Test make-ups

I am a student teacher in sixth grade earth science. My question is about makeup exams.  I have several ideas, but can you suggest other systems or procedures for allowing students to make up exams?
—Dawn, San Jose, California

Student absences are a given. It’s frustrating when students miss a class (or two or three) due to illness, field trips, or family situations. It’s hard to find time for students to make up assignments, especially tests, labs, and projects.

In your note, you listed your ideas for students to make up a test when they return to school. Two important considerations regarding make-up tests are the format and content. Will you give the same test as a make-up or an alternate version? How will you ensure the alternate version assesses the same objectives as the original test?

Based on my experiences, I have some thoughts and questions on these ideas:

  1. Students must schedule an appointment with the teacher to make up the exam. I suspect this is a very common strategy with teachers. But do your students have study halls or resource time during the day when they can make up work? What about before or after school? (My school had a majority of bus students, so these were not options.) If students don’t have time during the day, you could ask the student to do the test during class time when he or she returns from the absence. If the rest of the class would be distracting, the student could go to another classroom or the library (talk to your colleague beforehand to set this up). My principal also had a conference room in the office he made available for students as a quiet place to work. One drawback is that when the student makes up the test, he or she is missing what is happening in the class.
  1. Take an online test or computer-based test. This option assumes students have access to the technology and you have the appropriate resources to create, administer, and view the results of an online test. Do you typically use an online format, or will you have to create this version of the test separate from a paper-and-pencil one? Where and when will the students complete this? What if other students would prefer this alternative?
  1. Do a take-home test. Would this be the same test or an alternate version? Do students who take the test in class have access to their notes, the textbook, the internet, or each other? If not, how will you regulate what happens at home when these resources are readily available? What is the time frame for completing it? What about other students who would like this option?
  1. Substitute a project in place of the exam. If you do this, you’ll have to be careful that the project reflects the same learning objectives as the traditional test. For example, if your test focuses on recall of factual knowledge or written explanations but the project requires a higher level of thinking or creativity then you’re assessing different learning objectives. Decide in advance how much time to allow for the project. Would students who were not absent prefer or benefit from projects?

A strategy that worked for me was having “transition time” between units of instruction, usually a day or two. During this time, students could make up the test, revise lab reports, re-take the test (if that is an option), finish projects, or engage in extension activities.

As a student teacher, you can observe how your mentor/cooperating teacher handles this issue.

Photo:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/46632302@N06/4279477491/

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One Comment

  1. Cbob
    Posted April 23, 2013 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

    Hello –

    I think having a way for students to make up their tests is crucial! I have recently had the opportunity to work with some teachers who are starting to create a flipped classroom. This comes in very handy when the students have internet access at home. This also works if the student does not miss a test or quiz, but information for the day.

    In this type of setting, the teacher creates a video or powerpoint to explain what will be discussed that day. The students then watch the video the night before. When the students show up to class, they are allowed time to do their homework or take a quiz while the teacher is there to answer questions.

    Another thing that we have been trying out is having students come in during their recess/lunch hour. The students seem to enjoy this option the most because they do not have to take time before or after school to take the test or make up missing assignments.

    I really liked your idea to have the students do a project instead of the test. This provides to different types of learners and if your students enjoy it maybe you could make the whole class do the project and those that are absent would be required to complete the test.

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