This question is inspired by How can I estimate the length of an exam. It is not always possible to accurately predict how long an exam will take. As such,

What should one do if an exams looks to be taking substantially longer than intended?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ How do you know if the exam takes longer? What if, for example, some students have already finished, some gave up and half of them have not written something for every question (Will they ever?)? $\endgroup$ Mar 29, 2014 at 7:33

2 Answers 2


Depending on the moment of realization, there are different options.

Early in the exam:

  • kill some tasks
  • declare some tasks to be chosen between

Near the end of an exam before anybody has left

  • give extra time in the same session (beware not to kill breaks between lessons)
  • let students choose one task to be killed for them (count those points as bonus points for students who did all the tasks)

After somebody has left or after the exam

  • rescale the scores
  • let students redo some of the tasks/similar tasks without telling them before
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I go over to check how far along students are around 1/2 to 2/3 of the alloted time, to check how they are doing and make any required adjustments early. $\endgroup$
    – vonbrand
    Mar 29, 2014 at 22:35

Several options:

  1. Keep the time restriction as-is and scale the scores to compensate.
  2. Extend the time restriction, keeping to a single contiguous session (if possible).
  3. Give additional time in a separate session.
  4. Give additional time in a separate session, but grade the work done in the original session and the extension session separately (have students use a different color for continuing, have students work on a photocopy of the original, etc.)
  • $\begingroup$ Options 3 and 4 are not applicable under exam-like conditions. $\endgroup$
    – Toscho
    Mar 29, 2014 at 11:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Toscho: That entirely depends on your definition of exam-like conditions. $\endgroup$
    – Isaac
    Mar 30, 2014 at 18:00
  • $\begingroup$ Exam-like conditions have to guarantee, that the examinee could not easily cheat. $\endgroup$
    – Toscho
    Apr 1, 2014 at 12:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Toscho: Again, that depends on how you define exam-like conditions, as well as how you define "guarantee" and "easily." Option 4 is designed to mitigate that risk by allowing the grader to factor in that the work done in the subsequent session was done under different conditions. $\endgroup$
    – Isaac
    Apr 1, 2014 at 14:13

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