Opinion on makeup quizzes/tests?

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adanedhel728
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Opinion on makeup quizzes/tests?

Postby adanedhel728 » Tue Oct 18, 2011 3:41 am UTC

I'm a TA, and this is the first semester I'm teaching a course in Algebra 2 (it's sort of a remedial math class, I'd hate to say that but it's true, for students that didn't do great on the ACT), and I was wondering what people's opinion on makeup quizzes/tests are (opinions from anybody-- students or teachers).

The official policy in the syllabus this semester is no makeup quizzes or tests-- can't take them early or late. In practice, I've already let two students take quizzes early, but I have told students that you can't take them late. Instead of makeup quizzes, I drop your lowest quiz grade. That way if you have an emergency or your car breaks down or something, you can drop that grade. Instead of makeup tests, the final will copy and replace a missed test grade. The final itself, however, is absolute-- Don't miss it. (If it's snowed out, however, and you missed a previous test, then you're kind of in trouble.)

This policy was suggested and highly recommended by my superiors. This is my thinking on the subject. I wish I could do makeups in theory, I mean, I realize that emergencies do happen and cars do break down. But in practice makeup tests are very easily abused, and I have no way to verify any of the stories about why they missed the test. It's hard on the people whose cars break down, but disallowing makeups is ultimately more fair as a whole. So, I go with the theory that the class is not supposed to revolve around the student, but rather the student is supposed to revolve around the class. Then responsibility lies solely on the student. It's the lesser of two evils.

I'm fairly certain that's the way most college classes operate, at least the ones I had as an undergraduate (and graduate). It's also analogous to real-world situation. As in, if you miss a job interview because your car broke down, there's not much the potential employer will do to accommodate you.

I know there's also the option of allowing makeups, but giving them a harder version. I'm not too fond of that option, though, and it's especially hard when most of my students are struggling with the basic material anyway.

Although, now that I think of it, that option is starting to appeal to me more.

So, I'm rethinking my policy on makeups. I've already compromised a lot of my rules this semester, partly because I was making them up as I go along, but next semester will hopefully be different. I'm very strongly thinking absolutely no makeups. Not before, not after, just be there. If there's an emergency, you can drop that one quiz or replace the test. It's not perfectly fair, but it seems to be the most fair that I can make it.

So, what are your thoughts? I thought since I'm trying to decide what to do, I might ask some other people what they think.

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Re: Opinion on makeup quizzes/tests?

Postby KestrelLowing » Wed Oct 19, 2011 2:14 am UTC

As a student, I really hate it when there is absolutely no way of missing a quiz/exam/whatever. The majority of my professors are fine with this provided you tell them far beforehand and take the exam early (to facilitate grading). For example, say someone's sister is getting married, or they have some academic conference or something. I think it's important to be able to have that option.

As for emergency makeups, I think that's alright as well, but have students have to jump through hoops to get them - write a page explaining why they missed the class or something. A pretty good excuse for that sort of thing is a funeral - no way to plan that ahead, but really something someone shouldn't be punished for.

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Re: Opinion on makeup quizzes/tests?

Postby cjmcjmcjmcjm » Wed Oct 19, 2011 5:25 am UTC

At my school, profs who don't give make-up exams are required to give make-up exams to students with a documented university function (sports, usually) that conflicts or for documented illness or funerals or car wrecks.
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Re: Opinion on makeup quizzes/tests?

Postby Tirian » Wed Oct 19, 2011 7:24 am UTC

I'm often reminded of an awesome graduate professor an ex-roommate of mine once had. Introducing a difficult course, he described that there were going to be five major projects during the semester. Over the groans of the students, he said "Don't think of them as challenges, think of them as opportunities to demonstrate to me that you deserve better than a C in the class." My friend and I gotten a lifetime of mileage from using the word "opportunity" in that context. :D

But I think that professor was on the mark. If a student misses an exam, whether by necessity or accident or neglect, I think you have the right* to insert your judgment over how well you suspect they would have done based on their classroom participation and homework. If an individual student insists on a separate objective assessment, give them a 20 minute oral -- I tend to agree that makeups don't have to be designed for the convenience and pleasure of the student.

* Assuming that you as a TA have the right to make these decisions at your educational institution. If you do, you want to be sure that your professor and department head and dean aren't going to overrule you, because those are likely the places where your judgment will be appealed.

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Re: Opinion on makeup quizzes/tests?

Postby LaserGuy » Wed Oct 19, 2011 6:07 pm UTC

cjmcjmcjmcjm wrote:At my school, profs who don't give make-up exams are required to give make-up exams to students with a documented university function (sports, usually) that conflicts or for documented illness or funerals or car wrecks.


@OP: I think the system that you're advocating for (drop the lowest mark/accumulate on the final) is most highly endorsed by other teachers/profs/TAs because it requires zero extra work for the instructor, and also requires (theoretically) zero extra fighting with students over what constitutes a "legitimate" excuse. In practice, it doesn't work out quite as well, because students will still try to fight you on it anyway, either because it still negatively affects their mark in some way (because they can't drop a different lowest score assignment), or because sooner or later you'll run into a student who misses two or more assessments, and then you're back where you started.

Remember, school is actually very artificial in this regard--the "real world" is actually in many respects much more accommodating. There are actually very few instances where, if you have a known conflict or some advance warning, that you can't make other arrangements--where you have to be in a specific place at a specific time, and can't, for whatever reason, come in early or come in late or send someone else in your place to do whatever needs to happen. If you miss a job interview because your car broke down, yes, the employer may not accommodate you. If you call a few days in advance and ask for another time slot, there's a good chance they might well be able to arrange something--for that matter, when you're scheduling the interview in the first place, there's a good chance that the employer is not going to just assign you a date and time and expect you to be there without any input from you as to what time might be (in)appropriate, rather, you'll figure out between you a time that works for both of you. By comparison, most assessment in schools is by fiat of the instructor with little-to-no input from the students.

So all that said, I think reasonable accommodations should be granted in this regard. And I think, as an instructor, you should be free to use your professional judgment to decide what degree of accommodation you feel is appropriate in any given situation. So I guess I agree with Tirian here.

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Re: Opinion on makeup quizzes/tests?

Postby Jahoclave » Thu Oct 20, 2011 5:40 am UTC

cjmcjmcjmcjm wrote:At my school, profs who don't give make-up exams are required to give make-up exams to students with a documented university function (sports, usually) that conflicts or for documented illness or funerals or car wrecks.

This. Real excuse, you can make it up.

Bullshit decided to skip class that day excuse and can't figure out how to lie to me better: fuck off.


Seriously, at least show the conscious ability to come up with a good lie. That's all I'm asking. Demonstrate some higher brain function somewhere along the path.

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Re: Opinion on makeup quizzes/tests?

Postby LaserGuy » Thu Oct 20, 2011 5:32 pm UTC

Jahoclave wrote:
cjmcjmcjmcjm wrote:At my school, profs who don't give make-up exams are required to give make-up exams to students with a documented university function (sports, usually) that conflicts or for documented illness or funerals or car wrecks.

This. Real excuse, you can make it up.

Bullshit decided to skip class that day excuse and can't figure out how to lie to me better: fuck off.


Seriously, at least show the conscious ability to come up with a good lie. That's all I'm asking. Demonstrate some higher brain function somewhere along the path.


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Re: Opinion on makeup quizzes/tests?

Postby Hofstadter'sLaw » Fri Oct 21, 2011 3:15 am UTC

Could you just say the “official policy” is no make-up tests, but then make exceptions for individuals as problems arise if they:

-have documentation (death notice, bill for towing car, letter from doctor, etc…)
or
-alert you to timing conflict at least 2 weeks ahead of time
or
-if it’s a problem that they can’t have documentation for, but you think it’s a valid reason for missing class and they are a “good” student (as in they came to every class, turned in work on time, did well on past tests and assignments, etc…)

I have a chronic medical condition and have had to ask for a few paper extensions. I alway offer to get a doctor's note, but the professors say something like, "Nah, no need for a doctor's note. You're a good student--I trust you. Get it done when you can." I always thought that was nice.

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Re: Opinion on makeup quizzes/tests?

Postby Jahoclave » Fri Oct 21, 2011 4:18 am UTC

Hofstadter'sLaw wrote:Could you just say the “official policy” is no make-up tests, but then make exceptions for individuals as problems arise if they:

-have documentation (death notice, bill for towing car, letter from doctor, etc…)
or
-alert you to timing conflict at least 2 weeks ahead of time
or
-if it’s a problem that they can’t have documentation for, but you think it’s a valid reason for missing class and they are a “good” student (as in they came to every class, turned in work on time, did well on past tests and assignments, etc…)

I have a chronic medical condition and have had to ask for a few paper extensions. I alway offer to get a doctor's note, but the professors say something like, "Nah, no need for a doctor's note. You're a good student--I trust you. Get it done when you can." I always thought that was nice.

No, not unless I want every grade appeal to go through.

Basically, you have to put in "university sanctioned blah blah blah blah...." And your chronic medical condition would go through some disabilities service thingy on campus most likely.

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Re: Opinion on makeup quizzes/tests?

Postby Hofstadter'sLaw » Fri Oct 21, 2011 5:32 am UTC

Jahoclave wrote:No, not unless I want every grade appeal to go through.

Basically, you have to put in "university sanctioned blah blah blah blah...." And your chronic medical condition would go through some disabilities service thingy on campus most likely.


In my experience, disabilities service isn't much help. They told me they could give professors suggestions on how to handle my problems if I suddenly got really sick or ended up in the hospital, but they couldn't force professors to give me extensions or allow me to do make-up tests.

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Re: Opinion on makeup quizzes/tests?

Postby Jahoclave » Fri Oct 21, 2011 2:14 pm UTC

Hofstadter'sLaw wrote:
Jahoclave wrote:No, not unless I want every grade appeal to go through.

Basically, you have to put in "university sanctioned blah blah blah blah...." And your chronic medical condition would go through some disabilities service thingy on campus most likely.


In my experience, disabilities service isn't much help. They told me they could give professors suggestions on how to handle my problems if I suddenly got really sick or ended up in the hospital, but they couldn't force professors to give me extensions or allow me to do make-up tests.

Yeah, my thinking on this, from a professor standpoint, is if you have the letter or whatever from disserv, I now have something that shows the university A. recognizes you have the medical issue and B. something I can point to for treating you differently than other students. So other students can't come and complain that you got a make up test or an extension--after all, they're not allowed to see what the letter actually suggests I make as an accommodation.

Plus, it's just nice to let the professor know way ahead of time that this might be an issue.

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Re: Opinion on makeup quizzes/tests?

Postby adanedhel728 » Mon Nov 14, 2011 7:01 am UTC

Apologies for not following up before now-- That's a very bad habit of mine on forums, especially during the semester when I've got a million things on my mind.

At any rate, I appreciate the thoughts very much. Since next semester is still a little while away I've got some more time to think about this issue.

I don't think I can just straight out allow makeups after-the-fact, for legitimate reasons or not. I just don't think it's feasible to hunt down each reason to find out if it's legitimate. As a result, it's just too easily abused. (As a rule, these students are mixed-- Some may be trustworthy, but others aren't. I don't know any of them well enough to know which is which.)

I would like the idea of giving more leniency to good students-- but then it becomes an issue of favoritism.

But now I'm starting to warm up to the idea that I dismissed previously-- Makeups after-the-fact are allowed, but they're longer and harder, so you would want to avoid them. Makeups before-the-fact would also be allowed and are the same difficulty and the same length, but still a different version just so they can't pass the numbers on to a friend. (I wouldn't be concerned about them telling a friend what types of problems are on the test-- I already do that in my review.)

And I'm thinking I would have another requirement-- Makeups after-the-fact should be taken at most a week after the original test was given.

Someday soon I'm going to try to sit down and brainstorm this more.

I realize that there are plenty of people that miss class for legitimate reasons that are beyond their control. I've had an unreliable car in the past without an ability to get a new one, so I sympathize. It's not that I want to do zero extra work; it's that I very much do not want a system that can be abused easily. I'm finding it hard to come up with a system that is simultaneously gracious and not easily abused, and there's a big part of me that wants to lean away from graciousness if it can't coexist with fair.

The thing that's drawing me to the "drop two quizzes, replace one test" system is a feeling that I just can't shake-- If you miss more than two quizzes and one test because of emergencies or something that's beyond your control, then you're probably missing so much of the class that you're not in a place in your life where you should be in class right now. I realize that me saying that might get blood boiling for some people (and feel free to say so if it does; I'm open to all criticism right now that might help my decision for next semester). I'm not heartless to emergencies, but it would be absurd to just hand over the credit for a class that you didn't really take.

And especially for this class in particular; its entire purpose is to get ready for the next algebra class (it's for people that didn't score high enough on the ACT to get into the regular algebra class). I wouldn't be doing them any favors by passing them if they're not ready for the next class.

But that's also why the "after-the-fact are allowed, but they're longer and harder" system is starting to appeal to me, too. That way I'm not handing over unearned credit. And it's not as likely to send them to the next class unprepared, in fact it might be better for them in the long run. (Even if it lowers their grade, because this class doesn't affect their overall GPA, though they don't know that yet.)

Final Exams would be significantly more difficult, though. I'm not sure if I'm even allowed to do those at a different time. And this would also raise the question "is the dropping/replacing still necessary." The students would like it, but it might be making the class too easy. Again, it doesn't affect their overall GPA and I wouldn't be doing them any favors by sending them into a class that they're not ready for.

Anyway... Again, thanks for the thoughts. I probably sound like a 13 year old when I talk about this, haha, but I'm pretty much expressing everything I'm thinking because I think it's an issue that's worth considering. I'll bookmark this page to remind myself to come back to see if there are any more replies.

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Re: Opinion on makeup quizzes/tests?

Postby LaserGuy » Mon Nov 14, 2011 6:39 pm UTC

adanedhel728 wrote:But now I'm starting to warm up to the idea that I dismissed previously-- Makeups after-the-fact are allowed, but they're longer and harder, so you would want to avoid them. Makeups before-the-fact would also be allowed and are the same difficulty and the same length, but still a different version just so they can't pass the numbers on to a friend. (I wouldn't be concerned about them telling a friend what types of problems are on the test-- I already do that in my review.)


Suggestion: consider having the make up an oral exam. It can be quick, like 10-15 minutes or something. In the long run, it will probably save you more time than having to make/adjudicate/mark a new exam for one student. Students are petrified of oral exams (for good reason), and will avoid them like the plague if they can help it.

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Re: Opinion on makeup quizzes/tests?

Postby merrak » Mon Nov 21, 2011 5:55 am UTC

adanedhel728 wrote:I'm a TA, and this is the first semester I'm teaching a course in Algebra 2 (it's sort of a remedial math class, I'd hate to say that but it's true, for students that didn't do great on the ACT), and I was wondering what people's opinion on makeup quizzes/tests are (opinions from anybody-- students or teachers).

The official policy in the syllabus this semester is no makeup quizzes or tests-- can't take them early or late. In practice, I've already let two students take quizzes early, but I have told students that you can't take them late. Instead of makeup quizzes, I drop your lowest quiz grade. That way if you have an emergency or your car breaks down or something, you can drop that grade. Instead of makeup tests, the final will copy and replace a missed test grade. The final itself, however, is absolute-- Don't miss it. (If it's snowed out, however, and you missed a previous test, then you're kind of in trouble.)

This policy was suggested and highly recommended by my superiors. This is my thinking on the subject. I wish I could do makeups in theory, I mean, I realize that emergencies do happen and cars do break down. But in practice makeup tests are very easily abused, and I have no way to verify any of the stories about why they missed the test. It's hard on the people whose cars break down, but disallowing makeups is ultimately more fair as a whole. So, I go with the theory that the class is not supposed to revolve around the student, but rather the student is supposed to revolve around the class. Then responsibility lies solely on the student. It's the lesser of two evils.

I'm fairly certain that's the way most college classes operate, at least the ones I had as an undergraduate (and graduate). It's also analogous to real-world situation. As in, if you miss a job interview because your car broke down, there's not much the potential employer will do to accommodate you.

I know there's also the option of allowing makeups, but giving them a harder version. I'm not too fond of that option, though, and it's especially hard when most of my students are struggling with the basic material anyway.

Although, now that I think of it, that option is starting to appeal to me more.

So, I'm rethinking my policy on makeups. I've already compromised a lot of my rules this semester, partly because I was making them up as I go along, but next semester will hopefully be different. I'm very strongly thinking absolutely no makeups. Not before, not after, just be there. If there's an emergency, you can drop that one quiz or replace the test. It's not perfectly fair, but it seems to be the most fair that I can make it.

So, what are your thoughts? I thought since I'm trying to decide what to do, I might ask some other people what they think.

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When I was a TA I used to be very generous about makeups. It wasn't a big deal back when I had only one class at a time and long research hours. Now it can be a major pain if I don't lay down the law. Also, giving away makeups is not really fair to the students who made the effort to be there on time. Whatever you decide you kind of need to stick with it for the whole semester, or else your students will cry foul (maybe even legitimately).

No makeups at all, however, may not be allowed. (As I saw in another reply, some schools have specific policies, even if the department doesn't). I once had a professor that only gave makeups as oral exams. This seemed pretty effective - it's scary enough to motivate students not miss the original test, but does help them out in a pinch.
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Re: Opinion on makeup quizzes/tests?

Postby EvanED » Tue Nov 22, 2011 6:11 am UTC

I'm teaching a class for a second time now. Last time I gave a couple makeup exams (before-the-fact) for people who were traveling for grad school visits. This semester it looks like I won't need to before the final. (I have one person who has 3 finals scheduled in one day or something like that, which the University says is a no-no. There may be more.)

For quizzes, I do something funky that I like quite a bit for entirely different reasons, but it very nearly solves the makeup problem too (at least if the main objection is passing information). What I do is give out a few homework problems, but the homework is never explicitly collected as such. Instead, I randomly select a question from the homework and give it as a quiz a couple weeks later. I like it because it lets me allow (and encourage) working in groups to answer the questions, and yet I have a greater degree of individual understanding than if I just collected them. On a personal level, I stole the idea from one of the very first classes I took when I was an undergrad (vector calc), and really liked it in that class for the same reasons.

But as I said, this very nearly solves the makeup problem. I think it's desirable already to have reasonably-balanced questions (in terms of difficulty) for the different candidates for what goes on the quiz. So if you've done your job there, then all you have to do is pick another random question for each makeup. Knowing that the main quiz used question #1 doesn't mean anything for the makeup, which might be question #1 or might not be, with the same probability as the original quiz.

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Re: Opinion on makeup quizzes/tests?

Postby tyboy » Mon Dec 26, 2011 9:55 am UTC

My favorite option to see as a student was always the automatic dropping of one test system (assuming you're giving enough quizzes/tests to make it plausible) and it still is my favorite. It's so simple and low maintenance while being very fair to all involved. It may be unusual, but I have little problem with the idea of a person missing their one test simply because they slept in. I actually think it's kind of unfair to the person who slept in to say that missing your alarm is invalid while having your car die is valid. If you worry about what the excuses are you're going to end up drawing the line in some fairly arbitrary place (for example, taxi cabs exist, if I was worrying about excuses I would never accept a dead car as a reason to miss a test). As far as the learning and demonstrating learning goes it's all the same.

Another popular and totally decent option is to give a comprehensive final exam and simply substitute the relevant section on the final exam for the missing test. It requires that you give a comprehensive final which I find isn't so common in lower division classes, but is still light on the hassle. It will lead to some students putting in basically no effort or attendance until the final and then getting surprised when they bomb that. You may or may not feel like giving them such a good opportunity to totally screw themselves is letting them down.

Jahoclave wrote:Seriously, at least show the conscious ability to come up with a good lie. That's all I'm asking. Demonstrate some higher brain function somewhere along the path.


I don't think this is a very good line of thinking. A decent lie is not much of a demonstration of thinking ability. It's far more demonstrative of a lack of character than anything else. You're going to encounter a wide range among your students when it comes to testing ethics. When you make your system subject to your own judgement of excuses you inevitably end up rewarding dishonesty and penalizing honesty to an extent. I have a personal problem with that because I generally dislike it when people game the system to get an advantage over others. It's particularly annoying since you will be the system in this case.

EvanED wrote: What I do is give out a few homework problems, but the homework is never explicitly collected as such. Instead, I randomly select a question from the homework and give it as a quiz a couple weeks later.


I suppose you probably have your own opinion on this, it seems like it would be hard to get through undergrad without encountering it at least once. I feel like it's a bad way to go though, if you're talking about copying the questions exactly. Once it becomes known that you do this a significant portion of your class will skew their studying habits away from understanding and towards memorizing the problems. They'll still have to spend a significant amount of time looking at the homework, which is an awful lot like studying, but they'll be in the wrong frame of mind for really understanding the material. Algebra makes it particularly easy to just change the numbers I would think. The methods will stay the same as the homework and the only thing that will usually change will be a little arithmetic.

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Re: Opinion on makeup quizzes/tests?

Postby Proginoskes » Tue Dec 27, 2011 9:39 am UTC

LaserGuy wrote:
Jahoclave wrote:
cjmcjmcjmcjm wrote:At my school, profs who don't give make-up exams are required to give make-up exams to students with a documented university function (sports, usually) that conflicts or for documented illness or funerals or car wrecks.

This. Real excuse, you can make it up.

Bullshit decided to skip class that day excuse and can't figure out how to lie to me better: fuck off.

Seriously, at least show the conscious ability to come up with a good lie. That's all I'm asking. Demonstrate some higher brain function somewhere along the path.


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Re: Opinion on makeup quizzes/tests?

Postby Ixtellor » Thu Jan 05, 2012 5:02 pm UTC

The fact is that a vast majority of the time its bullshit excuses. That kid who told you months ahead that his mother was having surgery... he is going out of town for a ski trip.

Yes legit things will come up, but... be a hardass.
I once witnessed an oscar worthy performance full of tears, rage, etc only to see that kid drunk at a football game 2 hours later.

The more leniant you are, the more you will be taken advantage of, and worse the integrity of the tests/quizzes will be compromised.

Best solution: Make the makeups a total bitch. Tell the students that make ups are twice as hard if not harder and then do it. That has worked for me.
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Re: Opinion on makeup quizzes/tests?

Postby Puppyclaws » Thu Jan 05, 2012 5:49 pm UTC

Ixtellor wrote:The fact is that a vast majority of the time its bullshit excuses. That kid who told you months ahead that his mother was having surgery... he is going out of town for a ski trip.

Yes legit things will come up, but... be a hardass.


I really have to ask; why go out of your way to be difficult on students? I just don't understand. I get not bending over backwards for people who miss multiple tests/exams, but shit comes up, and I really think people should be allowed to miss one mid-semester exam date for pretty much anything, either with a make-up or the one-test-dropped policy. As a student I prefer being allowed a make-up, but I can understand how dropping a test may be more reasonable for the professor.

For a personal example, I scheduled a vacation during this past semester, months in advance. I scheduled my classes such that I would not have class on any day that I would be gone. It all looked fine. Then, two weeks before classes started, my job suddenly shifted and I had to rearrange my class schedule, which included taking one class on a Friday night-- and part of my vacation was a day of that class that turned out to be an exam day. I just do not buy that I should be penalized for that; and really, I think it's silly to even try to explain situations like that to a prof to see if my "excuse" is good enough. By the by, in this case my professor had the policy of dropping one exam, so I just told him I was going to be out of town that night, no real explanation, everything was aces.


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