April 13, 2011

Make-Up Tests or Quizzes

Here are two emails I received yesterday after class:

This is A. from your English 101 class. I am sick and will not be in class today. I know the MLA test is today, and I was wondering if I would be able to make it up? Please let me know. See you in class on Thursday! Thank you for your time.

Prof. E.
    I woke up today with the flu or something and I can't even get out of bed. I was wondering if I don't go to class today, if there is anyway I could still make up the test.

Other than the fact that the second one was sent to my department chair, instead of me, both of these emails look fine on the surface: requesting a make-up exam for one they planned to miss.  Except that my syllabus clearly states there are no make-up exams. After doing some math, I figured this test was worth about 2% of their grade, if that.  Was it worth all the hassle?

Out of curiosity, I did a quick Google search on Make-Up Exam Policy.  The response varies but I did like what the University of Indianapolis states: Make-up exams are a courtesy that is extended to students by their instructors. An instructor is never obligated to provide a make-up exam for any student.  In addition, a recent column in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Negotiating the Demands of Students' Lives, had this to say: 

At most colleges, individual faculty members are forced to negotiate the demands of students’ lives in their classes as the semester plays out. You provide extensions, you let students take exams early, you give make-up assignments, you decide to excuse absences. Individual faculty bear the burden of making semester-long classes fit a student’s life, and some are better at doing that than others.

It helped to realize that what I was thinking about doing, was "making classes fit a student's life," so I decided in this case to try and accommodate their requests.  This required a series of emails to the person who proctors exams for the Writing Center, setting up the cover letter, me sending him the two-part exams, trying to find a time.  Then I had to email back to the students the arrangements, cautioning them that their deadline was Thursday by class time, when I had planned to hand back the tests.

That only took an extra hour.  What was interesting was when I emailed the students to let them know about accommodating their request, there was no response from either of the students; not even a thank-you. Whenever I deviate from my syllabus, I always feel like a 90-pound weakling who just had sand kicked in her face.  So, from now on--no make-up exams.


  1. I'm not sure what people think sometimes. They don't think we have any other life, I guess. That this is all we do, and if we aren't, we're just hanging around waiting to see who will need us to do something. So there really isn't a need to thank us for anything. That's what we're standing around waiting for. We should be thanking them for finding something for us to do.

  2. To an outsider it might sound petty. To an educator- I recognize every bit of time, energy, angst, reflection, and diplomacy it took to make the decision you made to accommodate these students. I wish that there was some way to guarantee a return for the effort we expend in the world of education!

  3. Maybe we need to share examples like these at the beginning of the semester. After all, perhaps students, who are used to the kow-towing of the public school system, need to be educated in proper college etiquette (not to mention real-world survival). Will they listen, learn, and internalize? Hmmm...

  4. I just don't understand it. It isn't that I don't try to teach manners as I go either. I agree with you, no more make-ups. If they don't have the courtesy to email you and thank you then, that's it! Kudos to you for giving it the best you could. Too bad they don't appreciate you!

  5. I'm with Judy, I think an explanation of the policy might help spread the word.