Are you one of the many instructors who loathe makeup exam requests? Makeup exams often create more work and can put us in the awkward position of judging the truthfulness of our students’ excuses. Although we can’t avoid makeup requests entirely, we can better prepare ourselves and our students by having a transparent and fair makeup exam policy. When designing your policy, always ask yourself: Does the policy allow students to learn what you want them to learn in your course?
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
I teach a Comprehensive Review course, the final course for Family Nurse Practitioner students in an online program. My focus is to prepare students for the certification boards and ultimately, clinical practice. Recently, when I was reviewing an exam with a student, I thought about how she was exposed to the content twice during the course: in lecture format and then again, (hopefully), by her preceptor during clinical rotation. This exposure doesn’t count the additional interactions with the content as she studied for exams. As we were going over the information once more, I heard myself telling her that “It’s not about the grade, it’s about really learning this information for the boards and, even more importantly, for patient care.”
In “Calculating Final Course Grades: What About Dropping Scores or Offering a Replacement?” (The Teaching Professor March 2014), the editor notes that “some students … assume that course content is a breeze, [so] the first exam serve[s] as a wake-up call.” (p. 6) In two Introductory Psychology classes (150 students), I recently implemented an effective three-step strategy for getting the best out of such students (and, indeed, all students).
Instructors commonly cope with a missed test or failed exam (this may also apply to quizzes) by letting students drop their lowest score. Sometimes the lowest score is replaced by an extra exam or quiz. Sometimes the tests are worth different amounts, with the first test worth less, the second worth a bit more, and the third worth more than the first two—but not as much as the final.
They’re a hassle. Depending on whether it means constructing a different exam, arranging a time and location to administer the exam, or grading after the fact, a makeup exam can consume a lot of extra time and effort. Unfortunately, such exams are pretty much a necessity. Most of our institutions require faculty to excuse students for certain events and activities such as serious illnesses, court appearances, military duty, and university-sponsored athletics.