Learn about the types of exams offered in Summer School courses, and review policies regarding exam absences, conflicts, and make-ups, and exams in online courses. If you have questions about exams, contact Academic Services, (617) 495-0977.

Types of exams

Quizzes, hour, and midterm exams

On-campus and distance students are expected to take their exams on time and as scheduled by their instructors. Students who are unable to take a quiz, hour exam, or midterm due to extenuating circumstances should contact their instructor immediately. Instructors have varying policies regarding make-up quizzes, hour, and midterm exams.

Take-home exams

Students who miss the deadline for a take-home exam should call their instructor immediately. The instructor may require the student to appeal for a proctored make-up exam, approve an extension-of-time (EXT) grade and write a new take-home exam, or assign the student a failing grade for the exam depending on the instructor’s policy for take-home 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. Instructors who teach online courses may choose to give the class an online final exam or a proctored final exam.

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

Exam absences, conflicts, and make-ups

Exams in absentia

If you relocate before or during the final exam period you may appeal to take your exam in absentia at an institution in your new location with an approved proctor. In addition to following the appeal procedures for make-up exams, you must include on the appeal form the name, title, business address, and business telephone number of the person who will proctor your exam.

Exam proctors must be teachers, professors, librarians, or administrators in local secondary schools, colleges, universities, or testing centers. They cannot be family members, friends, acquaintances, or co-workers.

In addition to other Summer School 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.
  • Online 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 online courses after the end of registration.
  • Recorded lectures for online courses are available only to registered students; lectures are password protected after the first week of class.
  • Many online courses have in-class hour, midterm, and final online exams. 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.

Absences for religious reasons

You may request that an exam be rescheduled without penalty if your  exam is scheduled on a day of religious observance for you. Speak with your instructor no later than two weeks before the exam date to reschedule the exam.

Students who have a religious obligation that conflicts with a final exam must submit a completed make-up final examination form to Academic Services by the deadline indicated on the form. The make-up final exam appeal fee is waived for students with religious conflicts. However, students must include documentation from an appropriate religious or spiritual leader confirming the conflict with their appeal. Exams are rescheduled for the same day as the make-up exams in the same term. Students who also have religious conflicts with the scheduled make-up date should indicate this in their appeal statement. Accommodations are not possible if the conflict is reported after the exam.

Learn more about absences from class due to a religious conflict.

Exam conflicts

An exam conflict occurs when a student has two exams or a class meeting and an exam scheduled for the same day and time. If the conflict involves two exams, the student will take both exams on the same day: one with the class and the second exam at a different time that day as scheduled by Academic Services.

If an exam conflicts with a class meeting, the student should attend the class. Academic Services will reschedule the exam at a different time that same day.

Students should complete the exam conflict form and submit it to Academic Services no later than two weeks before the conflict date.

Make-up exams

Students who cannot take their final exams as scheduled because of a religious conflict, documented serious illness, or compelling, unexpected circumstances may appeal for a make-up final exam. The following are examples that are not considered compelling reasons to grant a make-up exam: lack of preparation, negligence, misinformation, or planned vacations and other events.

Make-up appeals are considered only for students who provide documentation of a compelling reason for missing the exam, owe no other work in the course than the final exam, have good records of attendance and participation, and are in good financial standing with the Division of Continuing Education. Academic Services contacts instructors to verify students’ academic standing in courses for which they’ve applied for make-up exams as part of the appeals process.

Supporting documentation must accompany the appeal. Two pieces of documentation are required, except in cases of personal illness. Documentation must be written in English and must be on letterhead paper. It should confirm the reasons for missing the exam, signed by the appropriate person in an official capacity, and include travel information if relevant. Medical documentation must be in the form of a letter on the medical provider’s letterhead and based on a physical exam within two days of the missed exam. The letter should include a description of the illness, specific dates or range of dates of the illness, and physical and functional limitations of the illness. Documentation written on prescription pads will not be accepted.

Students may appeal for make-up exams by submitting make-up final exam forms no later than three days after the missed exam.

A $25 nonrefundable processing fee for each make-up exam requested must be included with the appeal. Students are advised to call Academic Services before submitting appeals. Incomplete and late appeals will not be considered.

Make-up exams for all sessions are administered at 51 Brattle Street on Saturday, August 19. Make-up exams for courses that have an online final exam are administered on Wednesday, August 16. A student who does not take the make-up exam as scheduled is assigned a failing grade for the exam.

Exams in online courses

Exams in courses with an online option

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

Proctored exams

If you are not able to come to campus to sit for your exam, you must find a qualified proctor near your home to administer the exam in absentia in a proctored setting near your location according to the following procedures.

Finding a qualified proctor. You are responsible for finding a qualified proctor to administer each exam. The proctor must be a teacher, professor, librarian, or administrator in a nearby secondary school, college, university, or testing center. Proctors cannot be family members, friends, acquaintances, or coworkers.

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 CentersHuntington 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 255 testing centers in 42 states and districts 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 through online services (select "Distance Education" then "Distance Education Exam Proctor Information") 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 their 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 specified distance exam window, which will overlap with 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 inquiry@summer.harvard.edu anytime, or call (617) 495-4024 Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm, eastern time.

Have a question?

Our Enrollment Services team is here to help.

Request Information