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Why does Cambridge have Key Times, what are they and how do schools use them when it comes to timetabling exams?

We are an international awarding organisation working with over 9000 schools in 160 countries. To maintain the security and integrity of our exams we have a number of arrangements in place including Key Times and Full Centre Supervision and administrative zones. Together, these arrangements are designed to make sure countries in similar time zones have their candidates under exam or supervisory conditions at the same time to maintain the security of question paper content.

The explanation below give you information about the three parts of our security arrangements and explains how they impact on creating your school's exam timetable.

Administrative zones 

An administrative zone is a part of the world where the clocks read similar times. We have six administrative zones and allocate every school to one depending on which country they are in.

We publish a different version of the timetable and Cambridge Guide to Making Entries for each administrative zone for each series.

Key Times 

Key Times only apply to timetabled exams. Each country taking our exams is given a time, local to each country, defined for each country, when all candidates taking timetabled exams must either be in an exam or under Full Centre Supervision. Each country has two Key Times, one for the morning session and one for the afternoon session, for example, 10:00 and 14:00.

Full Centre Supervision 

A specific type of supervision for examination candidates. It means that the candidate must either be:

  • under examination conditions; or,
  • supervised by the school in line with the conditions laid out below

Schools must make sure that candidates are in a supervised environment and there is at least one invigilator for every 30 candidates. When supervised, candidates must not:

  • be in the same room as any other people except for invigilators, and candidates taking the same examination
  • have access to telephones, mobile phones,laptops/computers with and without internet access, or any other means of external communication
  • communicate in any way with anyone who is not under Full Centre Supervision at that school.

When supervised, candidates may have access to their books and notes, and talk to each other, provided that they do not disturb candidates taking an examination.

Timetabling exams

We timetable our exams in either the morning (before 13:00) or afternoon session (after 13:00). To timetable your exams find the exams you want to offer in the Cambridge timetable for your administrative zone and then locate your Key Times, by accessing our online calculator. As long as you follow our Key Time regulations you can timetable your exams at any time within the relevant morning or afternoon session. For example, if your Key Time is 10:00 and you need to timetable a 45 minute exam you could do any of the following:

  • Start the exam at 10:00
  • Start the exam before 10:00 but keep candidates supervised from the time they finish the exam until 10:00
  • Start the exam after 10:00 but keep candidates supervised from 10:00 until the start of the exam.

This flexibility gives you the scope to timetable your exams at the most appropriate time for your candidates while adhering to our Key Time regulations.

Our interactive tutorial here explains some of the main regulations for timetabling examinations and will assist examinations officers in implementing them in their school.

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