The class was scheduled to take the final next week. I wanted to take the test this week, because there's some place I was planning to be on the day of the final. My teacher said that doesn't count as an extenuating circumstance, and that his dean wouldn't like it. His dean isn't even administering the exam, so why would she even care?

  • 24
    Mentioning the dean may just have been an easy to avoid saying: "No, I don't allow you to do this".
    – Baiz
    Dec 10 '14 at 16:40
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    In most situations you are not entitled to make alternate plans on the day of the final. Dec 10 '14 at 17:59
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    Anecdote: I used to be pretty liberal about allowing students to take finals early so they could travel. Until someone requested to take an exam early, failed it big time, and then complained to the dean that he would have done well if he'd been given as much study time as the rest of the class. Now everyone takes the exam on the scheduled date at the scheduled time.
    – Bob Brown
    Dec 10 '14 at 18:34
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    "because there's some place I was planning to be" - that excuse doesn't fly, or else everyone would be asking to re-arrange exams to their convenience. At many universities, you are expected by the University, upon enrolment, to be available during the entire exam period.
    – Moriarty
    Dec 10 '14 at 18:41
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    A dean of academic affairs is responsible for overseeing all exams, even if she isn’t directly administering them. Ensuring standards are uniformly upheld is part of her job.
    – aeismail
    Apr 12 '18 at 20:12

Allowing students to take finals at other than the scheduled time could cause the following problems:

  1. Complaints from other students (in other courses under other professors) that they weren't allowed to take their final exam at a nonstandard time. "My friend Johnny got to take Professor Smith's final early, why can't I take Prof Jones's final early."

  2. If the same final exam is used for all students, then students who take the exam early can leak information about the questions to other students.

  3. To avoid the problem in point 2, we often give a different final exam to students who must take the exam at a non-standard time. However, this can lead to complaints that the alternate exam is unfair. At the very least, it means extra work for the professor in writing the exam.

There are certainly circumstances where a student can't take a final exam at the scheduled time. For example, a student in one of my classes is ill, so we've arranged for a makeup final exam to be given in January at the start of the spring semester.

  • 1. Ok, this point has some validity, but the dean/professor could always reply that Professor Jones simply did not mind letting Johnny take the exam early. If the professor won't take travel plans as an excuse, then that could be made clear from the beginning (an "I won't allow alternate arrangements unless you have a dentist or doctor appointment or are too ill and have a doctor's note" in the syllabus and/or said in class would do)
    – moonman239
    Jan 12 '15 at 23:02
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    At my university it is clear policy that students have to take final exams at the scheduled time and that travel plans are no excuse. Thus there is no need to include this in the syllabus. Jan 13 '15 at 2:51

If there is a scheduled time when exams are given, the dean is often the person who receives complaints about exams that are given at the wrong time (e.g. if the professor unilaterally moves the exam). The dean cares because he or she has to deal with the complaints!

To keep things organized, the dean may have told the faculty (perhaps through their department chairs) only to reschedule exams if there are extenuating circumstances. That would not be an unreasonable or surprising request, in my experience.

The professor might (depending on the institution, their tenure status, and their own sense of agency) be able to move your exam anyway. But the answer you received should be viewed as a polite "no".

Personally, I am only sometimes able to move the exams in that way. It depends, for me, on whether I have the exam written, what day and time the student wants to take the exam, how many students I anticipate will want an alternate time, etc. Of course, if there is a serious circumstance I will schedule a make up. But just wanting to be somewhere else is not much of an extenuating circumstance - taking the final is an expected part of taking the class.

  • The professor would not require everyone else to take the exam on the same day I wanted to take it on, so I think the other students would likely have complained regardless of whether or not I took the exam on a different date.
    – moonman239
    Dec 10 '14 at 15:32
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    It is not uncommon for students to complain when other students get to take the exam at a different time! Dec 10 '14 at 15:52

"Someplace where I was planning to be" doesn't tell the full story. By itself, that's a reason for denying a request for a different test time.

"Someplace" (at a particular time) is a lot more excusable for an emergency. If there is an illness or potential death in the family, and you need to get there before, say, one of your parents die, or for a scheduled funeral, that would be an adequate reason for rescheduling your test. So might a (legal) "court" date; possibly even another "court date" at the invitation, of say, Queen Elizabeth II.

But barring a "good reason," professors and deans are supposed to deny requests for rescheduling a test.


Here is a perspective people don't usually consider...accreditation. Each student is required to meet a certain amount of instructional hours per class. The accreditation committee sets the required hours and audits school records to make sure these requirements are being met.

If a student takes the final early, it implies they are going to miss a class. By allowing this, the teacher has tacitly agreed to violate the accreditation requirements of the class.

  • That applies only in the case where an exam is directly after the week of the last class, and only accessible to students that attended the respective class right before the exam (instead of, say, one or two semesters earlier, which case the student may well not have missed any class). Dec 10 '14 at 19:25
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    As O. R. Mapper suggests, a rescheduled exam does not necessarily imply missing a class.
    – aeismail
    Dec 10 '14 at 23:09

I now have 2 students who want to reschedule their final exams - both for valid reasons, but both in reasonably high level courses - calc 2 and a programming class. The final for Calc 2 requires significant preparation time, and time setting the rubric. The programming exam is easier to write but harder to grade when there is just one person taking it. Both require an addition of about 8 hours (each) to write, proctor and grade these finals. I don't want to stand in the way of my students who have excellent opportunities - but I have a policy in place that requires exams to be taken at exam time - barring extreme (i.e. hospitalized emergencies). Part of the problem is the schedule of the college I teach at - spring semester runs into June. The other problem is guilt - other professors are doing it so I should to... peer pressure maybe. There should be one clear campus wide policy requiring students to take the final on the day scheduled. I shouldn't be spending any time worrying about this. :-/

  • I’ve never heard of a US university that doesn’t have such a policy that includes the regulations under which an exam must be rescheduled.
    – aeismail
    Apr 12 '18 at 21:29
  • 2
    Welcome to Academia SE. Note that we follow a strict question-and-answer format. While parts of your post may be intended to address the question, most of it reads like a separate story. Please edit your post to focus on answering the question (or delete it).
    – Wrzlprmft
    Apr 13 '18 at 5:04

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