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Missed Exams

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by Ollie123, May 2, 2012.

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  1. Ollie123

    Ollie123

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    I'm just curious what strategies others have for dealing with students who miss exams. I was pretty forgiving in the past, but find myself becoming more rigid as I 1) Am assigned larger classes and thus would need to devote substantially more time to accommodate people and 2) Grow weary of dealing with lame excuses.

    This semester I dropped one exam thinking that would alleviate the need for make-ups, but no it is "unfair" that I drop the one they missed because they overslept/crashed their car/etc. instead of one they failed. In the past I've granted make-ups for students who had bad reasons (i.e. oversleeping) but were apologetic, but that seems to have been abused so I'm considering just giving out zeros in such cases. One faculty member has a policy that all make-up exams (regardless of excuse) are essay, which seems an effective deterrent but perhaps overly harsh for legit excuses.

    Just curious what strategies others have developed for dealing with these. As you may have guessed, it is finals week and the whining has began!
  2. AcronymAllergy

    AcronymAllergy Neuropsychologist Moderator

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    I've heard of the essay make-up exam strategy, and yep, it definitely seems to be effective for curtailing excessive absences. If the issue is that you're having to schedule multiple make-up sessions, you could try putting in your syllabus that all make-up exams for the semester will be offered on a single date. Multiple instructors in my program used that technique effectively.
  3. paramour

    paramour

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    This is what I do as well. Students are informed that if they miss an exam for any reason whatsover (e.g., illness, flat tire, failed alarm clock, tornado stole your vehicle, blizzard, excessive partying, golf tournament, the petsitter canceled, alien landing, the latest apocalypse, etc.), then they are allowed to take the make-up exam on the final day of class (which also happens to be the day scheduled for final exams--I dropped the final exam in this class in exchange for a semester project, so no need to worry about multiple exams unless they missed multiple tests). Documentation not required. Students are forewarned that questions may be more difficult than the ones on the original exam and/or in another format, so they really shouldn't make a habit of being absent. If they miss the make-up day, then too bad. They are not given a second opportunity.
  4. Ollie123

    Ollie123

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    Combination of multiple make-ups and the need to create make-up exams. I'm actually weighing the costs/benefits of doing so though and may just shuffle the question order (i.e. create a new version) rather than actually making an equivalent exam. I hate the notion that they might be able to find out about it from friends, but I also know I will lose my mind trying to maintain the current system.
  5. paramour

    paramour

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    I suspect that you will probably be fine. I usually make 3 versions of each exam when I administer it on the scheduled date. I think I was lazy during a summer session one year and simply randomized the question order yet again (and then randomized the response stems as well) for the make-ups. I was still concerned that students might have looked at their peers' exams, but based upon their performance, I don't think this was likely.

    Otherwise, I've used a combination of material from the original exam and some "new" questions. There are typically other questions I thought about asking but didn't due to limited space or whatever other reason, so it's not TOO much of a pain in the arse to switch them out for other items. Sometimes I throw in questions with different formats (e.g., T/F, which I despise and usually stay away from). I dislike grading essay items as is on the exams that I do give because I'm typically punishing myself by adding these types of questions ... I'm certainly not going to generate an entire exam this way. It might drive me to drinking!
  6. aagman01

    aagman01

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    My first semester teaching I had a few students who "could not make" an exam". The next semester, and subsequent ones, I informed students that they could miss an (1) exam if they wished. However, I informed them that the make up exam would be more detailed and much more rigorous. Subsequently, in the 3 semesters that followed, 0 students missed exams.

    That may not always be the case for you, but I suspect that if you provide a clear and detailed rational for students as to why they should not miss an exam, most will figure out a way to attend. Just my experience, which could certainly differ for you!
  7. MCParent

    MCParent SDN Bronze Donor Bronze Donor

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    I thought most universities or colleges had specific rules about make-ups.
  8. paramour

    paramour

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    Every place I have attended or taught at varied depending upon the instructor (includes 4 universities and 1 community college).
  9. Ollie123

    Ollie123

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    Ours states that they "have to be offered for legitimate reasons" and list some truly legitimate excuses (e.g. hospitalization), but leave other reasons up to the discretion of the instructor. I've never seen one that actually goes into detail on the format of the exam, when it must be offered, etc. Does yours have one? If so, I'd be curious to see it.
  10. Pragma

    Pragma

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    Echoing others, tough love statements up front and a clear plan for the "legit" excuses. I had similar problems in my first course or two. But a solid policy to point to helps. I don't allow makeups for anything without documentation. If it is a strange circumstance, they need to get a letter from the Dean's office.

    Has worked well, although I occasionally have students do incompletes if it all happens at the end of the term.
  11. MCParent

    MCParent SDN Bronze Donor Bronze Donor

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    My undergrad had a specific policy. But that was in Canada, and things seemed to be a little different. e.g., from the policy web site: "There are many ways your instructor can accommodate you and the options are up to the instructor and the department. Writing a make-up test at your convenience may not be one of these options."

    I thought my grad school institution had one, but I can't find it now (I swear I saw it at TA orientation). Maybe it is less concrete than I'd thought.
  12. LM02

    LM02 Senior Member

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    With the exception of religious reasons (e.g., rosh hashanah), my policy is that a make-up exam will be granted ONLY with a formal letter from health services or the dean.

    Aunt Anna's 90th birthday party (or whatever nonsense) is not a sufficient excuse.
  13. AcronymAllergy

    AcronymAllergy Neuropsychologist Moderator

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    Our program actually prohibited this, as it was seen as penalizing students who had valid excuses. Thus, the make-up couldn't be substantively more difficult than the original exam; you definitely could change the format from multiple-choice to short answer or essay, though.

    Agreed with the others, though, that a clear statement up front/at the beginning of the semester (and frequent reminders throughout) is the best way to avoid most problems. I actually had a fairly lenient make-up policy, and I think only ended up having to administer maybe five over two semesters.
  14. bjxm

    bjxm

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    I had great success with the drop the lowest exam score method (which allowed people to miss one and meant, if they didn't miss any and did well early, they could skip the final). On the first day, I made it clear that car problems, oversleeping, etc. would not change that policy. I did make exceptions for a few students that had documented (doctor's excuse, police report, obit) issues though. Students were fine with it and I never had any issue with enforcing the policy.

    On a related note: I had a student turn in a paper on the day after his mother died, which was the due date (I totally would've made an exception for him!), so now all other excuses pale in comparison... If he did it...
  15. Therapist4Chnge

    Therapist4Chnge Neuropsych Ninja Faculty Moderator Emeritus

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    Here is what I do:
    1. Have everything spelled out in your syllabus on Day 1. My syllabus may be longer than most, but it leaves little room for argument.
    2. In classes that have multiple exams (3-4), I'll drop the lowest score regardless of the reason. Oversleep, death in the family, or just hungover...I don't care, but anything more than 1 and that is on the student (extreme circumstances are case by case).
    3. Midterm/Final have no make-up period. If the student misses one of these two they can elect to write a paper of my choosing. It is stressing on Day 1 that it will be significant more involved than any other assignment, and it is in their best interest to be there for the exam. If they miss both, they get a 0 for one and can elect to write a paper for the other.
    4. In smaller classes that require discussion, I assign 10-20% of the grade for participation, so absences come out of that. Again..miss 1-2 (depending on the # of total classes), that is okay. I don't need to know why, as they are adults. Anything more than the stated amount and the final grade is impacted.

    Each one of these points was adopted by a prior mentor/supervisor/etc. They all seem to work quite well.
    Last edited: May 2, 2012
  16. PsychApps2009

    PsychApps2009

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    This entire idea about make-up exams has been a new transition for me at a state university. During my undergrad, it was university policy that you could only make up one missed final exam in all four years and only if the teacher agreed. Beyond that, if you were absent a final exam due to illness- you were supposed to be quarantined the entire time and then taken straight to the final (which, if you had already started, you'd only have the time remaining). As for missed general exams... there was never any mention in my undergrad that you could even make one up. It just wasn't the culture - and so people didn't assume they could (although I'm sure for valid documented excuses, professors may have allowed it on a case by case basis).

    Because of my experience as an undergrad, I probably err on the side of being more strict than most. Where I am now, I've seen all the extremes - from a student being allowed to make-up an exam whenever they wanted no matter the reason they missed, to a student having to submit a document for approval to the teacher/department to retake an exam indicating the reason for having missed (which then might/might not be approved), to general dates set for make up exams for anyone in the class (or a quiz/exam allowed to be dropped), to if you have an A in the class not having to take the final exam, to no options of retaking exams (unless an emergency probably)... most are kind of ridiculous in my opinion... but in all fairness, no matter the policy, as long as it's on the syllabus from the start, it's fine.
  17. Ollie123

    Ollie123

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    Yeah, to clarify I'm not worried about it being "defensible". My syllabi are generally 7-10 pages so I've got that covered! I'm just looking for ways to give arrange make-ups that won't necessarily cause as much hassle in terms of scheduling, etc.. I'm actually surprised at the number of make-up that have been requested, but my class this semester is quite large so I'm sure that contributes.

    I think part of it is that I'm too much of a softy with some of these folks, and will generally let students take make-ups as long as they get in touch with me quickly and are apologetic. Unfortunately, that seems to be the "norm" here so I've been hesitant to break too much from department culture as a grad student. As much as I hate it, I think that has to end since its extra work I don't need and it doesn't do a whole lot of good in the long term if folks never learn the consequences of their actions (which I think is overwhelmingly true for a lot of my students). I'm going to try out some new policies with my summer course, so we'll see how it goes.
  18. psychRA

    psychRA PhD Postdoc

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    Ditto to the airtight syllabus - I make it clear that proper documentation of illness or other emergency will be required in order to make up an exam. In general, as long as someone gets in touch with me before the exam, I'm sympathetic. I state that, unless you are physically unable to use a phone, you need to call the department secretary before the start o the exam.

    I think I'm too much of a softy, though, which is frustrating. I want to be fair to people with legitimate reasons, but I get REALLY annoyed when it seems like someone is trying to play me. If a student misses an exam because they forgot, or they skipped so much class that they didn't even know we had an exam (yep, it's happened to me), I automatically deduct a big chunk of points off their exam grade.
  19. Pragma

    Pragma

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    I do this as well and it creates fewer hassles. I also think students appreciate it. Treat them like adults and they are more likely to act like adults. Of course a few bad eggs here and there will try to abuse it, but the lengthy syllabus comes in handy in those cases.
  20. deadmau5

    deadmau5

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    Yeah I ran into a problem this year.

    Myself and many professors accept medical notes within 7 days ONLY. If you can't get a medical note to me in that time (or at least contact us with another legitimate reason), then I find that irresponsible.

    The problem was that they recently changed the medical form and they didn't put the 7 days clause on there. We were upset by this so we called the registrar office.
  21. KillerDiller

    KillerDiller

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    This year our health services office stopped providing medical excuses for students. I understand this change from their perspective, but it makes it harder for any instructors who try to make distinctions between legitimate and non-legitimate absences. I couldn't care less whether a student has an excuse for missing a regular class period, but I do think they should provide solid reasons for missing exams. Unfortunately, that is difficult to police. However, my policy of holding all make-up exams at the very end of the semester seems to serve as enough of a deterrent.
  22. EmotRegulation

    EmotRegulation

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    I have used a "drop test" policy in my courses with varying degrees of success. I firmly do not attend to their "but I want to drop the one I failed!" whines. I smile, say "Yes, I'm sure that you would like that, but I"m really sorry, it's not in my policy. My job is to be fair to all students, not just to you." They might stomp at me, but I try to validate their feelings while still holding strict to my policy.

    The drop test policy has allowed me to avoid all make-ups except for legit reasons. It was never intended as a "just skip a test" rule, though that's what happened this semester. It bothers me because I have no real idea of how the students' learning, though it was primarily the good students who skipped the test (who already have an A in the class). Sadly, I think I will need to amend this policy next time around, because it really annoyed me that 1/4 of the class skipped a test, and it's my own policy's fault.

    So....I am trying to figure out a way to let them drop a test that they did poorly on, but still make them take the exams, but also still have an "out" for giving make up tests. I may be asking for too much.
  23. syzergy

    syzergy

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    Why? Why do they have to take every test if you let them drop the lowest exam? I loved this option as an undergrad. I attended all the classes, studied hard, and did well on my exams. I was rewarded not only with a good grade but the option to reduce my stress level during finals week. I didn't use the drop test as an excuse study any less.

    Not all my classes had this option but I loved the ones that did. I oversee a lot of undergrads and some of their excuses for missing things are ridiculous and obviously bs. I like the drop an exam policy because it doesn't require you sort through bogus and legitimate excuses. It didn't matter if you had a family emergency, your car broke down, or if you had a massive hangover.

    If you don't want your A students to skip the final, why not just count all the scores?
  24. deliciousgoose

    deliciousgoose

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    Some of my professors had a good way of doing this. Basically all midterms were optional, and the weight of each midterm not taken was added to the final exam.

    For instance, in one class there were two midterms, 1 in February, and 1 in March. Each midterm was worth 20% of the final mark, and the final exam was worth 60%. If you didn't write either midterm the final would be worth 100% of your mark.

    This worked well because the professor never had to do make-up exams. It was to the advantage of the students to take the midterm exams because in general it helped with final exam preparation, and it allowed good students with difficult midterm schedules not to have their grades pulled down by a single bad mark (e.g. one week I had 5 midterm exams, and 3 major assignments due. If this had been one of my classes I could have chose to only have 4 midterm exams).

    If you use this approach, however, the final exam must be cumulative.

    Also, I just assumed you students weren't missing final exams. At my undergrad university if a student missed a final exam they had to take it up with the a third party, not the professor.

    This is my undergrad university's policy:
    If you aren't granted permission to take the deferred exam you automatically fail the course for failing to attend the final exam, regardless of your grade otherwise. This is denoted on your transcript, (You get a non-grade letter that means "You failed to show-up for your final exam.")

    If you miss an exam you have to apply to write a deferred exam. All university deferred exams from term 1 are written during the same 1 week period. Deferred exams do not have to be in the same format as the primary exams. It actually sucks because there is basically no way to get information on the format of the deferred exam. I had to defer one exam because I had shingles (provoked by stress). The primary final exam was multiple choice and short answer, the deferred final exam was 2 essay questions.

    Also, at my university all formal final exams were three hours long.
    Last edited: May 3, 2012
  25. EmotRegulation

    EmotRegulation

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    My final exam is cumulative...the students have to take the final; they are allowed to drop one of the non-final exam tests. I agree, the option of dropping the final (if not needed for the grade) is a nice one, but I want the students to walk away understanding the scope of the course--it's statistics, and they will need it in the next sequence, so it's important to me they take a final. The problem I encountered is that the A students (and some sub-A students) skipped the 3rd exam...it isn't a problem for THEM, it's a problem for ME being able to assess their learning on the "meatiest" stuff of the semester.

    Ultimately the problem isn't the A students who are learning the material fine, it's the other students who are using the "drop" policy as a way to study less. I certainly don't want to penalize the students like you, who work hard and don't use the drop test policy to slack. But a large chunk of my class does not fit into that framework.
  26. Mianess

    Mianess

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    +1
    Last edited: May 6, 2012
  27. Mianess

    Mianess

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    Unfortunately undergrads love taking advantage of the "drop an exam" rule. If you wanted to keep the drop rule, but still wanted to assess their learning for that part of the course, you could always have them complete a project of some sort. Granted it would be more work for you in terms of grading, but at least you could still get a sense of their learning.
  28. Markp

    Markp Clinical Psychologist

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    If they are whining now, it's really too late to be honest. First there is nothing unfair about dropping the exam they skipped (and got a 0 on) that is their decision to make. Don't want to drop that one, don't miss an exam.

    My simple rules for exam make-up:

    If you need to miss an exam and have prior knowledge yet wish to have something graded, you have the option of writing a 10-15 page paper plus references on a topic from the following list provided. These are due by the date of the test.

    The only make-up allowed for unplanned absences from tests are DOCUMENTED cases of death in the family, victim of a crime, hospitalization, and incarceration. These will also be retest by term paper as above. All retests by term paper must be completed not later than 2 weeks prior to the end of the term.


    Term papers are used to maintain test integrity. Lowest test score (including the final or any missed exam will be dropped.) If you don't like it, write a paper.
  29. wigflip

    wigflip

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    I think what folks have said above about departmental culture or institutional culture is crucial. (I've never been instructor of record, but as TAs we design and implement our own weekly classroom curriculum). UG students at my institution (and particularly in my department) expect, demand, and get extensions and makeups. Most of the profs let TAs know (in a number of subtle ways) that they want to be shielded from UG hassles and complaints, and many of the other TAs are lenient, so you look like a jerk in comparison if you try to implement firm standards. One term, a full 20-25% of my students had extensions at one time or another. :mad:
  30. Pragma

    Pragma

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    Times sure have changed. I recall being at a big state university for my undergrad, and I would have never dreamed of requesting an extension for anything. You were there to work and earn the grade you got...

    Is your institution a state school? I thought perhaps they stuck to their guns a little more at bigger, non-private universities
  31. wigflip

    wigflip

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    I know, me either. When I was an UG (also public school) I missed one midterm due to a family funeral (only missed exam in entire 4+ years) and even though I had perfect attendance, high participation, and a to-date grade of A+, the prof required extensive documentation and acted as though I'd told him I had to miss the test because I'd be busy selling street drugs to middle school students that day. :rolleyes:

    Yes.

    :laugh: Ahem! I mean, Oh, hell no.

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