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Three Guidelines and Two Workarounds for Tackling Makeup Exam Policies

Original Content Publication Date: 03/22/2019


Deciding on policies for make-up exams can be a difficult question for a teacher to tackle. They create more work, place teachers in an awkward place of judging the truthfulness of students excuses, and make it difficult to maintain fairness. These five tips will help you to succeed in making your policies as fair and as easy as possible.

  1. Alignment - Align your policies with the desired outcomes of your courses and your exams depending on the type of assessment, frequency, and weighting. For example, dropping the lowest grade won’t work for courses with only one or two tests. If an early exam is an essential foundation for later concepts or is a primary source of learning feedback, students shouldn’t be denied the opportunity for a makeup.
  2. Transparency - Share your policy freely with your students far in advance of when it might come into play. Provide them with all the details they might need to fully understand. This may include how and when students should notify you, the period of time in which the makeup must be completed, acceptable excuses, and impact on grades.
  3. Fairness - Ensure that all students are treated fairly. This means that all cases are handled according to your policy which has already been laid out to the students. Make up exams also should not be any harder or easier than the exam being made up. 
Is it possible to structure your course so that missing a single test is not catastrophic? These workarounds benefits students who miss an exam, but also benefits students who take all exams.
  1. Drop the lowest score - The lowest test score before the final exam is dropped entirely.
  2. Substitute the lowest score - The lowest test score is substituted for the highest score or the score from the final exam. 
When developing your policy, consider your course and students. Policies might be long or short, firm or flexible. In all cases, they should be transparent, fair, and justified with a focus on their value for student learning. Most importantly, your policy should ensure that students do not miss an essential learning opportunity in your course.


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