A couple of days ago I've done this exam for a professional programmer degree. The problem is that since I was the only programmer thaking the exam on that day I was put together with graphic designers. In the process of work the designers and their instructors were continuously discussing their projects, exchanging ideas etc. It was hard for me to concentrate and I couldn't complete the task in time.

Since I'm taking the exam again in a few days my question is: is it reasonable to ask for a more quiet place?

Also is quiet environment something programmers need for their work? The projects I've completed so far were all done in very peaceful atmosphere because for me deep concentration is a must. Is it common or some flaw I should work on?

  • 2
    @JoeStrazzere - I think the point is, if you need quiet to perform a programming exam, won't you require the same environment when employed as a programmer or do professional programmers need to learn how to work in noisy environments.
    – user8365
    Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 12:01
  • 2
    I think this question is probably better suited to academia. Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 13:32
  • Is this an academic exam, a certification exam, an exam for you current employer, or what? (It'd only be suitable for Academia if it's the first, I think, and maybe not then either -- don't know their requirements off hand.) Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 16:12
  • 1
    @JoeStrazzere - A programming exam that requires programming is a lot like a programming job.
    – user8365
    Commented Jun 27, 2014 at 1:18

6 Answers 6


Sounds like a strange setup to perform an exam under. Talk to the supervisor or responsible for the exam and ask if its possible to do the exam in a separate room. If not, bring ear protection for next exam.

The general consensus tend to be that programmers need peace and quiet to perform optimal. Bosses in charge tend to disagree when they realise the cost of giving everyone their own office. So you will still encounter a lot of situations where you will have to work in more or less noisy rooms. Just do a search on this site for open office and you will see the discussions.

So in some regards you will have to learn to adjust, i.e buy noise cancelling headphones, but in an exam situation you should not have to accept it.


I don't think programmers need peace and quiet any more than anyone else. I believe that like people need like environments not matter what their area. It just so happens that programmers tend to need to concentrate on tasks and so quiet helps best facilitate that. Sales people might need to talk and receive immediate feedback so this tends to lead to a more vibrant environment.

In saying that though. A development team in an agile environment might have a number of different professionals all in the same room and so interaction between the various parties would be constant and encouraged. Pair programming could also add to noise etc

In your case, I think it sounds like two different environment requirements trying to share the one environment. An exam situation has totally different requirements to trying to get work done when interaction is a must.

Is it common or some flaw I should work on?

It's not a flaw. It's just the environment you need to function at optimum. However, others need other ways so unfortunately you will need to learn to bloke out noise as and when required in many situations. Headphones is the typical method of choice I believe.

  • 4
    I don't think programmers need peace and quiet any more than anyone else. I might be biased as a developer but the need for some quiet focus time has never been that important in any other job I've done until I started designing software. My two pennies.
    – Bmo
    Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 11:21
  • 2
    @Bmo - It's the nature of the job that requires quiet and not the nature of the people who do that job. The OP was asking if he had a problem in this area.
    – user8365
    Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 12:04
  • I was taking the opening statement at face value. The rest of @dreza's comment is good because it addresses the need for homogeneous activities in a shared space.
    – Bmo
    Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 12:19
  • @Bmo I'm a developer as well. I agree that developing might require peace and quiet at times, but plenty of other jobs do as well (Developers aren't unique here). It's the mix of disciplines that require specific environments I personally believe that is the main issue.
    – dreza
    Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 20:13

Earplugs. Normally I'd suggest noise-cancelling headphones and/or music, but those might be considered suspicious during an exam.

You can't always control the environment. You can take steps to manage your reactions to it.


Quiet might be optimal but it is not easy to come by in the workplace, so it is better to learn to concentrate no matter what is going on around you. Needing too quiet a workplace will reduce your employment prospects especially in this silly world where open offices have become popular (with senior management not withthe people who have to sit there).

Will you be as productive as if you had a quiet space? No but senior management cares about things they can measure like office costs more than things they can't measure easily like developer productivity.

You can however learn to be productive and to ignore noise. The first step is to simply let it flow past you. And once you get in the zone, a dragon roaring in your ears won't bother you. The trick is to get there and meditation techniques are the way. You learn to ignore distraction through meditation. You start by naming it in your mind "noise" then returning to task. It takes a lot of repetitions before you can easily dismiss noise, but it worth it to practice.


Is it common or some flaw I should work on?

As a web developer and former electronics engineer, I would generally agree with the current consensus for this question.

However, I so also think that the more experience you get, the more confident you become. The more confident you become, the less you tend to over think the solution - as people often do in an exam.

  • What is the "current consensus for this question"? Also, what does confidence have to do with quietness?
    – Martin F
    Commented Oct 13, 2014 at 18:23

There are really two questions here, or at least two different contexts.

  • Is it normal to expect a quiet atmosphere when taking an exam?
  • Is it normal to expect a quiet atmosphere when programming at work?

I'll try to answer both based solely on my own experience (20 years so far in IT):

The Exam Experience

As for the first, exams (of any kind) are generally expected to be taken in a quiet, peaceful atmosphere. In the situation you describe, it would be perfectly normal to speak with the exam administrator or supervisor in charge of the test, and mention that the other exam-takers are causing a disruptive environment for you. It would normally be the responsibility of that person to provide an appropriate testing environment. For most exams I've taken, such as certification exams, people were expected to leave the room before even speaking, and everything was dead quiet.

The Workplace Experience

As for the second, the actual workplace is a totally different situation. Throughout your career, you will see the full range of environments - everything from having to program at a desk on a noisy plant floor, to a cubicle in a heavily-trafficked corridor, to a quiet little office with the door closed.

My first job as a server admin, in fact, had me sometimes sitting in a room with only a thin wall separating us from the very loud, very noisy plant floor. It was enough that I had to wear headphones just to hear myself think. So that sort of situation DOES happen on occasion.

At most of my programming-related jobs, though, I've been in a room of varying size, generally with other programmers or people doing similar tasks, with each of us sitting at a desk in a short cubicle. Within the U.S., this seems to be the norm for any low or mid-level IT position. Once you get higher up the food chain (so to speak), like a senior developer or manager, then you could reasonably expect to have your own office with a door. At some companies, even a mid-level programmer could have their own office, but that's been rare in my experience.

This normal, cubicle-based arrangement is generally a quiet atmosphere, but even then there will usually be discussions going on about code, projects, and even non-work-related topics.

You may find such "background noise" to be distracting at first, but learning to work despite such distraction is key to becoming a good programmer. Requesting absolute silence in the workplace will only make you look bad and possibly alienate your co-workers. Just as a blacksmith toughens up his/her hands by exposing them to heat, your mind will eventually learn to block out the noise and concentrate despite it. And you'll be a more valuable asset for having that ability, as well.

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