Carnegie Mellon University

Final Examination Conflict Guidelines

Recognizing that students will, on occasion, encounter foreseeable or unforeseeable conflicts with scheduled final examinations, the following guidelines have been approved by the University Education Council (UEC), the Associate Deans' Council (ADC), and the Associate Deans for Graduate Programs (ADGP) to inform the actions of students and the decisions of instructors.

Foreseeable Conflicts

Before negotiating any exam conflicts, students should recognize the following expectations.  Students should carefully consider the dates of each semester's final exam period as reflected in the university's official academic calendar.  Until the university publishes the detailed final examination schedule (usually by early October in the Fall semester and by late February in the Spring semester), students should plan according to the assumption that their final exams could be scheduled for any day/time during the final exam period. Therefore, students should avoid making any personal arrangements (such as travel) that could ultimately conflict with the final exam period. 

In developing the final examination schedule, the University Registrar's Office deploys significant effort in consultation with associate deans to minimize direct and 25-hour conflicts for individual students.  Once the final exam schedule is published for the semester, each student should immediately review the schedule to determine whether there are conflicts.  If the student's schedule presents any final exams that directly conflict with each other, or if the student's schedule presents more than two final exams to begin in a twenty-five hour period, then the student is responsible for immediately initiating the following process so that the relevant instructors can reach a timely and effective resolution that is consistent with university policy (noting that no action is necessary if a student voluntarily elects to take the exams according to the published schedule):

  1. The student should begin by discussing the conflict with all relevant instructors to determine if they can suggest a resolution.  This discussion should be completed at least two weeks prior to the exams.
  2. If one of the course instructors offers an alternate time for the exam, the student must agree to that resolution unless another exam conflicts with the alternate proposed time.
  3. If a resolution cannot be found, the following hierarchy is recommended for compromise (Student’s Home Department> Student’s College> Smallest Course Size> Higher Course level):
    • If one of the courses is offered in the student’s home department, the home department should be the first to accommodate. 
    • If the course is offered within the student’s home college, then the student’s college should accommodate a course that is not within the student’s college.
    • An instructor teaching a smaller course size should accommodate before an instructor from a larger course size accommodates. 
    • Finally, if a resolution still has not been reached, an instructor teaching a higher course level should accommodate before an instructor from a lower course level accommodates.

At any point during this process, the student's academic advisor or academic associate dean from the home academic college may be consulted to verify the existence of the conflict and assist in the negotiation and resolution.

Other foreseeable conflicts may be personal in nature, such as a religious holy day or observance, or a singular, significant obligation.  As stated earlier, students are expected to review the final exam schedule as soon as it is published to identify such conflicts.  A student faced with such a conflict should first exhaust all reasonable means to otherwise resolve it.  If such efforts are unsuccessful, then the student should immediately contact the instructor and explain the circumstances, recognizing that the current Policy on Examinations does not require the instructor to offer an alternate exam time in response to foreseeable, personal conflicts.  The mutual respect and goodwill between instructor and student should guide their negotiation of such conflicts as they attempt to balance the student's needs with those of the academic enterprise. At any point in the process, the student's academic advisor, academic associate dean and/or student affairs liaison may be consulted to assist in identifying reasonable accommodations or solutions.

Students hoping to resolve cases involving foreseeable conflicts should expect that their instructors may require them to take a rescheduled final examination on the Make-Up Final Exam Day.

Unforeseeable Conflicts

In exceptional circumstances, a student may encounter a medical, personal or family emergency that unexpectedly interferes with his/her ability to participate in a scheduled final examination.  When encountering such a situation, the student should contact the instructor as soon as is reasonably possible, and ideally before the final examination has been administered.  The student's academic advisor, academic associate dean and/or student affairs liaison may serve as both advocate for the student and point of verification for the instructor.   After reviewing the matter, should an accommodation be granted by the instructor, the instructor may elect to institute one of several options, including:  rescheduling the exam for later in the final examination period; assigning an "I" incomplete grade until a make-up exam can be administered in the following semester; or utilizing another method for resolving missed exams that has been outlined in the course syllabus.