This semester I taught an optional course for undergraduate students. While I find it normal that fewer students attend optional classes, presence in class itself was low even for the enrolled students, and now the only requirements for evaluation have not been met by most of the students. Only 7 out of a total of 21 students have turned in their final written essays until the deadline.

The problem is, the university grading system allows for students who have not passed the exams during the semester to take a "recovery" exam/written assignment. Through this loophole, students who have not even written their essays may pass if they get good grades in this "recovery" exam. While I think it is somehow unfair for the other students, because it allows procrastination and delays of over a week, and gives a second chance for students who did poorly during the whole semester no matter what the reason, it is not clear if I am supposed to apply this "recovery" exam or if this is optional.

The question is, if I do not do this (accept procrastination and delays), most students will not pass.

Should I just accept it or be strict with rules and deadlines?

  • 2
    It would be completely reasonable — if you announce it at the beginning of the term — to make the recovery exam/assignment available only to students who have demonstrated a good faith effort by turning in all regular assignments.
    – JeffE
    Mar 1, 2014 at 19:51
  • 3
    Wouldn't it be better to check the rules for the recovery exam with the department/university? They surely know the answer; we surely don't. Mar 1, 2014 at 20:29
  • Your question gave the impression that the only evaluation is the final written assignment. Is this correct?
    – igordsm
    Oct 11, 2019 at 12:38

1 Answer 1


If the students were reasonably expecting the option of a recovery exam, it seems unfair to deny it for the current run.

In future, you could offer the recovery exam only to those who tried to pass in the regular way, i.e. handed in an essay on topic (but maybe bad and hastily written - so more unpleasant grading for you).

Generally, I would suggest talking to some students to figure out why they didn't hand in an essay. Maybe it was plain procrastenation, maybe it was wise prioritizing because they had other, more important deadlines in the way, maybe they found the course not that interesting and decided not to complete it. In my experience, undergrads often have more self-awareness of their learning process than we would expect :)

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