Skip to content

Types of Exams

Questions about exams should be directed to Academic Services at

Quizzes, Hour, and Midterm Exams

Students are expected to take their exams on time and as scheduled by their instructors. Students who are unable to take a quiz, hour exam, or midterm due to extenuating circumstances should contact their instructor immediately. Instructors have varying policies regarding make-up quizzes, hour, and midterm exams.

Final Exams

A final exam, paper, or project is required in all courses. Seminars and workshops in which students are evaluated on the basis of reports and ongoing weekly assignments are the exceptions to this policy. Only registered undergraduate- and graduate-credit students are allowed to take final exams and submit final papers and projects.

Final exams are generally two hours long and usually administered on the last day of class. Your instructor will inform you of the format of the final exam in your course.

Instructors will confirm exam dates, times and locations before the exam period since it may be held in a different room from the class meetings. If you are unable to take your final exam at the scheduled time, you may not make separate arrangements with your instructor to take the final exam at an earlier or later time. Grades are not accepted for students who do this. If you cannot take your final exam at the scheduled time you may be eligible to appeal for a make-up final exam.

If you sit for your final exam and are unable to complete it for any reason you are assigned a failing grade (E), or zero, for the incomplete portion of the exam. You are not allowed to complete the final exam at another time or appeal for a final make-up exam. If you attend the final exam and do not submit a bluebook or exam sheet, you are assigned an E for the final exam. If you do not take your final exam and did not withdraw from the course by the withdrawal deadline you are assigned a failing grade for the final exam.

Final Take-Home Exams

Students who miss the deadline for a take-home exam should call their instructor immediately. The instructor may approve an extension-of-time (EXT) grade and write a new take-home exam, or assign the student a failing grade for the exam depending on the instructor’s policy for take-home exams.

Exams in Online Courses

Many distance education courses have exams, which may be take-home, online, or proctored exams. Instructors will inform students of the format of course exams.

Online Exams

An online exam is a timed exam that is taken on a specific date and within a specific 24-hour period. Instructors may elect to administer exams online via Canvas, Proctorio, or a third -party testing tool. Students should refer to the syllabus or contact course staff members with any questions about online exams. Students enrolled in online courses are expected to have the necessary computer systems (hardware and software) and internet access to take exams online. Paper exams will not be administered in lieu of the online exam except for accommodations approved by the Accessibility Services office.

Students with extenuating  exam proctoring concerns should contact to discuss their situation and for additional guidance.

Getting Help

Need more help? For more information, email Academic Services at

Make-up Final Exams

Students who begin a final exam but do not complete it for any reason, including illness, are not eligible to appeal for a make-up final exam.


Make-up Final exam appeals are considered only for students who:

  • Provide documentation to support unexpected extenuating circumstances that conflict directly with the date of the original final exam
  • Owe no other work in the course apart from the final exam (with the exception of an approved concurrent Extension of Time) and are eligible to pass the class

Appeals staff will contact instructors to verify students’ academic standing in courses for which they’ve applied for make-up final exams as part of the appeals process.

The Make-up Final Exam Committee makes every effort to be accommodating when there is a documented, extenuating, and direct conflict with a final exam. The following are examples that are not considered compelling reasons to grant a make-up final exam:

  • Lack of preparation or limited time to study
  • Negligence or misinformation, such as being unaware of the final exam date or format
  • Not having the proper technical or internet requirements
  • Planned vacations and other events

Supporting Documentation

Supporting documentation must accompany an appeal. Two pieces of documentation are required, except in cases of personal illness. Documentation must be:

  • Written in English or submitted with translation
  • Written on official letterhead or stationery (when possible)
  • Confirm the reason for missing the exam
  • Signed by the appropriate person in an official capacity

Medical documentation should meet the requirements above and must be in the form of a letter and based on an exam or consultation within proximity (2-5 days) of the missed final exam. When applicable, the signed letter should include a description of the illness, specific dates, or range of dates of the illness, and physical and/or functional limitations of the illness that prevented taking the exam as scheduled. Documentation written on prescription pads will not be accepted.

**Students are required to provide documentation with the exception of students who have already provided relevant documentation to the Accessibility Services Office.

Documentation is only viewed by the Appeals staff and by members of the Committee during the review.


Students may appeal for a make-up final exam(s) by submitting a make-up final exam appeal no later than three (3) calendar days after the missed exam. Late, incomplete, and ineligible appeals will not be considered.

Students can submit their make-up final exam appeal, including submission of documentation, by following the process below:

  • Login to MyDCE and select “My Courses” from your dashboard.
  • Select “Make-Up Final Exam Appeal Form” in the “Resources” section.

If you have trouble submitting your appeal or have questions that are not answered on this page, please contact the appeals staff in Academic Services at for additional assistance.

Review and Scheduling of Make-up Final Exams

Appeals staff and the Committee will begin reviewing make-up final exam  appeals on a rolling basis after the withdrawal deadline each term  Unfortunately, the Committee cannot guarantee appeal review and decision prior to the originally scheduled final exam.

Appeal decisions will be communicated via email.

If approved, make-up final exams will be  administered on:

Term Make-up Final Exam Date
Fall 2023 January 17, 2024
January Session 2024 January 31, 2024
Spring 2024 June 5, 2024

Students who encounter extenuating circumstances that cause them to miss their approved make-up final exam may wish to review the Financial and Registration appeal option to request a retroactive withdrawal (WD) from a course.

Exam Policies and Expectations

Absences for Religious Reasons

A student may request an in-term exam be rescheduled without penalty if the exam is scheduled on a day of religious observance for the student. Students should speak with their instructor no later than two weeks before the exam date to discuss alternate options available. Exams that have a 24-hour window may adjust the exam window to allow for reasonable time to sit the exam, so the exam instance is not in conflict with the religious observance. Exams that have a 24-hour window may be extended for all students in the class or schedule adjustments may be made on an individual basis. In lieu of offering a make-up exam, faculty may work with students directly on alternate assignments or to re-weight in-term assessments to account for the exam absence. Additional information on Absences for Religious Observance, refer to the Student Expectations and Policies.

Exam Conflicts

An exam conflict occurs when a student has one of the following:  

  • Two exams are scheduled for the same day and time. 
  • A class meeting and an exam are scheduled for the same day and time.  
  • Three or more exams are scheduled for the same 24-hour exam window.  

All courses must be taken at Harvard University to be considered a conflict. When an exam conflict exists, students communicate the conflict to their faculty as soon as it is known and request support for a conflict exam via email to When emailing the details of the conflict exam, include all courses impacted in the conflict and the required schedule or exam window causing the conflict (include date and times).  

The Distance Exams office will work with you and faculty to schedule a conflict exam within 48 hours of the original exam schedule. Students who have a conflict with a class meeting and an exam scheduled for the same day and time should plan to attend the class session and work with Distance Exams to reschedule the exam at an alternate time.  

Exam Time Limit and Late Arrival

You are expected to complete exams during the scheduled exam period. Late arrival to on-campus or distance proctored exams will not be permitted additional time to complete the exam. Students taking an exam with a 24-hour testing window should prepare to start the exam with enough time to complete the full exam before the 24-hour testing window expires. Late arrival to an exam is not cause for a re-grade or make up assessment.  

The course faculty will set the exam time limit and expectations in the course. Students who require academic accommodation must work proactively with the Accessibility Services Office; course faculty are not eligible to support or approve ongoing academic accommodations. 

Distance Exams with a Qualified Proctor

Distance exams may be required in Hybrid courses, when an on-campus exam is required for the course students participating online must work with the Distance Exams team to arrange for a Qualified Proctor in their local area to sit the exam. Students will be informed of the Distance Exam requirements in their course at the start of the term so they can make appropriate arrangements in advance of the exam dates.  

Distance Exams may also support necessary exceptions for online exams due to known technical issues encountered with online exams. Students who are unable to take an online exam due to internet restrictions, when the student otherwise can engage in the course, may request to take the exam with a qualified proctor as an exception. Students must request this as an exception to the Distance Exams Office. Requests will be viewed on a case-by-case basis and will not be considered based on student preference.  

Finding a Qualified Proctor

A proctor is required to oversee the Distance Exam and agrees to the requirements and responsibilities outlined within Harvard DCE exam policies. The proctor is responsible for monitoring the exam during the testing window and is accountable for the administration of the exam. Distance Exams may reject a proctor request if the requirements are not met in full.  

Qualified Proctor Requirements 

  • Ideally a professional in the educational sector or closely related organization.  
  • Must have professional email and office address that can be independently verified by Distance Exams staff.  
  • Cannot have personal relationship with the student, such as a family member, close friend, or personal tutor.  
  • Must be timely in their responses to the Distance Exams outreach.  
  • Must not have previously been disqualified from proctoring Harvard DCE exams.  

Some examples of a qualified proctor may include:  

  • Local teachers or professors 
  • Educational Administrators such as a principal, guidance counselor, dean or director of school, or exam coordinating office at accredited institution.  
  • Accessibility Services or Academic Accommodation office.  
  • School or public librarian administrators 
  • Military officer or chaplain  
  • Professional testing centers 

Students are responsible for any fees incurred when finding a qualified proctor.

Submit the Qualified Proctor Request

Email the following information for your requested proctor to the Distance Exams Office for review:  

  • Proctor legal first and last name (preferred name can be included) 
  • Office / Business phone number 
  • Physical address of the office / business where you will sit the exam. 
  • Professional email address for the proctor 
  • Proctor Job Title 
  • Proctor Organization Name and Website.  

Distance exams must be taken at the professional location, proctors may not meet students at neutral locations, such as a café or rented professional space, nor can exams be hosted at the student or proctors’ home. A professional email address is required. Proctors using personal @gmail, @yahoo, and other similar addresses are not accepted.  

Confirming a Qualified Proctor and Completing your Exam

Once approved – the Distance Exams office will communicate this to the student, faculty, and approved qualified proctor. The qualified proctor will be provided with details on the exam proctoring policies as well as any specifics related to the current exam instance. Students should work with the proctor to arrange a time to sit the exam within the scheduled exam window.

Students should plan to follow all instructions for the exam as outlined in the course by the faculty.

Exams will be released to qualified proctors no more than 12 hours in advance of the exam instance. Proctors are required to monitor the exam and return it to the distance exams office within 24 hours of exam completion. Proctors will not work directly with faculty.