Examinations

Final Examinations

It is the responsibility of faculty members to determine the best means of assessing the work of students in their courses. One option available to them is a seated three-hour written final examination during the Final Examination Period at the date, time, and location scheduled by the Office of the Registrar, proctored by the course's instructional staff. Such examinations are subject to the following rules:

To earn credit for a course or to count the course toward fulfillment of the requirements for a degree, the student must have attended the final examination or an approved makeup. A student’s unexcused absence from a final examination will ordinarily result in a failing grade for the course (ABS). The course head is not empowered to excuse student absences from final or makeup examinations scheduled by the Registrar. Furthermore, the course head may not give a final examination at a special time to accommodate the needs of an individual student or authorize the substitution of another exercise for an examination. Undergraduate students who request special accommodations should be directed to their Resident Deans, who in turn will facilitate submission of the request to the Administrative Board for consideration. Graduate students should be directed to the FAS Registrar.

Students are entitled to complete course requirements and to take the final examination. They must not be discouraged from doing so, even when previous course work has earned a cumulative failing grade. Only a student whose serious and persistent neglect of academic work has led to formal exclusion from the course is ineligible to take the final or makeup examination. (See Exclusion)

Legislation on Reading and Examination Periods

Examination Categories

Examination Scheduling

Examination Groups and Dates

Administration of Examinations

AEO Examinations

Religious Conflicts

Examinations in Absentia

Makeup Examinations

Legislation on Reading and Examination Periods

Legislation on Reading and Exams Period (effective July 1, 2014)

Reading Period

At the end of each term, a period of six or seven days prior to the start of the Final Examination Period is designated as Reading Period. Reading Period is intended to be a time for students to reflect, review, and synthesize what they have learned during the semester. In order to protect this educational purpose, the following rules apply during Reading Period:

  • With the exception of designated intensive language courses, no regular instruction may take place during Reading Period. Sections and review sessions may take place during Reading Period as may class sessions that must be made up due to weather or other emergencies.
  • Courses may not assign new material during Reading Period.
  • All seated final examinations, of whatever duration (up to three hours) or scope, must take place during the course's Exam/Final Deadline Group as assigned by the Office of the Registrar. (See also, section on Final Examination Period below.)
  • Final papers, take-home exams, projects, presentations, and other culminating course assignments due after the end of regular classes must be due on or before the day of each course’s assigned Exam/Final Deadline Group, but no earlier than the fourth day of Reading Period. Final projects that include individual or group presentations may be scheduled beginning on the fourth day of Reading Period and may extend through the Final Examination Period.*
  • Short, regular assignments that address material covered in the last two weeks of classes (such as problem sets or response papers) may be due during the first three days of Reading Period.

Regardless of whether a class meets during Reading Period, that time is an integral part of the term. Students are expected to remain in the immediate vicinity of Cambridge throughout this period.

* Each course will be assigned an Exam/FinaDeadline Group in order to spread out student deadlines and to establish grading due dates. While instructors may establish earlier deadlines per faculty legislation, the spirit of this recent change is to spread students’ final assignment deadlines across the entire exam period to avoid having all assignments due at the same time. If an instructor decides to use an earlier deadline it is very important that students are well informed about this change from the posted deadline.

Final Examination Period

Courses that culminate in a final examination of any duration (up to three hours) must hold their exams during the designated Final Examination Period and during the Exam/Final Deadline Group assigned by the Registrar’s Office. There are two exam sessions each day: morning exams begin at 9:00 a.m., and afternoon exams begin at 2:00 p.m.

Examination Categories

At the beginning of each term, course heads will be asked to submit Final Assessment Information in my.harvard for each course they teach. Final assessment options include the following examination categories:

  • Final Examination for All Students 
    All students enrolled in this course are expected to write a seated three-hour examination scheduled by the FAS Registrar's Office during the Final Examination Period and proctored by instructional staff of the course. 
     
  • Final Examination for Undergraduate Students 
    All undergraduates will write a seated three-hour examination and all graduate students will be given alternative assessment (paper, project, take-home examination, etc.). All alternative assessment deadlines must comply with the course’s assigned Exam/Final Deadline Group. 
     
  • Final Examination for Certain Students 
    A seated three-hour examination will be given to a certain academic grouping of students in the course, while another grouping of students will be given an alternative means of assessment (paper, project, take-home examination, etc.). All alternative assessment deadlines must comply with the course’s assigned Exam/Final Deadline Group
     
  • Final Examination Combinations
    A seated three-hour exam may be combined with another final assessment option, such as: students may complete either a seated three-hour examination or a take home exam; students may complete either a seated three-hour examination or a final paper. All alternative assessment deadlines must comply with the course’s assigned Exam/Final Deadline Group.

Completion of Work in Courses without Three-Hour Examination

Course heads should not assign any work to be done during the Final Examination Period. Faculty policy stipulates that this time should be reserved for standard three-hour exams or other final assessments. Assignments other than final examinations or other final assessments must be completed by the last day of classes. (See Legislation on Reading and Examination Periods.)

Take-Home Final Examinations

Take-home examinations must be due on or by the course’s assigned Exam/Final Deadline Group. Course heads should be careful to explain to students in writing the extent of collaboration and any source materials that may be permitted in the preparation of the examination.

Examination Scheduling

Each course is assigned an Exam/Final Deadline Group, which indicates when the course’s final assessment is due, whether it be a take-home exam, paper, or the date of a seated final exam. The Exam/Final Deadline Group is listed in the my.harvard Course Search. The Exam/Final Deadline Group corresponds to course meeting patterns and ordinarily will change if the course’s meeting pattern changes. The FAS Registrar's Office is unable to accommodate individual requests to assign an alternative Exam/Final Deadline Group to courses.

Since course meeting patterns are subject to change, the official dates and times for seated three-hour examinations are published on the Final Examination Schedule posted on the Registrar’s website. The Final Examination Schedule only includes courses that have requested a seated three-hour final examination scheduled by the FAS Registrar's Office. The Final Examination Schedule will be available in late-September for fall semester final examinations and in late-February for spring semester final examinations.

 

Examination Groups and Dates

The table below shows the dates associated with each of the Exam/Final Deadline Groups. For most courses, an Exam/Final Deadline Group is listed in the my.harvard course search. The Exam/Final Deadlines Group corresponds to course meeting patterns and ordinarily change if the course meeting pattern changes. Occasionally, the FAS Registrar's Office may need to assign an Exam/Final Deadline Group that does not correspond to the meeting pattern of a course. All students are therefore advised that they should not make any travel plans until the official Final Examination Schedule is published on the Registrar’s website. Students are expected to be in residence for the duration of the Final Examination Period. For the fall term, the Final Examination Period is Thursday, December 10 through Saturday, December 19. For the spring term, the Final Examination Period is Thursday, May 6 through Saturday, May 15.

Exam/Final Deadline Group

Fall 2020 Final Examination

Spring 2021 Final Examination

FAS01

Thursday, Dec. 10

Thursday, May 6

FAS02

Thursday, Dec. 10

Thursday, May 6

FAS03

Friday, Dec. 11

Friday, May 7

FAS04

Friday, Dec. 11

Friday, May 7

FAS05

Saturday, Dec. 12

Saturday, May 8

FAS06

Saturday, Dec. 12

Saturday, May 8

FAS07

Monday, Dec. 14

Monday, May 10

FAS08

Monday, Dec. 14

Monday, May 10

FAS09

Tuesday, Dec. 15

Tuesday, May 11

FAS10

Tuesday, Dec. 15

Tuesday, May 11

FAS11

Wednesday, Dec. 16

Wednesday, May 12

FAS12

Wednesday, Dec. 16

Wednesday, May 12

FAS13

Thursday, Dec. 17

Thursday, May 13

FAS14

Thursday, Dec. 17

Thursday, May 13

FAS15

Friday, Dec. 18

Friday, May 14

FAS16

Friday, Dec. 18

Friday, May 14

FAS17

Saturday, Dec. 19

Saturday, May 15

FAS18

Saturday, Dec. 19

Saturday, May 15


*Please ignore the alpha characters listed at the end of the Exam/Final Deadline Groups, for example, FAS01_A.

Administration of Examinations

Seated final examinations are scheduled by the FAS Registrar’s Office and are administered by instructional staff of the course. Instructional staff must follow the exam procedures that are provided by the FAS Registrar’s Office. The procedures are intended to protect the security of examinations and to ensure that students undertake the writing of their exams in an environment free of distractions and disturbances. There are two exam sessions per day during the Examination Period: morning examinations start at 9 am and afternoon examinations start at 2 pm.

Course Head Obligations during the Administration of Exams:

  • The course instructional staff is expected to be familiar with and abide by the guidelines governing examination administration in FAS.
  • The course instructional staff is expected to proctor their own main exams.
  • A member of the instructional staff should be present in the examination room at least fifteen minutes before the start of the exam.
  • All courses are expected to handle the printing and photocopying of their own examinations.
  • All courses are expected to make arrangements for the delivery, set-up and collection of any audio/visual media equipment needed to facilitate the administration of oral/aural components of the examination.
  • The course instructional staff is responsible for obtaining attendance slips and if needed, examination booklets, prior to the start of the examination.
  • The course instructional staff is expected to take attendance at the examination and to report absences to the FAS Registrar’s Office after the completion of the examination using the Exam Roster located on the my.harvard Teaching and Advising tab. 
  • The instructional staff of the course should retrieve the following items from the examination room at the time of examination completion:
    • completed examination booklets
    • scrap booklets
    • all other course materials (slides, audiotapes, etc.)
  • Report any unusual circumstances to the FAS Registrar’s Office.
  • If there are any scheduled out of sequence examinations for the course, the course head must submit the exam to the FAS Registrar’s Office at least 48 hours before the first scheduled out of sequence exam.

Examination Office Responsibilities during the Administration of Exams:

  • Solicit course final assessment information from faculty each examination period via the Final Assessment button on the my.harvard Teaching and Advising tab.
  • Establish the examination schedule for each examination period, including date, time and location.
  • Schedule examination classroom assignments for each examination period.
  • Coordinate the distribution of attendance slips and examination booklets.
  • Collect absence information after examination completion.
  • Report examination absences for undergraduate students to the appropriate Resident Dean.
  • Hire proctors for out of sequence examinations.

Course Head Obligations after the Final Examination:

  • Instructors should take every precaution to prevent the accidental loss of examination booklets. For example, under no circumstances should examination booklets be removed from the neighborhood of the University. If a course head has temporarily left the Cambridge area, only photocopies of the booklets should be sent to the course head for grading.
  • Examination booklets not returned to students should be kept for one year after the end of the course.
  • Most instructors return exam booklets, papers, and other academic work to the student enrolled in their courses. By law, students have the right to review all materials submitted to a course, including final examination booklets and, for a reasonable charge, may have copies of any originals not returned to them, within 45 days of the date of the original request.

AEO Examinations

Accessible Education Office Examinations

Exam accommodations are determined by the Accessible Education Office (AEO) and are intended to address documented disabilities or health conditions in such a way as to make exam administration fair and equitable for all students taking the same course.

The administration of all timed exercises during the term, including midterms, is the responsibility of the course head; AEO is happy to confer with the course head when implementing arrangements. All seated final examinations for students with AEO-approved exam accommodations are administered during the Final Examination Period by the FAS Registrar’s Office and the appropriate accommodations will be made in conjunction with AEO.

Timed exams administered online through Canvas should be modified by faculty to include the approved extended time for students with these accommodations. For assistance with this process, please see:  Canvas Instructions for Extended Time

For assistance with converting examinations into alternative formats (e.g. digital text, Braille, or enlarged text), please contact the Assistive Technology Center (ATC) at atc@fas.harvard.edu or 617-496-8800. Arrangements for reformatting examinations should be made least five business days in advance.

Seated final exam administration is consistent with FAS exam procedures, with the following exception to ensure proper implementation of AEO-approved accommodations: all AEO exams typically begin at 10:00 am on the same day as the main exam, unless there is a scheduling conflict with another exam. In such instances, the FAS Registrar’s Office will administer the exam at an appropriate time, typically within 24 hours of the main exam.

For questions concerning appropriate exam accommodations, please contact AEO at aeo@fas.harvard.edu or 617-496-8707.

For questions concerning the administration of final exams (e.g. dropping-off/picking up exams, location of AEO students, etc.) please contact the FAS Registrar’s Office at exams@fas.harvard.edu or 617-495-1542.

Religious Conflicts

Religious Conflicts with Final Examinations

In accordance with Massachusetts law, students who are unable to participate in a final examination as a consequence of their religious beliefs shall be provided with an opportunity to make up the examination, without penalty, provided that the makeup examination does not create an unreasonable burden on the College. Students are expected to anticipate any religious conflicts with exams and report the conflict using the Religious Out of Sequence Exam Request Form found on the Exams page of the FAS Registrar’s Office website thirty days prior to the start of the Final Examination Period. Conflicts reported after the deadline may not be possible to accommodate or may result in a makeup exam scheduled for the following term. Please direct any questions to the FAS Registrar’s Office at exams@fas.harvard.edu.

Examinations in Absentia

Students, who for sufficient reason cannot be within 500 miles of Cambridge at the time of a seated final or makeup examination, may request to take the examination in absentia (at another location). Undergraduate in absentia examinations must be approved by the Administrative Board, and students must contact their Resident Dean to facilitate the petitioning process. Graduate students should contact the FAS Registrar’s Office. Student applications for in absentia exams should be submitted thirty days prior to the start of the Final Exam Period. Under extraordinary circumstances, the Administrative Board may grant examinations in absentia after the deadline has passed.

In absentia examinations are ordinarily administered at the same time and date as the examination in Cambridge and must be proctored by someone approved by the FAS Registrar’s Office. After determining that these conditions can be met, the FAS Registrar’s Office will work with the course head to facilitate the administration of the examination. For reasons of equity, the examination given to the student in absentia must be identical to that given at the regular examination in Cambridge. The examination should be returned to the FAS Registrar’s Office in Cambridge immediately after it has been administered.

Makeup Examinations

The Administrative Board of Harvard College has sole jurisdiction over granting makeup examinations for undergraduates. The FAS Registrar’s Office has been authorized by the Graduate School to approve or deny makeup petitions for graduate students. Course heads may not give a makeup final examination without notification from the FAS Registrar's Office (see Special Senior Makeup Examinations below for exception). Moreover, course heads may not give a makeup examination at any time or location other than that specified by the FAS Registrar’s Office. The granting of a makeup examination by the Administrative Board does not imply that the student may receive credit for any assigned work in the course not submitted by the end of the Examination Period.

Makeup examinations are ordinarily granted by the Administrative Board in cases of medically documented illness or extraordinary circumstances over which the student had no control, such as a death in the family. Makeups are sometimes granted to undergraduate participants in intercollegiate competition, but only when out of sequence or in absentia examinations cannot be arranged. By vote of the Faculty Council, makeup examinations may also be granted when a student who is in good standing in the course misses an examination because of inadvertence, provided the petition is supported by the course head and filed on time. Undergraduate and graduate students in the FAS may be granted a makeup examination on the grounds of inadvertence only once during each tenure at Harvard.

If called upon to do so, course heads must prepare appropriate makeup examinations and grade them. Makeup exams are usually administered at the beginning of the following term based on the schedule established by the FAS Registrar’s Office. Ordinarily, a makeup examination should not be a duplicate of the original exam. Course grades dependent upon makeup examinations should be reported to the FAS Registrar’s Office no later than one week after the date of such examinations.

Makeup midterm examinations are not granted by the Administrative Board or the FAS Registrar’s Office. Offering such makeup examinations or substituting other work is at the discretion of the course head, except in the case of an absence for the observation of religious holidays. (See Hour and Midterm Examinations.) The FAS Registrar’s Office has no role in midterm examinations.

Special Senior Makeup Examinations

Graduating seniors who are absent from a spring term final exam in the last semester before graduation are permitted to write a makeup final exam as soon as possible. The scheduling and administration of the special senior make up exam are arranged by the graduating senior and the faculty; neither the Registrar’s Office nor the Administrative Board make provisions for the special senior make-up exam, although faculty may want to work with the student’s Resident Dean in arranging the exam. In the cases of special senior makeup exams, time is of the essence. The student and the teaching staff should arrange the special make up exam in a timely manner to ensure meeting the Registrar’s grades submission deadline for graduating seniors.