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This question already has an answer here:

Suppose you are an instructor and you have given a (midterm or final) exam. This is a substantial portion of the grade; a student who misses it has little chance of passing the class. (I have in mind a college course, but maybe this a question in high school as well.)

Suppose that a few students don't show up for the exam. Of course, if the students were ill or had personal emergencies, you would like to give them a chance to make up the exam. You send them an email after the exam, but hear nothing back for a few days.

After those few days, you grade the rest of the exams, and would like to return them to the class and post solutions online so that your students can learn from their mistakes

However, if any of the students who missed the exam will later ask for a makeup, then they will have the advantage of seeing the solutions. While you certainly wouldn't give them an identical exam, it seems like this would still be a substantial advantage.

What is the fair thing for you to do here?

EDIT:

I thank Peter K. for commenting. However, the referenced question is about a quite different situation; it has nothing to do with discussing or posting solutions for the rest of the class.

marked as duplicate by gman, scaaahu, David Richerby, Bob Brown, Buzz Apr 28 '16 at 12:44

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • Peter K. - Thanks for commenting. That question is about a quite different situation though; it has nothing to do with discussing or posting solutions for the rest of the class. – Anon Apr 27 '16 at 15:38
  • OK! But all the answers are still relevant, I believe. As they speak to the same issues you raise (just not directly mentioning solutions posted). – Peter K. Apr 27 '16 at 15:45
  • Related: Are Identical Make-up Exams Fair? – shoover Apr 27 '16 at 15:59
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    In my opinion, the fair thing to do is to fail the students unless they were literally almost dying. If they can't make it to the exam, it's their responsibility to let you know that beforehand. – user37208 Apr 27 '16 at 17:52
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    I am not sure what you're asking. You send them an email after the exam, but hear nothing back for a few days. and then After those few days, you grade the rest of the exams, At this point, what's the reason you don't fail those students who did not show up for the exam? – scaaahu Apr 28 '16 at 2:32
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Don't give the same exam as a makeup exam. Rather, write a separate exam to use for makeups. Even if you haven't given out a set of solutions or returned graded papers, students who took the main exam are likely to have shared information about the exam with students who need to take a makeup.

  • Thank you. How long would you wait to hear back from a student before allowing them to take a makeup exam? I suppose this is the fairest thing to do, but I still find it rather unfair that the makeup students get to see complete solutions to a (different but necessarily quite similar) exam. – Anon Apr 27 '16 at 15:42
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    I don't give makeup exams without an excuse that has been certified by the Dean of Students. Sometimes these excuses come in very late in the semester, and I've sometimes had to give makeup exams months after the scheduled date. However, once the semester grade has been posted it's final and there isn't any further opportunity for the student to request a makeup exam. – Brian Borchers Apr 27 '16 at 16:05
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    @Anon it depends on what the syllabus and departmental policies say. – StrongBad Apr 27 '16 at 16:29
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    @Anon: "I still find it rather unfair that the makeup students get to see complete solutions to a (different but necessarily quite similar) exam" - unless this is the very first year during which you give the class, wouldn't students have seen exams from previous years, anyway? – O. R. Mapper Apr 28 '16 at 10:37
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Hopefully you are providing your students with enough review material that they understand the format and content of the exam such that seeing an additional complete exam (with solutions and feedback) will not provide an advantage. If that is not the case, then you need to address that and not when you will post the solutions.

The other thing to consider is what the concern about "advantages" are. As a teacher, the goal of the exam is two fold. To accurately assess what students know and provide feedback to the students so they can improve. From this vantage, it is quite possible that a student who has additional review material specific to the test is actually at a disadvantage since the grade and feedback will not reflect what the student knows.

The "advantage" you are probably concerned with is if the student's grade will be artificially inflated. Keeping a level playing field regarding grading on make up exams can be incredibly difficult. Again, the presence of a solutions to a past exam is essentially irrelevant to solving the issue. Further, while the student taking the makeup exam may receive a benefit, it does not disadvantage the other students.

  • Thanks for this answer. You are right that the format and content of the exam is not meant to be a surprise in any way. I will likely follow both your and Brian Borchers' advice. – Anon Apr 27 '16 at 17:43
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Here's what I do.

For midterm exams, complete answer sheets are distributed immediately in the next class session; but no makeup tests are given for any reason. I give 3 such exams throughout the semester and drop one of them to mitigate for any illness, etc. If you have only one midterm and went on the same path, you could consider replacing the midterm with an identical final exam grade.

For final exams, makeup tests are possible up to halfway through the following semester (by college policy); but final exams are not returned and answer sheets are never distributed (again, college policy: completed final exams are kept in a Vault maintained by the registrar on campus for 1 year, in case of disputes, etc.).

The more assessments you give, the easier it is to have a "no makeups but drop N" policy, I think, which supports immediately handing back tests with feedback and answer sheets.

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This might surprise some but young people don't use email that much. Yes they have an email address and yes the will send you an email because they know that that is how you communicate. But they rarely check it because of the spam and the other ways of communicating that are available to them. If I need to talk to a student I literally have to talk to them face to face if I don't reach them through social media.

I would suggest waiting to give the exams back until you have literally spoken to the students who missed the exam. After this you can make a decision that is fair for the context

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