The class I am teaching had a quiz yesterday. A student wrote to me 2 hours after that he missed the quiz because he suspected he had a strep throat. He would see doctor and provide me a doctor's note. Personally I feel this particular reason is a little lame. If he decided to skip the exam because he suspected he was really sick, he would have wrote to me earlier. My question is, if in the end the doctor says he did not have strep throat, should I still give the student a chance to make up the quiz (just because he suspected it)?

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    If you're instructor, just decide yourself. If you're TA, ask instructor.
    – user22080
    Oct 15, 2015 at 17:49
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    Actually: if you are the TA, ask the instructor. If you are the instructor, ask (a) the department administration or (b) the university ombudsmen's office/registrar's office/office of the dean. Some places have specific procedures concerning what counts as valid medical excuses for missing class/exams. Either familiarize yourself with them and decide yourself, or punt to someone who is familiar with the rules. Don't ever make administrative decisions when ignorant of the school rules! Oct 15, 2015 at 19:01
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    ^ Just want to point out that most universities I know require advance notice of such appointments in all but the most extreme cases (e.g., sudden death in the family, sudden illness that requires hospitalization, etc.). Doesn't mean that you shouldn't consult with the proper authorities, but this scenario definitely does not qualify as an "extreme case".
    – tonysdg
    Oct 15, 2015 at 19:05
  • Basically, you need to decide if you are there to support the students to grow and learn, or are you there to police them. Oct 17, 2015 at 3:59
  • In this case, I would allow the make-up, but have a conversation with the student, explaining that whenever possible, it is best to notify the instructor what's going on as early in the process as possible. Oct 17, 2015 at 4:00

6 Answers 6


Rather than having to think about what is a legitimate excuse or not, I routinely give make-ups to anyone who misses a quiz or exam. Yes, it is explicitly assumed that they are operating with knowledge of what was on the quiz or exam that was given, so the situation is somewhat different, and the nature of the make-up is consequently somewhat different. I explain this at the beginning of the course. One might worry that there'd be too many people trying to game the system, but it seemed not so.

(I think it is not reasonable to demand that people who are sick get a note from their doctor... if it's something like a severe cold, say, because the wisest and most socially reasonable thing to do is stay home in bed, not travel to a clinic... Also, I do like to cultivate the atmosphere that I am willing to believe students' excuses, rather than have the default be skepticism about their honesty.)

  • I think this is the best option. It covers the case where the student honestly thinks he is too sick for the exam, but the doctor disagrees. And if someone is trying to game the system by abuse, then it is time to have a talk with them.
    – Davidmh
    Oct 23, 2015 at 16:48
  • I think that most public health administrators would agree with your policy.
    – AMR
    Oct 23, 2015 at 16:53

To skirt this kind of issues, I tell everybody at the beginning of the term that they can skip an exam, no questions asked. It doesn't matter if they just overslept, were scared to fail, or were undergoing surgery. At the end of the term, all those (and only those) who didn't show up give a make-up exam. I just ask them to tell me as soon as possible, and remind me they are due for the make up exam (to coordinate a schedule, mostly) at term's end.

[Yes, if they have a weighty reason for not showing up, I'd cut them some leeway. But don't tell that to my students ;-]


A doctors note will never confirm nor deny if a person is truly ill, Just merely that they were seen by said doctor at X Date and Time. If your syllabus states that you allow make up exams with doctors excuse then your hand is forced.

In my experience most profs had a zero tolerance policy on missed quizzes and exams. Some would allow for a much harder quiz or test to be taken towards the end of the semester to replace the missed grade.

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    "A doctors note will never confirm nor deny if a person is truly ill, Just merely that they were seen by said doctor at X Date and Time." - that probably depends on the legislation. In some countries, the idea is indeed that a doctor's note is the formal way for a doctor to confirm the patient is not fit for work for x days. (Whether that is always true is a different question, but at least in some legislations, it is certainly not a mere confirmation of a doctor's appointment.) Oct 15, 2015 at 20:28

This a slippery slope. Personally, if the guy has a doctors note, I'd just let him take another test. IMHO, it is better to let some lazy student get a pass than to deny that right to a really sick student.

Some decades ago, I was that sick student...

And I really like vonbrand's idea. I'll try to remember and put it in practice on my next courses....


The rule at my institution is simple: Either you get graded for the performance you showed in the exam or you get graded a 1 (worst grade). If you are seriously sick, you get a doctor's confirmation of said sickness. Doctors here (Switzerland) will write down what sickness you had.


Just to add to the other answers. You must be careful not to get a reputation as being gullible. This may cause this type of thing to become habitual from this pupil and may even rub of on some of your previously good pupils.

The proverbial giver a person an inch and he will take a mile can very easily be true here.

  • I don't know if this is better as a comment.
    – Neil Meyer
    Oct 23, 2015 at 15:16

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