Exam Procedures and Policies
Midterm exams are not centrally scheduled. They are generally held in the same room at the same time as the regular class meeting. Hence the maximum length of the exam is 80 minutes. Each faculty member chooses when he or she would like to administer midterms. In doing so, it is customary for faculty in the larger MPP or MPAID required core courses to coordinate the schedules to avoid exam conflicts within the MPP or MPAID programs. Faculty are required to indicate the date for midterms on their syllabi and on their initial class administrative handouts.
If faculty are combining sections for a midterm exam they should work with Room Reservations in the Office of Facilities and Services to find a large enough space.
Take Home Exams & Final Papers
The primary difference between take home exams and papers is one of timing. Faculty may hand out a take home exam during the last week of class (but not before) and they are generally due within a defined period of time after being distributed(e.g. 24, 36, 48 hours).
Note that take homes in Module Period 1 or 3 may be due at any time up until the end of the first week of classes in Module Period 2 or 4. Take home exams for Module Period 2 and 4 follow the same schedule as take home exams for the regular fall and spring semesters.
Final papers on the other hand are a product that the student may be working on throughout the term. Papers may not be due during the last week of class. They are due on any date selected by the faculty member between the end of classes and the end of exam period.
Electronic submission of take home exams or papers
The syllabus (and also the take home exam itself or instructions for the paper) should make it clear whether the instructor will accept these submissions. If electronic submissions are accepted, the deadline for submission should be 24 hours earlier than for those that are submitted in hard copy. This allows time to address possible transmission and technical mishaps.
Rules for Take Home Exams
Consultation and Collaboration on Take Home exams
Faculty must provide written instructions for the exam that include an explicit statement that consultation and collaboration are not permissible on take home exams. Students should also be reminded that the rules of attribution apply to take home exams. All sources must be cited, including other students' written work.
Faculty availability to answer questions
Faculty must be available at specified hours during the take home period for answering questions about the take home exam.
Instructions to students
It is recommended that instructors include the following language on the cover sheet for all take home exams:
”You may consult your books or other reference material or your class notes. You many NOT consult any person other than the instructor or course assistant about any aspect of this exam. The rules of attribution apply to take home exams: All sources should be cited, including other students' written work. If you have any questions about any part of this exam, you may call the instructor: (…name…) at (…phone…) during the following hours: (…days and hours…). Or you may call one of the course assistants: (…names…) at (…phones…) during the following times: (…days and hours…).”
In addition, the Administrative Board recommends that the exam include an affidavit attesting to compliance with the stipulations listed above, to be signed by each student when he or she turns in the exam.
Example of a compliance affidavit:
Statement of Compliance with Kennedy School Rules for Take Home Exams
I affirm that I have had no conversation regarding this exam with any persons other than the instructor and the authorized course assistants. Further, I certify that the attached work represents my own thinking. Any information, concepts, or words that originate from other sources are cited in accordance with Harvard Kennedy School guidelines as published in the Academic Code. I am aware of the serious consequences that result from improper discussions with others or from the improper citation of work that is not my own.
All students must attend midterm and final exams unless excused for reasons of illness or family emergency. The expectation is that students may not sign up for two courses with exams at the same time, so a conflict in final exam schedule is not an acceptable excuse. Nor is missing an exam to attend a job interview considered acceptable. If a student simply fails to show up for a final exam, he or she is given a grade of ABS (absent).
A student who is unable to take an exam should notify the Registrar immediately. If instead the student gets in touch with the instructor, the instructor should immediately turn the matter over to the Registrar in order to ensure that students in like circumstances are treated equally. This policy applies to take home exams as well as scheduled blue book exams.
When a student misses an exam for an acceptable reason (having appropriately notified the Registrar in advance), it is up to the instructor and the student to schedule and arrange for proctoring the make up exam at a mutually agreeable time. To prevent the perception or the reality of unfair advantage, the instructor must write a different exam for the rescheduled exam.
Note regarding Midterm exams
If a student misses a midterm exam for an unacceptable reason, the faculty member has several options, including assigning a failing grade for the midterm exam and counting it in the overall grade average for the course, weighting other academic products more heavily to make up for the fact that the midterm has been missed; or (in addition to changing the weight of other academic products) reducing the final grade by one full grade (e.g., from A- to B+).
Final In-Class, “Blue Book Exams”
Final “in-class” exams are scheduled by the Office of Teaching Support during the exam period at the conclusion of the semester. Exams are scheduled for a three hour period either from 9:00 a.m. to 12 noon, or from 2:00-5:00 p.m. Final exams may not be held during the last class meeting.
The exam schedule is made public in early August preceding the academic year. Once the exam schedule has been published exam days or times may not be changed. Exams may not be added. However exams may be cancelled entirely if the faculty changes to a take home exam or final paper. Students must plan on being on campus throughout the in-class examination period.
The exception to this rule pertains to Module period 1 and 3 courses. As with midterm exams, exams for these modules are held on the last day of class in the regularly scheduled room. Final exams for Module Period 2 & 4 courses follow the regular fall and spring semester exam schedule. See schedule for final exams and papers.
The exam schedules for both the fall and spring semesters are created and made public by Aug. 1. This enables students to check exam schedules before registering for classes and to avoid the problem of taking two courses with exams at the same time.
Conflicts in Exam Schedules
It is the students' responsibility to make sure they do not register for two classes with exams scheduled at the same time. When or if a conflict arises (frequently with courses in other departments whose exam schedule was not published early, or which may have changed) it is the students' responsibility to resolve the conflict. Faculty are not required to give a make up exam in this case; if they do, they must write a different exam for that student.
- Students must bring their Harvard ID with them to the exam room.
- Students should check with the faculty member regarding what sorts of materials will be permitted in the exam room. All backpacks, handbags, notebooks, etc. must be stacked at the front or sides of the room before the exam begins. Cell phones and PDAs must be turned off and left in students’ backpacks.
- If a student wishes to use the restroom during the exam, they must leave all exam materials with the proctor. While the student is out of the exam room he or she must not talk with anyone.
- With the exception of Wiener Auditorium, students may bring coffee, soft drinks, and small snacks to exam rooms but must take care not to disturb other students. Alcoholic beverages are absolutely prohibited.
- Students with documented disabilities who need special accommodation should contact the Disabilities Coordinator who will work with the faculty and other relevant parties to accommodate these needs.
- Students for whom English is a second language may be eligible for more time on the exam if they make this request to the faculty member at least 24 hours in advance. The general practice is to permit up to an extra half hour (at the beginning or end of the exam).
Faculty have the overall responsibility for all exams given in their courses and are expected to be present on site during the duration of their exam whether or not there are CAs and TFs to proctor the exam.
If the course does not have a CA nor TF to proctor, the faculty member is expected to be in the exam room at all times. If there are CA or TF proctors, the faculty member must still be present at the first 15 and final 15 minutes of the exam.
Before the exam
- Inform students in writing (email or handout) of the ground rules for the exam, including: being specific about what materials (PDAs, calculators, etc.) students may bring with them to the exam, how many of the questions to answer, points awarded for each question, etc.
- Be sure the exam has been thoroughly proofread for clarity, level of difficulty, and length of time required.
- Provide the requisite number of blue books and copies of the exam.
- Check the exam room to make sure the room is OK (lights, heat, etc.) and any media equipment functioning.
- Media for all classrooms is listed on the Studio HKS website. If you will need media devices beyond those regularly available in the classrooms, submit a request in advance. If you are planning to project materials, have hard copy backups in case the projection system fails.
After the exam
- Traveling with Students’ Exams or Papers: Faculty may not take original exams or papers with them to grade while traveling unless a copy of each exam or paper remains in the faculty member’s office.
- Grading: Due dates for submitting final grades are set by the Office of the Registrar. Please refer to Key Dates and Academic Calendar for grade due dates. For detailed information on the Harvard Kennedy School grading system, policies, etc., click here.
If students come to an instructor’s office to inquire about their grades, the instructor must take care that they do not inadvertently see a grade sheet on the desk or computer screen. If the instructor’s staff assistant handles that end of the grading process, it is the instructor’s responsibility to ensure that the assistant is equally careful. Students wishing to have their spring exams returned by mail should provide the instructor with a self-addressed stamped manila envelope.
- Returning Exams and Papers: Students must have both access to and privacy with respect to their exams. Graded exams and papers must be returned to them; the exams may not be left in open mailboxes unless they are in a sealed envelope. An instructor may not post grades on his or her office door even if ID numbers only are used. Once the Registrar has entered the grades in the Student Information database, a student may access his or her password-protected grades on line.
Please refer to Posting Student Grades and The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) for more information about student privacy requirements.
It is the responsibility of the faculty member to pick up the appropriate number of blue books from the Course Materials Office. If the exam is at 9:00 a.m. the blue books must be picked up the day before, which means if the exam is on Monday the blue books must be picked up on the previous Friday. As an alternative to blue books, some faculty find answer packets more satisfactory for students and easier to use.
Answer Packets for Exams: An Alternative to Blue Books
At the start of the exam each student receives two packets:
- The exam itself: The cover page provides the instructions for taking the exam.
- The answer packet: The student writes name, ID#, and any other information requested by the instructor (e.g., section or degree program) on the cover.
There is one page for each question (identified by question number, plus title if it has one); the student enters the ID# only on each page.
There is one page for each question (identified by question number, plus title if it has one); the student enters the ID# only on each page. The 8½x11 answer packets work particularly well for quantitative exams.
If the instructor wishes, diagrams or equations that appear in the question may be photocopied into the answer packet.
After the exam, the CAs sort the completed exam packets by question to facilitate faculty grading, making sure there is an ID# on each page. When grading is finished, grades are entered in a spreadsheet. The packets are then reassembled for return to the students.
Proctoring the Exam (Faculty, Course Assistant or Teaching Fellow)
There is no centralized proctor assignment system. CAs and TFs are informed that they must be available during the exam period to proctor the exam. Faculty should remind them of this responsibility.
Even if the CAs and TFs proctor the exam, instructors must be present 15 minutes before the exam begins and remain in the room for 15 minutes after the start of the exam. Instructors should appear at regularly scheduled intervals during the exam to answer substantive questions and to give proctors breaks. With the larger classes, it is recommended that there be a minimum of two proctors in the room at all times.
If there are no CAs or TFs associated with the course the faculty member must proctor the exam.
Instructions for Proctors
- Faculty are responsible for their CAs’ and TFs’ knowing how to manage the exam when they themselves are out of the room.
- Write on the blackboard the course number, title, and faculty name; instructions for filling out and labeling blue book covers: (name & ID or ID only, course number, section if applicable); and "Exam ends... " (fill this in after the exam starts).
- In most cases exams are scheduled in rooms that allow every-other-seating. Request students to leave an empty seat between each two students. Save some seats in the front of the room for late students.
- State what materials are allowed during the exams. All books, handbags, backpacks, and other disallowed materials must be stacked at the front or sides of the room.
- CAs and TFs should make sure they know when the instructor will return to the room to answer questions. They should have the instructor’s office phone number.
- Distribute the blue books or answer packets to each student. Remind students to fill out the front of each blue book.
- Before handing out the exam, ask students if they have any questions. Remind them that once the exam is handed out, there may be no talking during the exam.
- During the exam, survey the room and be alert to questions that may arise. Proctors should move quietly about the room at frequent intervals. They are there to help students with problems and to be observant of any irregular behavior.
- Cheating is a violation of the school’s policy on academic honesty, and it can also prove distracting to other students who are taking the exam. Therefore the proctor or instructor must proceed with care. If they observe questionable behavior, they should call the student aside and ask for an explanation. Warn the student that the behavior will be reported, but allow the student to continue the exam. They should not take away the student’s examination; students are always allowed to continue and finish their examinations. The issue of whether or not they were engaged in cheating is adjudicated after the exam. If cheating is suspected the proctor should tell the instructor immediately and write up the incident as soon as possible. The instructor will inform the Registrar who will convene the appropriate disciplinary committee to hear the case.
- Breaks for the proctors. CAs and TFs should coordinate these among themselves or with the instructor.
- If students have questions regarding the content of the exam tell them to continue with the examination while you contact the instructor. Only the instructor should respond to substantive questions.
- If a student needs to use the rest room they must leave all of their exam materials on the proctor’s desk.
- If a student becomes ill, suggest a walk outside the room, a drink of water, or a few minutes’ rest. If the student is too ill for these simple remedies, call the Program Director. If the student must leave the exam, collect the exam materials and note the time remaining in the exam on the blue book.
- If a student refuses to abide by the examination regulations, obey proctor instructions, or if there is any incident of inappropriate student behavior, the proctor should file a brief written report and give it to the instructor, who will share it with the Registrar.
- Toward the end of the exam period announce the time when there are 20 and then 10 minutes remaining.
- When time has expired. Announce that the exam has ended and further writing is not allowed. If a student does not stop writing, repeat the request. If the student does not then stop writing immediately, tell him or her that you are required to document the incident. Do not get into a tug-of-war with the student.
- When the exam has concluded remind students to be sure their name and/or ID are on all blue books or answer packets they are turning in, and that each blue book is numbered. Deliver all exams immediately to the instructor’s office and return unused blue books to the Course Materials Office.
- In case of a fire alarm. Do not second guess any fire alarm. When an alarm sounds, announce: “Take ONLY your examination copy, your examination booklets, and your valuables. Proceed in an orderly manner to the closest exit. Stay together, but do not talk about the exam and keep your blue books closed.” Obey the instructions of the Cambridge Fire Department and Harvard University Police. Note the time of the alarm. When the all clear is given and you return to the room, post on the blackboard: “The exam will now end at ………” Be sure that students have a cumulative full three hours of exam time no matter how long the interruption.
Please refer to Posting Student Grades under Credit, Grades, and Grading for more information.