Final Exams: Scheduling, Conflicts and Absences

Policy

The times and places of final examinations for the fall and spring terms are officially scheduled by the Office of the University Registrar according to policy approved by the University Schedule Committee, generally according to the course's regular class meeting period.  There are occasional "block" exams where multiple classes may be scheduled for a single exam time.  This is most frequently seen in chemistry, math, physics and foreign languages.  Changes may not be made to the official final exam schedule without the approval of the University Schedule Committee.   

The schedule of final exams is posted on the Office of the University Registrar's website.  The following policies and practices apply:

  • If a final exam is to be given in a course, an instructor is required by University policy to give the final exam at the time scheduled in the final exam schedule.  
  • An instructor is also required to announce plans for the final exam exercise no later than the end of the first week of classes of a fall or spring term. Unless departmental policy stipulates otherwise, the form of the final exercise is determined by the instructor.
  • Take-home exams are due at the regularly scheduled hour of a final exam.
  • In courses in which final examinations are not scheduled, an exam that substitutes for a final examination may not be given in the last week of classes. However, hourly tests may be given in the last week of classes, whether or not a final examination is administered during the exam period.
  • In a summer session, final exams are held on the last two days of each term and may not be scheduled within the last three days before the examination period.  Final exams for short summer session courses are held on the last day of the course.
  • A written final exam may not exceed three hours in length and a final take-home exam may not require more than three hours in the actual writing.
  • Exam schedules are posted on the Office of the University Registrar's website, typically shortly after pre-registration for the upcoming term has concluded.  You should determine your final exam schedules before making travel arrangements for the end of the semester. 

Scheduling Conflicts

You must take your final examinations at the officially scheduled times.  However, if you have two final exams scheduled at the same time, or if you have three final exams that begin and end within a 24-hour time period (e.g., any sequential combination of the 9 am, 2 pm and 7 pm exam times) in a fall or spring semester, you may petition the Office of the University Registrar to have one exam rescheduled.  If one of the exams is a block exam, that exam may not be changed. 

To request a change in the time of a final exam in these circumstances:

  • Go to the Exam Schedule on the Office of the University Registrar's website.
  • Select the current semester’s exam schedule.
  • Read the instructions under “Student Information."
  • Download the "Petition to Change Final Examination Schedule Form" and complete it.
  • Submit the completed form to the Registrar's Office.  You can scan and attach it to an email (to registrar@duke.edu) or drop it off at their office.
  • The Registrar's Office will contact your instructors to see if an exam may be moved.
  • The deadline for submitting the form is 3-weeks prior to the last day of classes.  

Absence from a Final Exam

If you are unable to take a final exam at the officially scheduled time, you must contact your academic dean as soon as possible, preferably in advance of the final exam or within 48 hours after the final exam is given.  You may not use a short-term illness notification form during final exams.  Your dean may excuse your absence from the exam and allow a make-up exam to be given if you have experienced a sudden incapacitating illness, a death in the family, or other emergency.  Your dean may ask for documentation.  In the case of an incapacitating illness, he/she may require you to be seen by a health professional and can provide a form for you to use in obtaining the signature of your health care provider.

If your absence is excused and the exam is postponed for only a few days, your instructor may be able to turn in your final grade at the appropriate time.  However, if you are unable to take the exam during the week of final exams or if your instructor is not able to turn in a grade when grades are due, then your instructor will issue an X instead of a final grade.  The X indicates that you were absent from the final exam.  Your dean's office will notify the Office of the University Registrar that you have an excused absence and the X will remain on your record.  You generally have until the end of the 5th week of the subsequent fall or spring semester to complete the final exam, although an earlier deadline may apply if you do not meet semester continuation requirements or if your instructor requires an earlier deadline.  Once a final grade is issued, your transcript will list the final grade as well as the notation "Converted from an X".

If you do not contact your academic dean after missing a final exam, or if your dean does not excuse your absence from the final exam, then the X is unexcused.  The Office of the University Registrar will convert any unexcused X grades to Fs at the end of final examinations. 

Being excused for missing a final exam presumes that you are a student in good standing in the class and that you have been attending and completing work as assigned.  If you have excessive absences or a failing grade in the class going into the final exam, your instructor should submit an F instead of an X.   Your dean will also consult with your instructor and similarly will not excuse an X if there is a history of excessive absences or if you have failed to complete course work in a timely fashion during the semester.

NOTE:  Your academic dean can not excuse your absence from a final exam because of travel plans, interviews, participation in a family event, competition or other personal reason.   However, if you have missed or may miss a final exam for any of these reasons, you should consult with your academic dean and explain your situation so that you will know if there are any options available to you and the ramifications of your decisions.

See also: