Reading and Examination Period

Students studying in Widener Library

Reading Period

Why is there a week before final exams and papers are due?

Harvard understands the time and preparation that is needed in order to synthesize a term's work of material. To help you best prepare for final papers, exams, projects, and presentations, the College designates a period of several days at the end of each term to work on culminating assignments and prepare for final exams. This week is included in the schedule to allow students the time and space to review material learned throughout the term. The specific dates of Reading Period are listed in the academic calendar on the Registrar's Office website.

Other than specific language courses and other individual classes, most academic courses do not meet during Reading Period. Some courses may hold optional review sessions, office hours, or sections.

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Preparing for Final Examinations and Papers

Okay, I have a week before my final exams start. Am I supposed to study for 24 hours a day?

No student should study for 24 hours a day. However, each individual student studies and prepares for final assignments in different ways. The study method that works for your roommate or friend might not be the most effective strategy for you. Luckily, Harvard has a variety of resources to help with final exam and paper or project preparation. The process of finding the best method for you might be trial-and-error, but we hope that this list provides a helpful guideline for your Reading Period review.

Exam, Paper, and Project Preparation List

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Examination Period

I have studied for my final assignments and I'm feeling good! When and where are my final exams?

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) will not be holding seated final examinations during the 2020-2021 academic year. All examinations will be course-administered. Reach out to your course instructor for individual questions about your course's final examination, or if you have exam scheduling conflicts.

For a detailed list of final examination rules, view the  Examination Rules section of the Harvard College Handbook for Students COVID-19 Emergency Policies,  or the general Examination Rules section of the Student Handbook.

By affirming their awareness of and adhering to the Harvard College Honor Code, students commit themselves to producing academic work of integrity. The Harvard College Honor Code applies to all academic work, including final examinations. For more information about the Harvard College Honor Code, visit the Academic Integrity and Academic Dishonesty section of the Harvard College Handbook for Students. See also the Harvard College Honor Council's top five tips for ensuring academic integrity.

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Policies on Missed Examinations and Student Absences

Help! I accidentally slept through my morning alarm, or I woke up feeling ill. What should I do?

There are many policies in place to help students who are unable to complete an exam or arrive late to their exam. Students who miss a final exam should report to their course instructor, who will determine the feasibility of a makeup examination. In the event that a student is late for the exam, the instructor may choose not to administer the exam and report the student as absent. Students who are late for a course-administered final exam should report directly to their instructor.

For more specific information about examination rules and protocols, visit the the COVID-19 Emergency Policies addendum in the Harvard College Handbook. See the  Final Examination Period page of the Harvard College Handbook  for further information that applies to academic years outside of 2020-2021. The Handbook  addresses taking final exams in absentia, absences for religious reasons, absences due to illness, tardiness, and other specific details.

Though there are protocols in place to help with these situations, the best thing you can do is prepare and try to prevent them from happening. Make sure you are getting proper sleep, setting alarms, and taking any extra measures needed to ensure that you will wake up in time for your morning exam. Many students find it helpful to have a friend or family member check-in with them in the morning, before their examination time, in order to ensure that they are awake and prepared. Set out your exam materials the night prior to your final examination so that you do not have to worry about them on the day of the exam. Most importantly, do everything you can to stay healthy. Eat proper meals, get sleep during Reading Period, and take time to exercise or relieve stress. If you believe that you are ill, reach out to the necessary resources and visit HUHS or another medical facility.

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Accommodations for Final Examinations

I think I need accommodations for my final exams. How do I acquire these accommodations, what do the accommodations look like, and who do I contact about it?

The first step of seeking accommodations for a final exam is to reach out to the Accessible Education Office (AEO) in advance. The AEO and course faculty members will work closely to organize accommodations for students that need exam assistance. Some of the barriers and subsequent accommodations may relate to extended time, breaks, use of assistive technologies, and more. Visit the Exam Accommodations page on the AEO website to learn the specific details about exam accommodations and to learn how to register accommodations. See also the Accommodations section of the 2020-2021  COVID-19 Emergency Policies in the Harvard College Handbook for Students.

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Extensions on Final Papers or Projects

Okay, so I know the due date for my final paper, but I think I need an extension. Am I able to get one?

If you need an extension of time on written work up to the end of Final Examination Period, these extensions may be granted by your course instructor. However, faculty members cannot grant time extensions on written or project work past the end of the Examination Period.

To petition for an extension of time beyond the end of the Examination Period, you must contact your Resident Dean, who will then help you in the process of petitioning to the Administrative Board for exceptional circumstances.

For more information about extensions of time, visit the  COVID-19 Emergency Policies addendum to the Harvard College Handbook for Students See also the  Harvard College Handbook for Students  for general information applying to academic years outside of the 2020-2021 academic year.

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Staying Healthy During Reading and Examination Period

When I feel stressed, I tend to get sick. How can I make sure I stay healthy, both physically, mentally, and emotionally, during the Reading and Examination Periods?

Final examinations are important, but so is your wellbeing. We hope that you are able to find a balance between prioritizing academics and your health during the Reading and Examination Periods.

Finding Help

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Advising and Other Resources

I still have some questions about Reading and Exam Period, or maybe I need more advising. Where should I go now?

We encourage you to reach out to your proctors, Resident Deans, Peer Advising Fellows, advisors, and course instructors with any individual questions you may have about Reading or Examination Period. They will be able to either answer your questions or redirect you to the proper resources.