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COVID-19 Updates

Guidance for Final Examinations during 2020-21


The Educational Policy Committee (EPC) provides the following guidance to instructors with regard to the end of the quarter and final exams during this period of emergency remote instruction. The information is adapted from the existing Senate Policy on Final Exams; it also identifies where opportunities for flexibility exist.

It is the Senate’s position that EPC policies on final exams and midterm exams be interpreted in the context of remote instruction, and where apparent conflicts exist (for example, faculty being required to be physically present during exams), the policy exception allowing remote instruction takes precedence. 

Please contact the Academic Senate Office (academicsenateoffice@ucsd.edu) with questions about final exams policy.

  • Final examinations are required in all undergraduate courses, unless the Undergraduate Council (UGC) has approved an alternative on the course approval form. If a course has a scheduled final exam, instructors must provide some type of final assessment in keeping with this requirement; it is not permissible to cancel the exam or base students' grades on any alternate arrangement.


Scheduling Requirements

  • Final examinations in undergraduate courses may not be given at any time before examination week without explicit approval from the Undergraduate Council (UGC).
  • No student may be excused from assigned final examinations.
  • No instructor may require a "take-home" final examination or any final examination be turned in before the date and hour at which the examination for the course was scheduled by the Registrar's Office.
  • An online final exam may not exceed three hours duration and instructors are required to make the exam available during the date and hour at which the examination for the course was scheduled by the Registrar’s Office.

Scheduling Flexibility

  • An instructor may accommodate student requests to administer an examination at an alternative time from the regularly scheduled examination.
  • An instructor may open an online final exam earlier than the regularly scheduled final exam time. The final may not be made available before the first Saturday of finals week and it should not be made due until the end of the regularly scheduled exam session. It is very important to clearly communicate to all students in a course when the final will be available.
  • Final exams designed as “take-home” exams may exceed three hours duration. Instructors are reminded that students are completing exams in multiple courses during final exam week and to please be sensitive to the challenges that our students are facing.

Guidance for Selecting a Final Exam Strategy

Instructors are encouraged to consider student challenges when deciding on a final exam strategy. Examples of these challenges include (but are not limited to): computer and internet issues, privacy concerns, family issues, time zone differences (may be vastly different), and a myriad of other unforeseen circumstances that may crop up with students participating remotely from all around the globe during a pandemic. Flexibility and understanding are important, and instructors are encouraged to be empathetic whenever possible.

For strategies to assess student learning, please visit keepteaching.ucsd.edu.

Instructors are advised to clearly communicate to students how they will be graded and evaluated throughout the course. Providing information about the format of the final and course grading criteria is recommended, including any changes made during the quarter.

The information below provides suggestions for instructors to consider when developing their final exam. Decisions about grading criteria and the format and content of a final are ultimately up to the course instructor.

  • Exam format. Consider adjusting the format, content, or length of an exam or final assessment.
  • Take-home exam. Substitute a take-home exam or other assignment for a final exam.
  • Asynchronous final exam. Offer an asynchronous final exam and open it earlier during finals week to allow students more time to complete the exam.
    • While it is not required that all exams are offered asynchronously, instructors are asked to please be mindful of the unique needs of students during the crisis and to promote equity during the exam period. In the event that a synchronous exam is scheduled, it is recommended that reasonable student requests for asynchronous exams or make-up options be accommodated.
  • No-fault final exam. A final exam where the grade cannot negatively impact a student’s course grade.
  • Formative assessments. Consider offering students more frequent, low-stakes, ongoing formative assessments throughout the quarter. The final exam period can be used for a final assessment, but student anxiety related to the assessment will likely be lower and student learning may be significantly improved.
  • Grading rubric. Develop a rubric that allows for dropping the lowest exam score.

A note about Incompletes: The Academic Senate recommends that the option for an Incomplete should only be considered after other options have been exhausted. Although instructors should be receptive to student requests for an incomplete, both the instructor and student need to understand the expectations and policies that go along with assigning an “I” grade.

COVID-19 Updates