I have an important exam coming up and a few friends in my class want me to sit with them. Normally I would, but I'm worried about this group distracting me while I'm writing the exam. I won't discuss my reasons here, although I admit some of them are irrational (I have OCD).

I like sitting up in front of the classroom because I can easily ask the prof questions during the exam, so that's what I'm planning to do. However, I'm worried about my friends coming up before the exam and asking me to sit with them (this happened at a previous exam). Last time I just refused, and some of them were a bit annoyed with me (relations for the next few weeks seemed somewhat worse, although that could just be me). In addition, the encounter distracted me a bit while I was taking the exam (it was in the back of my mind that I shouldn't have been so rude, and because of me maybe they're annoyed and not doing as well on the exam).

If this happens at this exam, I could just say I like sitting up front and having my space. There's two problems here:

  1. They could again become annoyed.
  2. One or more of them might move up and sit beside me. If this happens, it would be rude for me to leave.

My question is how to sit by myself, while keeping relations fully in tact, and ensuring none of them decide to move and sit beside me. I've thought about telling them a day or two before the exam, although this might come off as weird. I've also considered just sucking it up and sitting next to them right off the bat, although this isn't really ideal.

  • When you refused last time did you give any reason for it? Commented Apr 14, 2018 at 7:47
  • Also, out of curiosity, where are you from, and what kind of exam is this? I've personally never heard of, or experienced, exams where you could ask the professor questions. Do you know why your friends want to sit next to you? Is the reason that questions are allowed also the reason their presence next to you is distracting?
    – Tinkeringbell
    Commented Apr 14, 2018 at 9:53
  • What does OCD have to do with it?
    – michi
    Commented Apr 14, 2018 at 18:29
  • 1
    @michi I'm speaking from my own personal experience with my OCD - I think what Inertial Ignorance is saying is they like things a certain way when taking an exam, i.e., sitting by themselves/away from their friends, otherwise it throws them off and could prevent them from doing as well as they could have had they sat alone. OCD is strange like that, if something isn't to a sufferers liking, it can completely throw them off kilter with something else. I hope this helps to clarify a bit for you - it may seem strange, especially if you yourself don't have OCD or know anyone who does.
    – Chilly
    Commented Jul 10, 2018 at 11:28
  • @InertialIgnorance I feel you there, I just explain myself to my friends and they're always cool with it, they understand that some things I just have to do my way and that's that. I'm glad your friends understood and you didn't have any problems :)
    – Chilly
    Commented Jul 10, 2018 at 14:05

2 Answers 2


Let them know a reason for your behavior. I'm getting the feeling that you'd prefer to work in isolation, so as not to distract yourself. Perhaps say something along the lines of:

Hey friends, FYI, when we go into the exam, I'm going to try to find a seat in the front away from the crowd, maybe with one or two randos around me. It's the closest I can get to feeling like I'm working alone, and that helps me concentrate. So, please don't think I'm acting weird towards you. Let's meet up afterwards, okay?

If instead you don't tell them a reason, and get up and move away, your behavior is open to interpretation. As far as you know, they could be wondering if you suspect them of cheating or if you're annoyed by them. You need to communicate your test taking ritual to have it be accepted.

You could also petition for a different exam taking situation through your school's disability resources. I've had plenty of friends do that.


Have you simply told the truth, including your OCD, and that it could have a negative impact on your exam result? Unless they have been given a valid reason, it's unlikely that they're going to honour your request, especially having them get sulky last time.

In the end, it's up to you decide whether your success is more important in the longer term. If your friends will not respect your wishes, and this could have a negative impact on your results then you need to decide whether these people really are friends.

Simply state your request, give your reasons as to why this is important in the context of impacting your results. They can either accept that or reject it. If they reject it, then it's not rude for you to move away from them in the exam room if they choose to sit next to you. It was them disrespecting your wishes that was the rude action here.

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