Many instructors evaluate student learning through exams—whether during the course of the semester, or at the end of the term, or both. Please note that there are certain policies and best practices that instructors should note when scheduling, adminstering, and grading their exams, as detailed below.
Midterm examinations are scheduled by each instructor, based on the pedagogical structure of a course, and might occur anytime between the beginning and the end of the term. Therefore, while many midterm exams may be scheduled around the mid-point of a term (e.g., late October or mid-March), midterm exams may also fall earlier or later in the term, and a course may require multiple exams during the course of the semester.
Because midterm exams have such different timelines and are governed by individual departments and instructors, there is no unified set of University or school policies that govern them. Instructors are advised to have clear policies and practices in place for cases in which students request accommodations due to illness, varsity sport travel, or other extenuating circumstances.
If instructors need advice on how to handle individual situations with students, they should contact the student's assigned adviser. For Columbia College, General Studies, and Columbia Engineering students, instructors can find the student's assigned advising dean is their Courseworks sites, in the "Photo Roster" section under the "List/Advisor" tab. For Barnard College students, instructors can contact the relevant Class Dean (depending on the class year of the student).
If a student misses a midterm exam without notice, the instructor should immediately alert the student’s advising dean, in case there is an emergency that needs the school’s intervention.
Instructors should become familiar with these policies regarding the scheduling of final exams when creating their course plans for the semester. If the academic deans become aware of any final exam schedule that does not follow these policies, the instructor of the course will be asked to adjust the course plan accordingly so that students in the course can expect the same timing of final exams as all other students.
Faculty advising during the final exam period
From the Faculty Handbook published by the Provost Office:
"Faculty should hold regular office hours during the academic term that are clearly communicated to students. Faculty are also expected to be available to advise students during registration and the final examination period following the end of classes."
Scheduling of final exams
Final examinations occur after the end of classes and follow a predetermined schedule issued by the Registrar’s office. The projected version of this schedule is issued in November for the Fall term and in April for the Spring term. Students are advised that they should not finalize end-of-term travel plans until they know their exam schedules; travel is not an acceptable conflict for a final exam.
If a class includes a final exam, instructors are required to give the final exam during the scheduled final exam period assigned by the Registrar's office.
- Instructors should not schedule final exams during class sessions because students are expected to have time to prepare for final exams during the reading days, rather than during the period when final assignments, projects, and papers are due during final class meetings.
- Final exams should not be scheduled during the reading period between the end of classes and the final exam period.
- Under certain circumstances, it may be necessary for an instructor to reschedule an exam. Any change to the day or time of a scheduled final exam must be negotiated with the members of the class. All students unable to take the exam at the agreed-upon time must be given a make-up exam at a time when they are able to attend. Instructors should contact the Office of the Registrar to request a time change for a final exam.
Student conflicts and emergencies for final exams
If a student attends an exam but becomes too ill during the exam to complete it, the instructor should refer the student to the assigned advising dean, who will advise the student on whether the student may be granted an Incomplete and will advise the student on the process.