I've got a midterm tomorrow and have been increasingly ill for the past few days. I need to decide whether or not I'm going to write the midterm, and if I don't I'd need some sort of proof that I was in fact sick. My question is, how sick should one be to not write a midterm? It is possible I could push through it.

Any advice on when to get a medical note to be excused? The way I see it 99% of the time it is technically possible to at least be present for the exam; even if one has the flu or strep throat they can still write it (though poorly). The institution only asks for a medical certificate, but even unintentionally one could fake being sick for example if I go to the doctor and tell them I'm here to get a note, they would probably give me one even if I'm hardly ill.

When should someone make the call to stop doing the work and get the note? A couple of my recent assignments weren't done to as high a standard as I would've liked because the illness is making it hard to concentrate and work, but I thought I would get better in a few days.

The other thing is I'm having trouble finding a doctor or nurse. I don't have a GP where I'm going to school and the campus medical is fully booked. I've phoned around to some drop in clinics and they have wait times of over an hour and charge at least $10 for a note.

UPDATE: I managed to get a note from a drop in clinic and scanned and e-mailed it to my professor. The course policy is that missed exams cannot be taken at a latter time and a mark for them will be calculated based on everything else in the class excluding the final exam.

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    I think this is going to depend mainly on your school's policy. As a TA, I have been told that my university's policy is that I am not allowed to ask for a doctor's note - I simply have to take my students word for it. *In my instance, TA means I actually teach the class when it meets. I am the "instructor of record".
    – Ramrod
    Commented Mar 19, 2015 at 19:42
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    @Ramrod really? Wow. When I was a TA I could ask for a doctors note or a death certificate if they claimed illness or death for missed assessments.
    – awsoci
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 1:41
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    @awsoci I had to reread your comment a few times before I realized why you would be asking a student to prove their death.
    – cpast
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 1:52
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    @awsoci: I've seen a similar policy. It came about during an epidemic of influenza, for which the recommended treatment was to stay home, rest, and avoid infecting others. The student health center got fed up with crowds of flu-infected students coming to the clinic just to get a doctor's note, thereby infecting others in the waiting room and wasting the time of medical staff who needed to see more urgent cases. So the health center unilaterally announced that they would no longer issue excuse notes. Of course, at that point, faculty had to stop requiring notes. Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 3:00
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    From a medical perspective, many people go to a doctor just for a note. This ties up a doctor who has to essentially provide an exam to certify the individual is actually sick. In general, this practice has led to doctors charging for notes.
    – Ramrod
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 23:21

2 Answers 2

  • Check your course syllabus. Often, policies for exam makeups are documented there. It also might say here whether you need a doctor's note or not.

  • Contact your professor right away (by email or phone) to inform them that you are ill and may miss the exam. As a professor, the further in advance I know about situations like this, the easier it is for me to make arrangements. You could also ask at this time about whether you need a doctor's note (or confirm what you read in the syllabus), and/or explain the difficulties you would face in obtaining one. The professor may be willing to make an exception.

  • Obviously, go to the doctor if you are in need of treatment. Also go if the professor insists on having a note; this is probably not ideal if you don't otherwise need to see a doctor, but you really don't have much choice. our i

  • Only you can make the decision as to whether you are "too sick" to take the midterm. My feeling is that any of the following would be sufficient reasons to stay home:
    • you think you would significantly risk your health by attending
    • you have a contagious illness
    • your illness might disturb other students (coughing, running to restroom, etc)
    • you think your illness would significantly reduce your ability to do well on the exam (e.g. you are in pain, excessively fatigued, have distracting symptoms, etc)

It's nice to see that you don't want to be one of those students who takes advantaged of the system.

Go to the doctor, even if there are hour + wait times. Missing a mid-term generally means that unless you have a medical certificate for the date of the test, you will not be allowed to write a make-up. In some universities (like mine) it is a formal process in which you have to apply for and be approved by at a faculty or department level.

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    "The rules for your school might differ, but if you have a medical certificate that verifies your illness, your TA/Lecturer must provide an alternate sitting for you. " This is not the rule at any university I have attended. Where have you been that this is a university regulation? Also, physicians are not in the business of deciding whether their patients are sufficiently ill to miss an exam. Physicians are required to provide written documentation when asked. The note is certainly not going to say: "I guarantee that Mr. X is fit as a fiddle; I don't know why he didn't take his exam." Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 2:52
  • Thus a policy in which the instructor has no discretion would be open to abuse. In practice, all instructors I know make some kind of reasonable acommodations -- not necessarily a new exam; I don't give makeup midterm exams myself -- when they have no specific strong reason to disbelieve the student. Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 2:54
  • @Peter L.Clark Well I'm a lecturer at a Group of 8 University in Australia, and this is the policy. If students can provide medical certification that is approved by a board of examiners via a faculty process (known as special consideration), we are required to organise an alternate sitting for an in-class midterm/test or alternate assessment task (this does not mean the content of the test changes, this would depend on the type of exam). If it's a formal exam, they defer the exam and sit in the exam period.
    – awsoci
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 3:07
  • If documentation provided is not approved by the faculty, then students are not able to sit/request an alternate assessment (i.e. if the medical certificate is fake etc). It's a formal process that is actually meant to make it easier for the lecturer. I prefer it, it means if students want to sit a remake because they were 'sick' they have to have it approved at a formal level, it takes the judgement call out of my hands and the ensuing harassment I might experience from students (which as a woman, I do often) if I didn't comply with their requests.
    – awsoci
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 3:11
  • Thanks for the clarification. It is interesting to know where this is taking place and immensely relieving to know that there is some oversight at the university level. Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 3:14

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