Exams

Midterm and hourly exams

Many courses have at least one hourly exam or a midterm exam. Instructors administer these exams in their regular classroom at a regularly scheduled class meeting. If you miss an hour exam or midterm, contact your instructor immediately. Instructors have varying policies regarding make-up hours and midterm exams.

Absences for religious reasons

You may request that your exam be rescheduled without penalty if it conflicts with one of your religious holidays. You are expected to anticipate conflicts with religious holidays. Accommodations are not possible if the conflict is reported after the exam.

If you have an exam that conflicts with a religious observance, complete the Examination Conflict form and submit it to Academic Services no later than one week before the exam. Academic Services will reschedule the exam so it doesn’t conflict with your religious observance.

Exam time conflicts

A conflict occurs when you have a class, a review session, or an exam scheduled on the same day and at the same time as another exam. If you have such a conflict, complete the Examination Conflict form and submit it to Academic Services no later than one week before the exam.

Academic Services will reschedule the exam either before or after the class or second exam depending on the time of the conflict. Please note that two exams scheduled on the same day is not considered a conflict even if they are consecutive exams.

Final exams

Final exams are generally three hours long and are administered according to the exam schedule set by the registrar. Only students registered for undergraduate or graduate credit are allowed to take final exams.

Your instructor confirms the location of your exam since it may be held in a different room from the class meetings.

If you are unable to take your exam at the scheduled time, you may not make separate arrangements with your instructor to take the exam at an earlier or later time. Grades are not accepted for students who do this. If you cannot take your exam at the scheduled time you may be eligible to appeal for a make-up final exam.

If you sit for your final exam and are unable to complete it for any reason you are assigned a failing grade (E), or zero, for the incomplete portion of the exam. You are not allowed to complete the exam at another time or appeal for a make-up exam.

You are assigned an E for the final exam if you attend the final exam and do not submit a bluebook or exam sheet.

If you do not take your final exam and did not withdraw from the course by the withdrawal deadline you are assigned a failing grade for the final exam.

Instructors who teach online courses may choose to give the class an online final exam or a proctored final exam.

Take-home exams

Call your instructor immediately if you miss the deadline for submitting a take-home exam. You may be required to appeal for a proctored make-up exam or request an extension-of-time (EXT) grade and submit a new take-home exam, or you may be assigned a failing grade for the final exam depending on your instructor’s policy for take-home exams.

Make-up exams

You may be eligible to appeal for a make-up final exam if you have unexpected circumstances of an emergency nature that prevent you from taking the final exam as scheduled. You must also be in good academic standing in the course and owe no other work than the final exam. This means that, except for the final exam, you have successfully completed all the other course requirements.

Appeals must include a personal statement and official documentation of the reason for missing the exam. Submit your appeal for a make-up exam no later than three calendar days after the missed exam. Late appeals may not be accepted.

Filing an Appeal

  • Contact Academic Services, (617) 495-0977, before submitting a make-up final exam appeal.
  • Complete the Make-up Final Exam Appeal form. Include a hand-signed statement as directed.
  • Provide a $25 processing fee for each make-up final exam you are requesting.
  • Include original documentation explaining the reason for your request with your appeal.
  • If your reason is medical, documentation must be on letterhead, signed by the medical professional familiar with your medical history, include specific dates of your illness, and explain the functional limitations of your illness.
  • For all other circumstances, two pieces of documentation are required. Your documentation must be on official letterhead paper and written in English. It must be signed by the appropriate person in an official capacity, confirm the reason you missed your exam, and include travel documentation, if relevant.

Video lectures of distance courses are available until the on-campus make-up exam day for students approved to take a make-up final exam. Early exams are not allowed. Make-up exams for all sessions are administered at 51 Brattle Street on Saturday, August 22, for local students. Online and absentia exams are administered on Wednesday, August 19.

Exams in absentia

If you live or move outside of the New England area and cannot travel to Cambridge for your make-up exam, you may appeal to take your exam in absentia at your home institution or a testing center near your home.

In addition to following the appeal procedures for make-up exams, you must identify a proctor who is responsible for administering your exam. The proctor must be an instructor or administrator at at school, college, university, or educational testing center such as Sylvan Learning Centers and Huntington Learning Centers. Proctors cannot be family members, friends, acquaintances, co-workers, or librarians.

The Consortium of College Testing Centers also has testing centers across the country and abroad that provide proctoring services. Centers are located in 45 states and nine countries. Any fees incurred are your responsibility.

The exam materials are forwarded to your proctor beginning the week of the on-campus exam period through the first week of September. Call Academic Services at (617) 495-0977 before submitting your appeal.

In addition to the Summer School policies outlined in Exams, Grades, and Policies (including FERPA), the following policies and procedures apply to distance education students:

  • You are responsible for ensuring that you have the necessary computer hardware and software, including any course-specific software needed to complete course assignments. Check the course website to determine if any special software is needed. Harvard University does not provide equipment or software. You must have Internet access available throughout the term.
  • Distance courses are not self-paced. You are expected to watch the video lectures on a regular basis and be an active participant in the course throughout the term.
  • You must adhere to deadlines and due dates provided in the course syllabus and may not join distance courses after the end of registration.
  • Recorded lectures for the distance education courses are available only to registered students; lectures are password protected after the first week of class.
  • Many distance courses have in-class hour, midterm, and final exams. If your primary residence throughout the term is in the six-state New England area (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont), you are expected to take your exams on campus as scheduled. Call Academic Services, (617) 495-0977, if you have any questions about this policy. If you do not live in New England, you may take exams on campus or arrange to take them with a proctor at a location near your home.
  • If you are approved for an extension of time or make-up final exam, you will have access to the recorded lectures until you submit your work to the instructor, take the make-up final exam, or the deadlines pass—whichever occurs first.

Exams in courses with an online option

Many distance education courses have exams, which may be take-home, online, in-class, or proctored exams. Your instructor will inform you of the format of the exams in your course.

Online exams

An online exam is a timed and open-book exam that is taken on a specific date and within a specific 24-hour period. You take the exam online. You do not need to come to campus to take the exam. You access the online exam through online services using your Harvard ID and PIN. Only students registered for undergraduate and graduate credit may take exams.

A practice exam is available on the course website shortly before the online exam. The exam content of the practice exam is not related to the course. Its purpose is to ensure you have the proper technical requirements to take an exam online. You must take the practice exam using the same computer on which you plan to take the online exam to identify and avoid any technical and connectivity issues that might arise.

Proctored exams

The exam is administered under the supervision of a proctor. If you live within the six-state New England area (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont) you are expected to take your exam on campus. If your primary address throughout the term is not in New England, you may come to campus or you must find a qualified proctor near your home to administer the exam in absentia in a proctored setting in your home area according to the following procedures:

Finding a qualified proctor

Your proctor must be a teacher, professor, or administrator in a secondary school, college, university, or testing center near your home. Proctors cannot be family members, friends, acquaintances, co-workers, or librarians.

For assistance finding a proctor, contact a guidance counselor, an academic advisor, or the dean of students or registrar’s office at a nearby college, university, or high school. You may also use a testing service such as Sylvan Learning Centers, Huntington Learning Centers, and the Consortium of College Testing Centers to proctor your exams. Testing services charge fees for their proctoring services. The Consortium of College Testing Centers has testing centers in 45 states and nine countries that provide proctoring services to distance students near their homes. Any fees incurred are your responsibility.

Submit your proctor information through online services no later than a week before the campus exam. Before doing so, confirm that your proctor has a business e-mail address, reliable access to the Internet, the ability to download MP3 files (some exams have audio components) and to download and print PDFs, and access to a fax machine or scanner (for returning completed exams to the Summer School). Exam materials are not sent to proctors who do not have a business e-mail address.

Submitting the proctored exam form
  • Complete and submit a proctored exam form online for each exam (even if you use the same proctor) no later than one week before the on-campus exam date.
  • Before submitting the form, find a qualified proctor (see above) with whom you have arranged the date, time, and location for the off-campus exam. If you do not submit a proctored exam form or your form is late, you may forfeit the opportunity to take your exam and will be subject to the instructor’s make-up policies for mid-term exams and Summer School make-up policies for final exams.
  • E-mail confirmations will be sent to you and your proctor upon receipt of the proctored exam form. If confirmation is not received within 24 hours, send an e-mail to distance_exams@dcemail.harvard.edu or call (617) 495-0977 Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm eastern time.
Proctored exam approval and procedures

When the proctored exam request has been approved, a second e-mail will be sent to you and your proctor that includes details about exam policies and procedures. Exam materials are available to proctors via a password-protected, secure website for a specific length of time. Proctors must download the exam materials within the specified timeframe and administer the exams to the students.

You must complete exams within the specific period of time and no later than the on-campus exam date. Proctors must return all exam materials by fax or e-mail (scanned materials) immediately following completion of the exam. Detailed instructions—including the secure web address, fax number, and return e-mail address—are included in the e-mail sent to proctors shortly before the date of the exam.

If you or your proctor do not follow the exam procedures, you may forfeit the exam.

Getting help

For more information, e-mail distance_exams@dcemail.harvard.edu anytime, or call (617) 495-0977 Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm eastern time.