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Stop-the-Clock Breaks


Some times referred to as 'rest breaks', stop-the-clock breaks give the student an opportunity to take a break from their exam without losing any of their writing time allocations.

Usually, stop-the-clock breaks of five minutes or ten minutes per hour are recommended. If a student has a three hour exam and a recommendation for 10 minutes per hour stop-the-clock break is made, they will be able to break for up to 30 minutes during that three hour exam. The elapsed time of the exam could therefore potentially be 3.5 hours.

Stop-the-clock breaks are flexible. A student may use none or only part of their time allowance. They may also use it flexibly across the time of the exam. For example, where a student has stop-the-clock breaks of 10 minutes per hour in a three hour exam they could take a 15 minute break after the first hour and a 15 minute break after the second hour.

The reasons that make these breaks necessary cannot usually be predicted in an exact manner (see below for examples) so it is important that the time can be used flexibly throughout the exam period.

Breaks usually relate to written exams, typed exams, multiple choice and online tests. It may be relevant for practical tests too. Extra breaks are not generally granted for the practical OSCE examinations which form part of medical related degrees but brief breaks are incorporated in between OSCE stations for all students taking those exams.


Certain disabilities may mean that a student will need to stop working to attend to symptoms or requirements relating to their disability. It is discriminatory to expect them to use standard examination writing time to attend to these needs.


  • Students with diabetes may need to regularly test their blood sugar levels and adjust them accordingly.
  • A student with a chronic back condition may need to take breaks to relieve pain and discomfort.
  • Students with very high levels of anxiety may need to take breaks in order to employ techniques to alleviate their anxiety such as breathing exercises or mindfulness so that they can engage with their exam.
  • Students with irritable bowel syndrome may need to use the bathroom urgently and for varying amounts of time.
  • Students with ADD or ASD may utilise time to take breaks in order to employ sensory techniques to manage their concentration level.