I slept through my 8 am final last Thursday, and I didn’t wake up until 11:50 am. By the time I scrambled to remember what day it was, it was already noon. I frantically sent the professor an email telling her what happened and asked if I could take it in her next section (the syllabus said no, but I was desperate). I found her at her office where she said she couldn’t meet with me unless the head of the department of marketing (her boss) was present. The meeting is tomorrow at 12:30, after two other finals starting at 8.

A 0 is the grade you receive when caught cheating. I did not cheat; I did not lie; I slept. I don’t believe an F is a reflective grade of the knowledge and work that I put into that course is an honest one. I don’t believe that a student should learn and learn for an entire semester and then have one time slot to prove their knowledge. People make mistakes and I need a chance. I need to think of an innovative assignment to turn in after the meeting that may interest her in giving me a few points to pass. Or, I need to market to the marketers my case.

Does anyone know what I can do? What I can take upon myself to do – even though my professor said there is nothing – to show her that I am willing to put forth the effort and that I am committed to learning.

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    Is the final 100% of your gradE? Commented May 8, 2018 at 16:44
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    Looking at the comments to some of the answers, you should probably add what sort of consequences failing this course is likely to have.
    – HAEM
    Commented May 9, 2018 at 12:25
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    If you slept through something a lot more serious, like a trial hearing, or reporting to a probational officer, you can end up in jail.
    – Nelson
    Commented May 15, 2018 at 7:59
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    let this be a reminder to only set an alarm, but set 7 other alarms just in case. goo.gl/images/zPbXC8 Commented May 15, 2018 at 17:37
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    Many people would lie and say they were sick rather than do the correct thing and say the truth as you did. What makes it more difficult is you would probably be inclined to make an exception for others, if the situation were reversed. Don't lose hope. I think you need to appeal to the way they think- agree that the exam was of the utmost importance and admit your error. Say you will not repeat it. Recognize the great effort it takes to setup exams and other people's time involved to now help you. Tell them you want to prove yourself. Stay away from anything negative. Reason well ...
    – dave
    Commented May 15, 2018 at 23:09

26 Answers 26


It feels like one of the deadly sins but it's actually a physiological need...

If it's a physiological need because you were sick at the time of the exam, then your school should have a policy about how such situations are to be handled.

While I sympathize with your plight, it sounds like the problem was that you were too tired and just slept through the exam. If that is the case, then I'm afraid to say that the professor may have every right to assign you a zero for not taking the exam. There are some schools where the policy would be to assign an incomplete in such circumstances, but this is entirely school-dependent.

The essential issue is that if you do not have an excused absence for an exam, you're at the mercy of the instructor and any existing policies. At my school, for instance, the policy says that anything other than an approved university activity cleared in advance is at my discretion. So if the instructor chooses to give you a zero, there's nothing you can do.

You also need to consider things from the instructor's point of view: giving you a do-over because you slept through the exam would require that she give any future students who did the same the opportunity for a do-over as well—after all, why should only you get special treatment? Granting your request would mean that, in the future, all you'd need is to say "sorry, I overslept" and you could postpone an exam you weren't ready for. This is simply unfair to the instructor and to all the students who prepped for the exam at the scheduled time. This is simply not a fight you can possibly expect to win unless there are exceptional attenuating circumstances that have not been mentioned.

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    I think this is the best answer because it mentions policies. The right course of action is to find out what the policy is and how it applies in the context fo missing by oversleeping. Professors can't make exceptions to policy. If they make an exception for student A, then students B and C come forward because they feel their circumstances warranted an exception too. It is doubtful the university doesn't have a clear policy on this, and that there are no makeup exams for circumstances that are not excused. Commented May 10, 2018 at 16:50
  • Comments are not for extended discussion. If you want to discuss about problems with modes of transport or different exam systems, please do this in chat.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented May 13, 2018 at 15:45
  • And establishing such a precedent would create a pretty obvious loophole for cheating. Not saying that the OP is not being completely honest here. But if the precedent is set, then a future student could say "sorry, I overslept" and get a rescheduled test, and then in the interim ask all his friends in the class what was on the test and then have an unfair advantage.
    – Jay
    Commented Mar 22 at 8:20

Speaking from personal experience, I advise you to accept the consequences of the events that occurred and move on.

There are, and will be, many important situations in life that require you to be in a certain place at a certain time. Punctuality and accountability are, quite arguably, even more essential in the workplace than in academia, where missing an important task or event can cost you your job or can put lives in danger. Yes, mistakes happen. But the most important lesson of one's formative years--one that I personally believe is increasingly lost upon each successive generation of students--is learning how to ensure that important tasks are not missed, and if unforeseen circumstances arise, that you can anticipate and make appropriate contingency plans.

So, rather than trying to plead for another chance, rather than trying to "see what can be done," the solution is to recognize that you have made a serious error that cannot be rectified. It is no one else's place—not your professor, nor his or her supervisor, nor the academic institution—to burden themselves with the responsibility of fixing your mistake. Please understand that if that sounds harsh or dismissive, it is not meant to be. Again, I speak from personal experience. The sooner you accept the fact that there are some things you don't get to "do over," the faster you will grow as a person, and the more well-adjusted and better prepared you will be when you complete your academic education.

So, in light of some of the comments that have been posted in response to the above answer, I find it necessary to make a number of clarifications, which I should stress are not necessarily directed at the individual who originally posted the question.

First, I am not suggesting that one should not ask if an exception or alternative arrangement could be made. But any request must be understood to be made with the expectation that the answer is–and will be–no, that the default position and policy has already been spelled out clearly and well in advance, and that once the decision has been made, you are to abide by it. This is not some kind of "negotiation" you are entering into. This is not something where, if you "just try harder" you might convince someone to take pity on you and you can get your way.

For someone to respond to the above by saying "but I could end up in serious financial debt and be 'forced' to drop out," again, I am not unsympathetic, but surely such a consequence could not have been lost upon you when you were informed of the policy in the first place. If something is that important, then a commensurate degree of preparation should have been made. Why should you be given special consideration when others did not have this issue?

If you were a critically ill patient in a hospital, scheduled to undergo a surgical procedure to be performed by a skilled specialist, but that surgeon oversleeps and is not available, and you die, is that a situation where the surgeon can just ask the hospital for a do-over? Conversely, what kind of patient would accept your excuse if you were that surgeon? That is the kind of real-life scenario that adults must prepare for. The notion that a student can even think that some kind of after-the-fact negotiation is even possible, is one that the professor has every right to regard as insulting and wholly inappropriate.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented May 9, 2018 at 12:34

It sounds like you're still in finals, so the first part is containment – you likely have other exams to be ready for and should probably focus on them.

Next, as from @aeismail's answer, it's likely that the instructor is in a position to decide. If it's important and you have the time to spare, you might want to review your school's rules to confirm and look for any caveats or alternative provisions.

Now there's your meeting with the instructor and the department head. It's hard to tell you what's right, but I'd think:

  1. Don't expect to win this battle. If it's important and you handle this gracefully, you may have a chance to avoid failing the class, but be prepared for it to not work out.

  2. Don't try to undermine the instructor's ability to make the decision, assuming that the rules confirm that it's theirs to make.

  3. Do try to understand the instructor's beliefs on the issue.

    • Do they believe that written policies are intrinsically important and to be obeyed?

    • Do they believe that you were negligent and deserve to fail?

    • Do they believe that your situation is an unfortunate consequence of logistics?

  4. Do prepare arguments to address the concerns stemming from those beliefs.

    • If they believe that written policies are intrinsically important, you may want to stress that the written policies don't require them to fail you, but rather leave it to their discretion (or whatever the policies actually say; gotta read 'em).

    • If they're concerned that you were negligent and merely being lazy, you may discuss your situation if you're, say, working a side job or/and taking an overloaded course load. Otherwise, for all they know, you were up late partying.

    • If they see things as an issue of logistics, you might comment on how the scheduling issue arose and then focus on how to reschedule the exam.

  5. Do prepare actionable solutions, e.g.:

    • Retaking the exam in the exam center later.

    • Having your final exam grade replaced by the lowest grade you've received on a prior exam, possibly with a further penalty on top of that.

    • Taking an I (incomplete) for the semester and completing the exam later at a time of the instructor's convenience.

  • 3
    @aeismail Yeah, a lot of this is going to heavily depend on their particular school's policies and the instructor's feelings.
    – Nat
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 6:54
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    This is most actionably constructive response.
    – therxv
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 7:57
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    This is the only real answer here. I would like to add "DO own up to your mistake." It is a humbling blunder with potential academic and financial repercussions. The OP needs to both accept this, while engaging in damage control and bargaining.
    – zahbaz
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 20:08
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    +1, On 4.2: never slept through one myself but over-revision for the exam would have been the reason. With 40% of my final score fixed, an opportunity made me revise my target upwards from a 2:1 to a 1st. In that position every additional mark mattered, even on exams I already expected to ace. No matter how prepared I was at 10pm the night before, there was value in being a half mark better prepared by morning. Missing an exam is a huge error; harsh consequences are inevitable. But perhaps over-revision plus a power-nap-gone-awry is sympathetic enough reason that it needn't be career ending? Commented May 9, 2018 at 10:32
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    One other suggestion: Many instructors will be concerned about cheating on the final exam; to preserve fairness, they may not want to use the exact same questions for a retake. (because someone who already took the final could tell you exactly what to expect in advance) In that case, rescheduling is not a trivial speed bump- you could be asking the instructor to invest significant time and energy in revising the exam (and grading criteria) for one student. Be cognizant of this going in and respectful accordingly.
    – abought
    Commented May 14, 2018 at 16:17

Sleeping is a physiological need shared by every other person in your class - who did get to the exam.

If you had a medical condition, you may be able to get special dispensation for that. Expect to need formal documentation from your doctor though.

Grading purely by exam may not be the best way to assess the course, but the fact is that they've chosen to assess it that way, and they have every right to do so. It's very normal for universities. Really don't try to fight that, because you'll lose.

In the UK, universities generally have the facilities for formal resits later in the year. Ask about this. For now though, your grade is zero.

  • 87
    Sleeping is a physiological need shared by every other person in your class - who did get to the exam. Also the university staff have to think about consequences if they let somebody redo the exam because they overslept. What would prevent people from afterwards starting to not show up for a exam because they wanted more time to study and then just say they overslept.
    – Petey Pete
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 7:49
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    One more "don't fight it" answer... What's the point of accepting a zero? You can't graduate with a zero. One has to fight - either you arrange a resit or a retake at later term or whatever. But accepting the zero and dropping out would be not be wise at all.
    – Džuris
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 8:17
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    I didn't say drop out, I said find out about resits. But he almost certainly can't change the result of this exam.
    – Graham
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 9:01
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    @ASimpleAlgorithm This is why my second paragraph mentions getting dispensation for a medical condition. Of course we make allowances for that, in the same way that we make allowances for access with someone in a wheelchair. But for someone with full physical ability, we don't let them off an exam simply because it was upstairs; and for someone without a sleep disorder, we don't let them off simply because they were too disorganised to set an alarm.
    – Graham
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 14:12
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    @Džuris a 0 in an exam means no graduation? There is no way to take the class another semester and pass it then? I am..... surprised by this
    – Patrice
    Commented May 9, 2018 at 15:29

You need to apologize for missing the exam.

Yes, you needed to sleep - you may even be overworked. It's pretty common in college curriculums these days for students to be overworked.

But every other student also needs sleep, and if they have a curriculum anything like yours, they are also overworked, and they still made it to this exam - so you really have no ground to stand on for this being an acceptable excuse.

A grade of 0 is also completely appropriate for someone who did not take the exam - you got none of the questions correct because you did not take it at all.

So, your only option left is to apologize for sleeping through the exam - you can explain the situation, but you should not expect, or ask them to expect, a special exception just because you were tired. If this were a situation where you missed work because you overslept, you'd lose your job.

As it stands, you're in a better situation than you think - you have an opportunity to present your case, and you should show that you are deeply sorry for your actions, and ask for an opportunity to retake the exam.

Be very polite and apologetic for your actions - teachers often don't get to choose exam times, and make-up exams can run even more afoul of their already busy schedule. Being able to retake the exam is a favor - not a privilege that belongs to you.

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    +1 for deserving the 0 as it stands. OP says 0 is the grade reserved for cheaters - that's not true, it's also the grade for someone who did nothing at all.
    – bendl
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 17:59
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    It's worth noting that, in some cases (everywhere I've taught), teachers don't schedule the final exams; there is so much demand during finals that only the registrar, with his or her system-level overview, can handle (or, cough, mishandle) it.
    – LSpice
    Commented May 9, 2018 at 19:18
  • @LSpice That's a very good point - so good that I'm going to add it to this answer. Thank you.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented May 9, 2018 at 19:35

Consider it a cheap life-lesson in the importance of punctuality. Once you are in the workforce, the penalty for sleeping through an important meeting can be much more severe.

  • 30
    Much more severe? Normally losing a job is the worst case scenario. I'd rather have that than get dropped out of school where I have years invested already.
    – Džuris
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 7:42
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    @Džuris From what do you conclude that OP gets dropped out of school for having a failed course? Commented May 8, 2018 at 8:51
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    In the event of failure of a course, most students just repeat it. Dropping out over course failure due to sleeping in would be a pretty extreme reaction.
    – Ben
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 10:15
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    I know multiple people who have graduated after failing classes. In fact, I know one person who failed a course twice and scraped by with a C- on her third and final attempt. Still graduated on time (somehow!).
    – chipbuster
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 10:20
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    @Džuris Google "retake a failed course" and you'll find an essentially unlimited sea of pages in Google for all the college and universities that allow you to do this. In the U.S., at least, this is standard procedure.
    – Chelonian
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 12:44

Yes, sleep is a physical need.

No, that does not excuse missing a test.

To provide some perspective, I'm narcoleptic, so I'm painfully aware of the influence sleep has on your body.

I've also never missed a final because of it.

That's not to say I haven't slept through tests.

  • I've gotten to a test and fell asleep waiting for it to be passed out (the helper woke me up).

  • I've fallen asleep while taking the test (the proctor was kind enough to wake me up).

  • I've fallen asleep while reviewing my answers (the proctor woke me up to collect the test)

I'm very familiar with sleep causing testing trouble.

Missing your test because you slept in doesn't really stir my sympathies, and it probably won't earn you any pity from your Professor.

You should prepare for the probability that they're going to say "No". The requirement that a witness be present implies they expect you to react poorly when this happens, or that this would trigger something like academic probation.

While it's unlikely you'll be kicked out from failing one course, the consequences of making a scene can be significantly more severe - particularly if you lose your temper.

So, make sure you're well rested and fed going into that meeting, keep in mind your position is about as weak as it could possibly be, and accept whatever response they give with grace.


There is one thing that actually worked for me when I was a student and slept through an exam and then when I was teaching students myself and had students who slept through my exams.

You can attempt to negotiate that you are allowed to take an exam and if you pass with an A, you get the minimum passing grade (61% or D or whatever) for the course. If you get B or less, you fail. It should work with the professor, unless the school policy forbids such arrangements.

As scaaahu pointed out in the comment, that is a pretty disadvantageous position, and that is why it has a high chance to be accepted. Of course you should try to bargain to retake the exam on standard terms, but your bargaining position is pretty weak there so you might have to settle for whatever works.

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    If the school allows re-taking the course next semester, I rather re-take it. Dropping from A to D is an insult to me. I should be worth more than that.
    – Nobody
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 8:03
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    @scaaahu Actually, I don't remember. In my experience none of us sleep through courses we are excited and care deeply about. They just want to get it out of their way. I think there was a less strict arrangement when passing with B or C gave them a minimum passing grade, but it was a pretty laid back course. I would personally not give anyone anything higher than a passing grade if they missed the exam without excuse. It is not very fair towards other students and creates a dangerous precedent for future students. Commented May 8, 2018 at 8:42
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    This strategy might very well be the one with the best possible odds to let you take the exam. Nice find! Commented May 8, 2018 at 17:47
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    @scaaahu "Dropping from A to D is an insult to me" This is completely alien to me. We're talking about sleeping through a final. What honor do you have to insult?
    – 16807
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 20:34
  • 3
    @16807 Q: What honor do you have to insult? A: Grade A to Grade D.
    – Nobody
    Commented May 9, 2018 at 2:40

Just to give a bit of a third-party perspective from the professor's PoV, that maybe profs don't even realize. I lived with a prof for a few years and we would go on nightly walks which often turned into taking turns venting about the day's/week's frustrations.

Frequently she would complain about students that were habitually late on assignments, tasks, attendance, and then would beg special consideration when their procrastination finally ended up costing them points. I noticed that peak frustration seemed to coincide with big tests and finals as this is when poorly prepared students would finally realize that they might not pass.

During this time she was inundated with students like this begging for any latitude to give them a benefit. It would get to the point where she would commute her office hours to keep her sanity. Every student at this time, unfortunately even the good ones, were fighting against her indignation backed by wide latitude to help or not.

When it was a problem student the inner-monologue that I'd hear was "why should I go out of my way, spend my own limited time, to help you when you won't even help yourself?"

Remember, this would be an additional load on her. She would have to take her own time to proctor the test for you, or to design an alternative assignment (she was particularly annoyed by this). Professors, especially researchers, are incredibly busy and this will be seen as an intrusion on their busy life.

If I had to make a recommendation: make a plan, and make it zero-impact on your teacher. Find another teacher willing to proctor the exam on their own time, design and plan an alternative assignment that's as substantial as the final, offer to do something in exchange during your free time to make it up to her.

I can't overemphasize the need to take the initiative here, it will speak volumes to your teacher and administrator about how serious you are. It was your screw-up, if you want to expand the teacher's compassion, you need to do better than meet half-way; you need cover the whole distance yourself and make the journey seem as impressive as possible.

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    "offer to TA or grade exams during your free time to make it up to her." Under no circumstances should this be offered. At best, it's free labor, which many schools are cracking down on, and at worst, it could be perceived as bribery and would get the student into worse problems.
    – aeismail
    Commented May 9, 2018 at 23:56
  • @aeismail Fair enough, I've updated my answer, but I think a tit-for-tat would be rather effective still.
    – joshperry
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 0:45
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    This is a mostly reasonable answer, except the part about “plan an alternative assignment that’s as substantial as the final”. There’s no substitute for an exam, and it would be blatantly unfair to all the other students to allow OP to do a different sort of assignment instead. She has to do an exam, and unfortunately she can’t write her own exam, only her instructor can. So while your other suggestions and general advice are good, there is no getting around the fact that the instructor will have to do substantial work to accommodate OP (and hence will almost certainly refuse to help).
    – Dan Romik
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 1:39
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    While a tit-for-tat would be effective, it would also be highly unethical and put the instructor in a bind because it would set a precedent.
    – aeismail
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 16:56
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    @Sentinel: Faculty members do not schedule final exams at any US school that I know of. The university sets the date and time, often based on when the class meets during the semester.
    – aeismail
    Commented May 13, 2018 at 21:46

I don’t contest any of the answers, but it is possible that the policies they assume could be different in your school. If there is a counseling department, I recommend visiting them for additional advice.

I suspect that the school would like for you to not drop out.


Do you have a health issue that might explain you sleeping in ? I made it to the exam but fell asleep during it. Needless to say I failed. Subsequently I discovered I had chronic renal failure. 7 years later and with a lot of support from the University I got my degree. So please check your health.

  • 2
    I believe that, if OP actually has some sleep-related health issue, this answer has greatest chance of actually achieving positive result. It would be worth to add that checking rules first is good idea - some schools and universities do not allow any special arrangements for illness / disabilities they were not notified about beforehand. In such case, checking health is always good idea but can't help with this specific academia issue.
    – Mołot
    Commented May 11, 2018 at 12:06
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    Forgot to mention with the help of an Organ Donor and their family.
    – Flood
    Commented May 14, 2018 at 16:37

It sounds like you might be out of luck for this one. The policy for most universities is failing to show up for the final means you fail the final, which (depending on the requirements laid out in the syllabus) usually means you fail the class.

That being said, your only hope is to convince the teacher/department head during your meeting to have some sort of mercy on you.

Here is what I would recommend.

  1. Don't argue you deserve to pass the class. You messed up big here by forfeiting your 'right' to pass
  2. Do argue that you put a lot of hard work into the class (mention your pre-final grade if it was good) and that you really don't want to see that go to waste. (again, this doesn't mean they should give you a second chance, but it is something that weights the scales in your favor)
  3. Offer to bend over backwards to make things work. (Take a new final any time, do a very large remedial project in addition to taking the final, ect.)

Your biggest problem is that the rest of the class has already taken the final, and that gives you a big opportunity to cheat by talking to them in order to learn what was asked on the exam. Even though most students wouldn't cheat in this way, every teacher I have had assumes that students will if given the opportunity.

This creates a dilemma where the teacher feels like they need to write an entirely new final in order to prevent you from cheating, but the teacher also doesn't want to go through all that trouble just because one student was irresponsible.

In light of all this, I would say your best bet is to offer to do anything in order to be given an opportunity to pass the class. You could suggest offering to do a large remedial project of the teacher's choosing in addition to taking the final late, with the stipulation that the teacher can still fail you if they detect any sign of perceived or actuall cheating. This still has the drawback that the teacher will need to grade/review your remedial project, but it might be your best bet.

Good luck and do let us know how things turn out.


Like many other answers that were already given, I would say that the most recommended course of action is to accept the failing grade and to not fight it.

However, I think the second paragraph you wrote contains quite a bit of logical reasoning that I didn't notice addressed in the other answers. So I wanted to do that as well.

The original poster will not like this information, but enjoyment doesn't equate to accuracy. I believe what is about to be said to be true, even if such information may not be a nice and pleasant experience.

I don’t believe an F is a reflective grade of the knowledge and work that I put into that course

A grade of F does not reflect your knowledge and work you put into the course. However, the grade of F does reflect what happened.

You had very specific instructions, and those instructions were not successfully met. The grade of F does reflect that.

I don’t believe that a student should learn and learn for an entire semester and then have one time slot to prove their knowledge.

Perhaps such a restriction should not exist. However, whether you believe this to be decent or not, the simple reality is that this restriction apparently does exist.

People make mistakes and I need a chance.

Many people would say that what is actually needed is a lesson, even if that lesson is as harsh as lowering a GPA and requiring the repetition of the course.

Understand that many people think of a university as being more than just a place to learn knowledge, or even a place to demonstrate that you can work hard. Many people look at the university experience as a test that evaluates whether you can do what is required, which may include things like passing an unenjoyable course, getting work done on time, being at a specified location when specified, going through any efforts required to sign up for courses and get any required signatures, and any other tasks that the university decided is required.

I need to think of an innovative assignment to turn in after the meeting that may interest her in giving me a few points to pass.

Your instructor may not be easily persuaded. An instructor may have a lot of power to make decisions that affect a grade. This could include making a decision to be rather strict about a specific policy, even if you view the results as very harsh. As much as I may disagree with the decision that your instructor is making, I am an instructor myself and can say that I have found such ability/power to be very useful in many circumstances.

Trying to circumvent a decision is the exact opposite of accepting natural consequences for your actions, which may be the precise lesson that the instructor is hoping to impose upon you. Therefore, demonstrating that you are desperately seeking to avoid such consequences, by any means possible (including newly invented ideas like performing additional work) might serve no purpose except to reinforce the instructor's belief that winning this battle is of paramount importance.

What I can take upon myself to do – even though my professor said there is nothing – to show her that I am willing to put forth the effort and that I am committed to learning.

See, if you demonstrate your ability to put forth effort and be committed to learning, that doesn't necessarily help your case. It only shows that you are trying to invent your own way to try to achieve the goals you desire, and not that you are willing to submit to authority or accept justified consequences.

Does anyone know what I can do?

There is one thing that you said that may provide a key clue...

she couldn’t meet with me unless the head of the department of marketing (her boss) was present.

The instructor has provided you with a recommendation. Arrange a meeting that involves the Marketing department's head/chair.

The meeting is tomorrow at 12:30, after two other finals starting at 8.

Excellent. You have done so already. (And, unfortunately, already had that meeting before this answer was posted.)

Note that even if you miss the scheduled times when other people took their final exams, you could still get a good solution. Some time might be allocated for when you can take the final exam on your own. This might or might not be a decision that some people (who may be rather sympathetic, or might not be) may provide. There might be other consequences too.

Understand that you have the powers to politely request and to hope, but not to demand or insist. Fighting is most likely going to cause you to experience the people who have power in this scenario becoming even more uncooperative, perhaps even in the long term while a class is repeated. A humble approach is much more likely to serve you well, even if the final result is not what you hope for.


The same thing happened for me some years ago. I slept and missed a final exam. The irony was, the course didn't have any midterm exams or homework and its qualification was solely based on the final exam!

Here's what I did. I wrote a letter to the professor explaining my excuse and admitting the consequences, but I asked him to have mercy on me. The grading system was a 0 to 20 scale (and not F to A+), and the minimum grade for passing was 10. I asked the professor whether it was possible to give me a 9 to minimize the damage.

The professor did so, and although I failed that course, I remained grateful of his generosity. Next semester, I took it again and passed. So my personal advice is: it's not a big deal. These things happen. And life goes on...

  • 10
    How does it differ if you fail with 9 points or 0 points? The system I know is "fail and try again next semester", independet on "how" you failed.
    – asquared
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 14:43
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    @JayFromA do I really need to explain the difference between failing with 0 and failing with 9? The most obvious one is its impact on the average of grades.
    – polfosol
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 14:46
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    Do I really need to explain that in some systems the failed exam doesn´t count at all and is just documented as a failed try to pass the exam? Using points of failed exams for comming up with a grade is a foreign (and strange) concept to me.
    – asquared
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 14:50
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    @JayFromA and it seems I really need to explain that in my experience, most people just look at the GPA and don't care about the details, e.g. whether you passed a specific course or failed it once.
    – polfosol
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 14:53
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    My point is that there are systems where points/grades of failed exams are completely disregarded and not considered for the calculation of any grades. Coming from such a system the 0/9 points difference would have absolutely no effect and therefore seems strange.
    – asquared
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 14:58

I agree with all the people that say you can ask, but be ready to accept a "no".

I'll add that sleeping through an exam shows irresponsibility, and expecting to be able to make it up shows a disrespect for the process.

I would recommend to approach this by suggesting a fair mitigating penalty. For example, if a zero on the exam would result in a failure, I would offer that suggesting your overall grade be calculated based upon the remainder of your grades for the course, with a substantial penalty assessed (maybe a full letter grade), would be an equitable outcome. You receive a substantial penalty, creating some fairness toward all the students that managed to follow the rules, but maybe you pass the course.

I'll add that a zero is probably only a part of the smallest penalty you would get for cheating. You would likely have an additional assessment against your grade, and you would also have a record of academic dishonesty, which would profoundly influence penalties on future incidents.


It sounds like you are simply out of luck. The best advice I can give is see if your school has a policy wherein you can re-take a course and substitute the new grade for the old one (sometimes called 'gapping').


As others have said, it certainly makes sense to ask for another chance to take the exam, but don't be surprised if the answer is no.

If the answer is yes, there are two responses you might have: 1. Sigh with relief and forget about it. 2. Learn from the experience.

If the answer is no, there are two responses you might have: 1. Complain about the unfairness of the world. 2. Learn from the experience.

I suppose from the way I worded that, it's obvious that I think the smart response in either case is #2.

Let me say up front that I have a lot of sympathy for you. It sucks to have worked hard all semester and then potentially fail the course because of one mistake.

But why did you sleep through the exam? Do you have a medical problem? If so, you may have a valid excuse. But if the reason is because you were up late, whether you were studying or partying, that indicates poor planning.

Years ago I heard a piece of advice that I have never forgotten: If something is important, be on time. If there is any possibility that something will cause you to be late, plan plenty of extra time. If an event is extremely important, allow ridiculous amounts of time.

Once I was late showing up for a job interview. I didn't get the job. Maybe I would have gotten the job if I'd been on time, maybe not.

Since then, if Google maps says it will take, say, an hour to get from my home to the interview, I leave 2 hours or more before. If I get there early, I make sure I know exactly where the place is, exactly what building, and if it's a big office building, which suite. I don't want to be 5 minutes before the appointment and be wandering around the wrong building because I got confused about the address. If I'm still way early, I find someplace nearby to get a cup of coffee, or I otherwise sit around and kill time. It is better to waste an hour sitting in front of the building than be late.

If I have to get up for something, I set two alarm clocks: one by my bed and one across the room, so that I have to get out of bed to turn off the alarm. Also, I make sure that I go to bed early so that I will, in fact, be able to get up.

I'm not a very punctual person. I'm often late for work and I usually show up for doctors appointments and the like at the last minute. But when it's something where I have a lot to lose by being late, I simply make sure I'm not late. It's much, much better to allow so much time or have such a good backup plan that you will not be late unless there is literally an earthquake or an alien invasion, then to rely on offering an excuse like "there was a lot of traffic" or "I got an important phone call just as I was about to leave". Are there times when there are circumstances beyond your control? Sure. But most of the time, you could still have been on time with a little better planning.

Suppose the worst case: What if you fail the class. Is your academic career ruined? When I was in college you could always retake a class that you failed. They would even take the failing grade off your GPA and replace it with the new grade. I see a lot of comments on another answer about how extreme the consequences are of being forced to drop out of school. I don't know the details of your situation, but I don't see why this should force you to drop out of school. So it costs you time and money, but it shouldn't be the end of the world.


One option I have not heard mentioned, but which may become necessary, is to take the F and then retake the course next year. Depending on the topic, might even be available in the summer (especially if you broaden to looking at other schools, etc.)

Of course F drops the GPA some and could hold up eventual graduation, especially if in last semester or it is a prerequisit for other classes. But still, I would not equate a single F with stopping school. Heck even failing out of an individual college doesn't stop you from going elsewhere.


Find out if you have the option of testing out of the class from the school and request to take that test instead.


You should try to figure out why you overslept. Is this something that's simply caused by lack of sleep, is it caused by poor sleep quality due to e.g. noise, are there medical issues that you need to get to the bottom of? If you understand better why this has happened, then that will help to prevent this from happening again. Even if you're not allowed to sit this exam again, you will want to prevent missing out on yet another exam.

If you have figured out the cause of the problem and have implemented good remedies, you'll feel a lot more confident speaking to the staff at your institution about the incident. By basing a request for a makeover exam on a problem that you have spent some effort on to fix, you are demonstrating responsible behavior. You have done whatever is possible from your side to fix the problem first, and now you are asking the staff if they are willing to do what only they can do.


Actually where I work 0 can only be assigned if the student is found guilty of academic misconduct. Otherwise, even if no work is submitted, the minimum mark is 1. I’ve seen this happen many times: while 0 for the final exam is appropriate, anything more than that is IMO not appropriate.

The OP should plead to redo the exam during the exam period, but expect nothing: I fully understand why an instructor would not be amused at having and would refuse to prepare another test for a single student who overslept.

I do not think asking to submit extra work will go very far unless this was an option for everyone in the class. The final mark is not a statement on the student but on the performance of the student as measured by the instructor, so personal circumstances completely within control of the student very rarely result in the possibility of doing extra work for credit.

The argument that “I put a lot of work into this course” will unfortunately likely carry no weight: some students do no work and pass, others do a lot of work but still fail. The final mark does not reflect the cumulative work done by a student but the overall performance of the student within the framework of a course given at a college or university, including exams where the individual performance can be assessed.


The following answer is from my experience in an Australian university; the USA universities perhaps have a similar policy.

In all Australian universities, when a student can not attend an official assessment or an examination, she can apply for an academic consideration in which you need to provide evidence and valid reasons as to why you could not attend the exam and what stopped you from attending. The academic consideration application is taken very seriously in that you need to have applied for it on or before the day exam was due (you can not submit an application any day after exam day) and your medical certificates can not be back dated. You also need to provide the evidence within three days of the date of submitted application. Once, you apply for academic consideration and your medical certificates are approved by the university (some students provide fake medical certificates so university will check if the provided medical certificates are authentic), they send your application to an academic and you will be a given a chance to attend a deferred exam.

Now assuming your university also has a similar procedure and that you actually were sick because you were so exhausted and could not wake up to attend your exam, you can see a medical practitioner, get a medical certificate and then apply for an academic consideration (or whatever it is called at your university). I suggest that when you see the head of department and your lecturer, be honest with them. Hopefully, they will understand your situation and allow you to sit a deferred exam.


Unlike others, I sympathize with you. I am almost always on time, I have spare time for bad traffic and other common causes don't make me late. But still I've had two occasions like this myself.

Once I had a food poisoning- I started throwing up at like midnight before the exam and at 5 in the morning I emailed the professor that I can't come because of sudden health issues. He replied something along "come at one of these dates when I'm having some other students".

The other time was when I was an examiner myself. I had no excuse. I had like 8 alarms and I just closed my eyes after the last one to wake up to a call 2 hours later when students went to complain that I'm missing. I arrived as fast as I could (still nearly 2 hours late), apologized, held the exam for whoever was still willing to take it and arranged another date for the ones who had left. I explained it all to supervising department and had no consequences other than working another day.

The last example is what I'd suggest if "can I please take the exam at another date" fails on your meeting. I would ask the head of the department what would they do if the examiner was the one who slept through. I suspect they wouldn't drop faculty member because of a single sleepthrough. But it's far more important to have examiner present than to have a student's, so how would it be fair to have more severe consequences for you than to the examiner?

Note: if "can I please take the exam at another date" is responded with "you can take at the July resit" or "you can retake the whole course next year" - it's fine and you don't use my final advice.

  • 22
    Your first example does not really help OP's case. You were actually ill and any doctor, even one appointed by the uni, would have given you a notice. The second case is also different, because you may have angered many students, but there was no direct consequence you had to fight. You did not get automatically punished. You just had to apologize and clean up your mess. Lastly, comparing OP's situation to that of a faculty member is a large stretch and I would advise against this.
    – Ian
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 12:36
  • 6
    I sympathize with the OP, too, because her mistake was unintentional and really bad luck. That said, I would very strongly advise against the comparison to a faculty member. First, failing a class is more like receiving a severe reprimand rather than being fired, and a severe reprimand is what I would expect if I missed an important work obligation, such as proctoring an exam, due to oversleeping. Second, it might be taken as implying that her professor is the kind of person who might miss an exam due to oversleeping, which could offend them.
    – PersonX
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 15:16
  • 4
    @Džuris, yes, it can get worse. OP could give her professor and department chair the impression she's not mature enough to take responsibility for her mistakes, which could hurt her going forward.
    – PersonX
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 15:24
  • 1
    Ok, @PersonX, I added note to my answer to clarify. The advice is for the case where they offer no later exam - there is no "going forward". At the institution where I work there are no course retakes. If one fails a course, they can have exam session extension of two weeks and has to arrange resits with the professor individually. You either pass the courses within those weeks or you're out. Or fail more than 3 courses and you're out without even an extension.
    – Džuris
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 15:41
  • 8
    Downvoted. This answer, and most of the comments you’ve posted to this question, are neither helpful nor sensible and do not show a good understanding of the higher educational environment of a typical western country (which is where OP is, with 99% likelihood). Your implication that other answers lack sympathy for her is also objectively false. One can sympathize with OP’s predicament without thinking that she deserves to be shielded from the consequences of her actions, and without advocating illogical and unhelpful ways to try to get out of said predicament.
    – Dan Romik
    Commented May 8, 2018 at 18:11

Is the policy of missed exams spelled out in the syllabus, i.e., if you miss an exam the score is equivalent to 0? I have a policy of no makeups, unless there is a major earthquake at time of the exam or you proved that you could not come because you broke both legs on the way to class. Even if you proved the aforementioned two cases, I may not give you a makeup, if your past performance (like zeros on previous exams) indicates it would be a futile exercise. That is for the legals. Once I cover the legals, I tend to look into the issues. Mostly, if the student misses the first midterm I tell him that I would like to see how he does on the subsequent exams. If they are reasonably good, say 60% I would allow him to take the first test makeup. Mostly, missed exams are an indicator of trouble student, irresponsible, poor performance, etc. One should however always have one's ear also tuned to a possibility that this was an honest mishap. It is actually easy to discern the two cases. Then, of course many people do not bother, just give a makeup and all... I do not know how your story unfolded, but having other assignments good will help your case a lot.


Ultimately, your outcome will depend on the policy of your school. A possible saving grace is that your professor may be overly strict even by the standards of the school.

First, while I'm familiar with a 0 given for cheating, and an F given for missing an exam, an "F" meant 50%, at least in "my time" (which was the late 1970s). I'm a bit surprised that the two grades were conflated. If your F grade for the final is 50% and averaged in with your other grades in the course, it might give you a C or D.

A similar solution would be for you to be allowed to retake the final, with that grade being averaged in with an F on the first final to arrive at your final grade. The average of the F and an A would be a C; the average of the F and a B or C would be a D, etc.

In my time, a dispute of this sort went up to the dean, who typically tried to broker this kind of a compromise, because they didn't want students to fail. Hopefully, someone higher up will see it this way.


Is this a UK thing?

In the UK if for any reason you miss an exam you can resit it later in the year but the maximum grade you can receive is the minimum pass mark usually around 40%.

Also I’m pretty sure there is a way to defer your whole course by one year, keeping the points for the current modules and just redoing the maths part next year. Not sure about fees tough.

It is a cold harsh world out there man. You screwed up.

But maybe a good thing for you as it sounds like you are not a 9 to 5 kinda guy. University degrees are for people who want to join a company and spend their life working as an unwitting slave 9am to 5pm to make someone else rich.

If you believe sleeping in is not screwing up and you shouldn't lose your job (or grade) over it, go find something more fulfilling to do with your life and reach your full potential whatever it is.

  • 9
    The first half of your answer is potentially useful if true (I don't know how exams in the UK work); the second not so much, it's more of a rant, really. Commented May 8, 2018 at 15:20
  • 6
    Good for you! But it's really only tangential to the question. You might as well suggest OP should drink a cup of camomille tea before going to bed so as to sleep better and not oversleep. We don't know if she has sleep issues, and we don't know if she's really into marketing and secure 9-5 jobs. Commented May 8, 2018 at 15:49
  • 3
    You called the P "man" and "guy" but I'm pretty sure they are presenting themselves as a woman here ... Commented May 8, 2018 at 23:01
  • 2
    One of the highest rated answers (by heropup) does not answer the asked question at all and is just a rant about punctuality and consequences, yet that answer's score is higher than 100. This answer does at least provide an actual answer to OP's question, one which could potentially be exactly what OP is looking for and needs. And the rand on this answer is more appropriate, correct, and useful(even if not worded as well) than the rant on the other answer I mentioned. And this answer's rant could be very important to OP if OP fails out. The score for these two answers should be swapped. +1
    – Aaron
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 15:58
  • 3
    Even the non-ranty part of this is unreliable - policies on resits and the maximum marks that can be obtained vary between UK universities.
    – Flyto
    Commented May 11, 2018 at 6:55

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