they were distracted by drilling and pounding.

Or have you ever experienced this: a supervisor sits down and starts listening to their voice-mail messages on speaker, just as a room full of students is about to start their exams. ‘I was immediately distracted’, gripes Markus Frisch, a third-year student of economy.

These occurrences are not isolated, as the university paper UK found out during a tour of five exam locations during the latest exam week. We talked to more than a hundred students. Complaints about noise, bad lighting, and the rooms being too cold are the most common ones, but some students also complain about how far away the exams are being held or that there are too many students in one room.


Every year, complaints come flooding in at the RUG. How many exactly is unclear: often, students end up accepting the situations for what they are. When they want to submit an official complaint, they have to do so with the exam committee connected to their own faculty. There is no centralised complaints office.

A response from the RUG

The rooms the RUG rents to administer exams have to meet certain standards, the university explains in a response. These standards are well-known to all the building managers. The RUG will be contacting MartiniPlaza over the drilling issue. ‘They shouldn’t be doing that during exams’, says spokesperson Jorien Bakker.

Students with complaints about exams or locations can contact their own faculties’ exam committee. In case of ‘small annoyances’, students can talk to the exam supervisor. They will usually be able to solve the problem immediately, the RUG says.

MartiniPlaza is ‘super far away’, more than a quarter of students says, especially when the exam starts at 9 am and you want to get there on time. Because when you’re on time, they say, you have more time to relax, read over some last-minute texts and quiz your fellow students.

‘Why do we have to bike all the way from Zernike to the MartiniPlaza?’ The trip is all right when the weather’s nice. But when it’s cold, or raining cats and dogs, and you arrive shivering and wet? A student of French says: ‘I don’t want to have to ride the Tour de France and then sit a difficult exam.’

Always noise

‘Why we still have exams here is a mystery to me. The traffic outside is just the worst’, says Anne, an English student who just had an exam in room 1314.0026. This small room at the front of the Harmonie building has the lowest score of the five locations we visited, which is mainly due to the noise.

The room is flanked by the central Aletta Jacobs square on the one side, which suppliers cross, accompanied by their noisy carts, and by the Uurwerkersgang on the other side. This street is a great source of irritation, many students say. It serves as a passage between the Turftorenstraat and the Harmonie quad and there is always noise that can be easily heard in 1314.0026 (‘That’s because of those high windows’).

Three quarters of the students the UK spoke to list noise as their main complaint. They’re not just talking about the drill in Expo 3 or the noisy carts outside 1314.0026, but also the ACLO’s air conditioning at Zernike. ‘The ACLO’s acoustics are really weird’, says one student.

Thick coat

The ACLO-Zernike site is also not very popular when it comes to its size. The room is difficult to heat, confusing, and especially first-years have a hard time finding their table number. The room is also used to administer several different exams at the same time, and some of them take much longer than others. This means that entire groups of students will leave the hall, while others are still slaving away.

Many students prefer no more than one single class for each exam, and would like them to be administered in normal classrooms. ‘That way there’s just a small group of students and you can easily make contact with your lecturer, which is nice. It would make exams so much better’, says third-year student Linde de Bot.

The cold is also a returning complaint. Especially the large exam halls are difficult to heat, especially in the winter. ‘If I’m supervising an exam here I often wear a thick coat’, says a supervisor at the ACLO location at the train station.


Approximately sixty percent of the students the university paper UK talked to complained about the bad lighting. They mainly named old, flickering fluorescent lighting as an irritation. At MartiniPlaza Jonathan, a second-year biology student, saw a fellow student faint because she couldn’t handle the flickering lights. ‘That certainly put a damper on the exam.’

One room that does get a good score when it comes to lighting is the Aletta Jacobs hall; the neutral colours and the two large windows in the back combine to form a ‘natural lighting experience’. Although some students feel the orange colour of the wall is ‘stress-inducing’.

The UK talked to 110 students at five exam locations. For the ranking see the map.


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