I had a final exam today in my dynamics class. I took the exam with Adaptive Services because of my medically diagnosed ADHD, Anxiety, and OCD (among other things). I have been studying since Thanksgiving break and felt pretty confident going into it. I was even in the library just this morning teaching my classmates how to do things before the test.

Well, as soon as I was handed my test and opened it, I completely blanked looking at the first question. I was luckily that I had the extra time, because I started remembering things slowly, but before I knew it the 3.5 hours have already passed and I was out of time. I ended up getting 3/5 questions done (don't know if they were right), and made progress with the others so I am hoping the partial credit will be enough.

This is already my second time taking the class; I had to withdraw last Spring. I really don't want to be forced to take this class again: it is very time consuming and rigorous, it is a prerequisite for all my other classes (so if I failed I cannot move on), and, the main reason, I know the material.

Unfortunately, I really don't think it will be enough. I am devastated. I have been having a lot of trouble with my university lately, and I have strongly considered dropping out after last Spring. Failing this class will probably be my tipping point. I don't want to drop out, but I can barely afford it to begin with, failing the class could cause me to lose financial aid, and I can be far more productive doing something else than retaking a class I already have a strong understanding of.

I am wondering whether emailing my professor might be a good idea. I don't want to come off as defensive or making excuses. I'll be the first to admit I'm not the best test taker, I am lazy when it comes to school work, I don't get the best grades, etc. so I fear that it will look like an excuse to my professor. I just want to say something along the lines of:

Dear Professor, Thank you for a good semester, I enjoyed your class but I am nervous of how the grade on my final will come back. I have been studying very hard and felt like I had a good grasp of the material going into it, but as soon as I sat down and looked at the first question I blanked. Over the course of the exam, I was able to work some stuff out but I don't know if it is enough and I'm afraid it won't be. I am not expecting any type of compensation or anything, but I wanted to bring this to your attention incase there was anything that could be done. Thank you, happy holidays.

Do you advise sending this mail?

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    In general when contacting anyone, it is a good idea to begin by stating very clearly to yourself what you hope to get out of the communication. What do you hope to achieve by sending this email? – DreamConspiracy Dec 13 '18 at 5:36
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    Do you only have one chance to take the exam per semester or is there a possibility to redo it in case you get back a negative result? – L_W Dec 13 '18 at 6:29
  • How much contact have you had with this professor during the course? – Elizabeth Henning Dec 13 '18 at 19:56

Sending an email to your professor is fine. It also sounds as if you are doing your best, understand the course well enough to at least pass, and are not making excuses or asking for undue favors. Your professor will know this as well and will be much more willing to help you out because of that.

As @DreamConspiracy points out, I'd state more clearly what you hope to achieve by sending this email to your professor. This might be something like: "Is there any way for me to retake the exam in case I get a failing grade?"

If you are worried about losing financial aid, maybe you want to also contact the financial aid office. How are your ADHD, Anxiety and OCD implemented in your aid package?

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Although there is nothing wrong with contacting your professor, there are a few preliminary things you should bear in mind before sending this email:

  • Unless there are alternative assessments still outstanding, once final exams are complete, it is usually the case that the only thing left for your professor to do is to mark them objectively, take account of any formal applications for special consideration, and give you your grade. If you are not applying for special consideration it is unlikely that there is anything for the professor to do other than mark your exam and give you the resulting grade.

  • If you are seeking additional opportunities to redeem your bad exam performance, you should say so explicitly. It would be useful to first consult the course outline, and see if there is any basis in there for the professor to give additional assessment. If the assessment structure of the course is fixed, it is unlikely that you will be given any additional opportunity for assessment (unless you repeat the course, which would let you re-take all the assessment again).

  • Failure of a course may be a big deal to a student, but it is a completely mundane and unremarkable event for the university and its teaching staff. Universities deal with student failure all the time, and they have procedures in place to deal with students who fail one or more of their courses. If this occurs in your case, it is likely that the university will just follow their normal procedures (e.g., requiring you to repeat the course, etc.). In terms of wanting to know "anything that could be done" it is likely that what will be done is just to mark your test as normal, give you whatever grade you earned, and then apply the normal procedures in the event of failure.

  • You do not need to explain or apologise for a bad result on an academic assessment. Professors see lots of student assessments, ranging from excellent results to dismal failure. Professors are aware that students vary in their command of the course material and their general ability in examinations. They also know that there are lots of reasons for a bad exam performance, so they will not automatically attribute this to an absence of effort.

  • Lastly, I note that some other commentators are suggesting that if you play your cards right, your email might make your professor "willing to help you out". I would hope that your professor would not show you any favouritism, and would apply the assessment requirements of the course equally to all students. Since you are not making a formal application for special consideration, and you have not identified any basis for an additional opportunity for assessment, there is a possibility that your email might be interpreted as seeking favouritism (despite your denial of this).

These are some things you should bear in mind, and you may wish to adjust your proposed email accordingly. As I said, there is nothing wrong with contacting your professor in this case, but just be aware that your fate may already have been sealed.

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I disagree with the other answers. I would not send this mail (or any version of it).

To rephrase your request in a deliberately harsh light, it is effectively this:

I know I probably failed the class, but could you pass me anyway?

Of course the professor will say no. And they should. Tests may be an imperfect measure of knowledge, but that's what is used. It would be highly unfair of this professor to sneak you extra points or to give you a re-do that no one else had.

Further, I do not think your medical conditions play any role in this. If the accommodations that you obtained were insufficient, you should have changed them before the exam. (Consider trying to do this before your next exam!).

On the other hand, I realize there is a good counterargument: what do you have to lose? Maybe you'll get lucky and he'll be willing to push you over the top. Only you can decide if you're willing to do this despite the above points: personally, I find it so distasteful that I would not. If you decide to do it, consider talking to him in person rather than sending a mail.

Either way, open and direct communication with the professor throughout the course is a good idea. Even if he fails you, it might be worth asking for a meeting to get advice about:

  • whether he recommends that you retake the class (versus changing majors or dropping out)
  • what to do differently if you do retake the class
  • whether there is any way he can approve you taking more advanced classes despite your low grade in this class
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To answer the stated question: Yes, I think it would be a good idea to email your professor, and to do it before any results are published. That will let them know that you are serious about the material as much (or more than) the grade. It wouldn't hurt to tighten the wording (as others have said) to be specific about your goal.

Something else that I think you should do would be to contact the Adaptive Services and see if your accommodations are appropriate. Maybe even ask one of the fellow students you were working with to be a "reference" to show that you knew the material. Not being a special education specialist, I can't tell you what accommodation(s) would be appropriate, but this seems to me to be a case where the accommodations in place are not allowing you to be able to showcase your abilities.

Tying this back to communicating with your instructor, are you better at verbalizing your answers? If your anxiety is more pronounced when dealing with paper, (and less so when having face-to-face time), perhaps trying to arrange a time to speak with your instructor will give you a chance to highlight that you know the material, and can communicate it, just not easily through paper. If you can chat with your instructor, and they can see that you know the material, they may be more willing to 'round' any numbers that need rounding.

In other words, the instructor may be able to justify to themselves that your performance on the written test was not a good display of your knowledge, which enables them to justify giving you a better grade than the test score would indicate. I don't know the details of how scores turn into grades for this class, but, if a curve is used, many instructors are willing to give a bit of 'forgiveness', if they have a good relationship with the student, and the student can otherwise show their mastery of the material.

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  • While checking in on the appropriateness of accommodations is a good idea, it is not retroactive, so won't affect this situation. Also, I don't know about other teachers, but I can't imagine any circumstances in which I would accept another students' voucher for someone's understanding of the material as any sort of substitute for acceptable exam performance. – LSpice Dec 19 '18 at 4:53
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    @LSpice , I was suggesting that the other student could be a reference to Adaptive Services as a piece of evidence that the OP was able to communicate knowledge verbally (in case it has not been considered that verbal accommodations might be something to consider). I should have been more explicit. – Van Dec 19 '18 at 12:49

Contact your mentor / advisor / tutor either before the results come out or after - they should be able to advise you within the parameters of the institution.

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