What if you miss an exam?

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Image "Puppy Dog Look" courtesy of Flickr User Rhiannon McCluskey, Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0).

WordPress generates a fairly extensive set of site stats for this blog. One useful thing it tells me is what people type in Google (or other search engines) to find this site. Ever since the exam season started, there have been an upsurge of people looking for advice about what to do if they missed an exam. Thus this post is for everyone who find themselves in that unfortunate situation.

I suppose some disclaimers are in order before I start. One, I do not condone missing exams unless you have legitimate excuses, and two, I have never actually missed an exam, so I cannot vouch for effectiveness of these strategies. Use them at your own risk!

If you miss an exam, especially a final, get in touch with your professor right away. Go see them in person or call them. Use e-mail as a last resort as face-to-face or voice-to-voice will help you gauge your prof’s feelings (i.e. how mad are they?). However, do not stalk, leave 10 voice messages, or send 20 e-mails to them! You want your professor to be tolerant or sympathetic, not annoyed. As well, follow your school’s official procedure for missing exams if they have one.

When discussing (or e-mailing) your professor about the missed exam, be polite and courteous. Do not attempt to nag, guilt, or trick your prof into giving you a second chance. As well, avoid sounding defensive as though they are attacking you (even if they are!). Apologize and own up to your mistakes fully. Take full responsibility for your mistake. Unless you had a legitimate excuse, it was your fault you missed that exam. Don’t ever imply it was anyone else’s – or God forbid – the prof’s fault. Explain why you missed the exam. If you overslept, say so. If the bus broke down, let them know. Tell you the truth. An lie will bite you in the ass later. If you told your professor your grandmother died when you simply overslept and that professor finds out, you’ll have one very pissed off prof. Depending on school policy, your professor could even void your makeup exam and report you for academic dishonesty.

If you are e-mailing your prof, remember to still follow the rules of good email etiquette.

Luckily, there are often already scheduled makeup exam times for people with conflicts and legitimate excuses at most universities. Your goal is to convince your professor to let you in on one of them. This could be fairly easy (I had a friend who’s prof didn’t even bother asking him why) or extremely difficult (no means no). However, you might find yourself writing that exam next exam season or even next year!

If it is not possible to make up the exam for whatever reason, ask if you could complete an extra credit assignment to obtain a passing mark on the exam or course. Think creatively. Use your resources and create an honest “deal” that your professor cannot refuse.

Sometimes, there are other people you could turn to for help. If for example, you are an arts student who missed a science exam (or insert any other two non-identical faculties/departments), head to your faculty advising and explain the situation. They might be able to send a note to your prof encouraging him or her to give you a makeup. It’s not a guarantee that your prof will, but it is an extra endorsement.

If all else fails and there is just no way to make up that exam, take a deep breath. Yes, you screwed up, maybe big time. It might feel like it’s the end of the world for a while, especially if you end up failing the course. However, don’t let this affect your mindset for the rest of the exam season. Hit the books for your upcoming exams and use this as extra motivation to do better. Be extra vigilant about exam times and locations, and learn from the experience and ensure that you never make the same mistake again.

Good luck on your exams, and Happy Belated Earth Day!

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4 thoughts on “What if you miss an exam?

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