Questions about exams should be directed to Academic Services, (617) 495-0977.

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.

Absences for religious reasons

A student may request that an exam be rescheduled without penalty if the exam is scheduled on the day of the student’s religious holiday. For quizzes, hour or midterm exams, students should contact their instructors no later than two weeks before an exam to reschedule the exam.

Students who have a religious obligation that conflict 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.

Final exams

A final exam, paper, or project is required in all courses. Seminars and workshops in which students are evaluated on the basis of reports and ongoing weekly assignments are the exceptions to this policy. Only registered undergraduate- and graduate-credit students are allowed to take final exams and submit final papers and projects.

Final exams are administered in on-campus courses at regular class meetings during the exam period listed in the calendar. Instructors inform students of the date and location of their exams. Final exams in online-only courses are set individually for each course. In online-only offerings of Harvard College and other University courses, final exams may be scheduled for a day that is outside the Extension School final exam period. Students who are unable to take their exams at the scheduled times may not make separate arrangements with their instructors to take the exam early or at a later date; grades will not be accepted for students who do this. Students who cannot take their exams at the scheduled time must appeal for a make-up final exam.

Students who attend final exams and are unable to complete them for any reason are assigned a failing grade (E), or zero, for the incomplete portion of the exam. These students are not allowed to complete the exam at another time or appeal for a make-up exam. Any student who attends a final exam and does not submit a bluebook or exam sheet is assigned an E for that exam. Students who do not withdraw from courses by the withdrawal deadline and do not take their final exams are assigned a failing grade for final 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.

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.

Students may appeal for make-up exams by submitting make-up final exam forms no later than the deadlines below:

  • Fall courses: December 22
  • January courses: January 27
  • Spring coursesMay 19

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.

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.

Exams are administered at 51 Brattle Street on:

  • January 24, 2014, for fall courses
  • February 11, 2014, for January session courses
  • June 6, 2014, for spring courses

Make-up exams for courses that have an online final exam are administered on January 21, 2015, for fall courses and June 3, 2015, for spring courses. A student who does not take the make-up exam as scheduled is assigned a failing grade for the exam.

Exams in absentia

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

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

In addition to the Extension 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 weekly 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.

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. Select the Distance Education option followed by the Student Online Exam Upload/Download option. Only students registered for undergraduate and graduate credit may take exams.

A practice exam will be 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

If you live within the six-state New England area (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont) you must come to campus to take your exam. 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

You are responsible for finding a qualified proctor to administer each exam. The proctor must be a teacher, professor, or administrator in a nearby secondary school, college, university, or testing center. 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 255 testing centers in 42 states and districts that provides 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 Extension 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 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 Extension 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 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 that 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 anytime, or call (617) 495-0977 Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm, Eastern standard time.