What Should You Do?: Missing an Exam Because You Overslept

The other day, I gave an exam to a large class. When it ended, I went back to my office to get the exam ready to be graded. After a few minutes, there was a knock at my door; I opened it and saw a young woman in tears. When I asked what was wrong, she told me that she had slept through her alarm and missed the exam.

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I’d like to offer some thoughts about situations like this. First, your syllabus likely doesn’t mention oversleeping. The syllabus probably only describes the times when you miss an exam because of an excused absence. Excused absences generally include documented illnesses, university-approved events, and death in one’s immediate family. Clearly, oversleeping is not an excused absence.

Second, faculty members are put in a very difficult position when a student oversleeps and misses an exam. On the one hand, the syllabus doesn’t call for a make-up, other students managed to get to the exam, and you have rested more than anyone else who took the exam. On the other hand, mistakes happen and having a little more sleep probably doesn’t amount to a significant advantage.

Third, you need to live with the consequences of your actions. You may think that sleeping through the exam isn’t such a big deal, but a faculty member may see it as a really big deal. They might give you a 0 on the exam or have you take the exam with a penalty (e.g., losing 10 points right off the top). Alternatively, they might simply have you take the exam right there on the spot and not penalize you at all.

I hope that you’ll never have to deal with this on exam day. Exams lead to enough stress on their own. You don’t need any more. If you think you might oversleep because the exam is in an early class, or because you stayed up studying longer than normal, then set more than one alarm or have a friend either call you or knock on your door so you don’t stay asleep.

By the way, in case you were wondering, I let the woman at the beginning of my blog take the exam with no penalty.

 

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