Lost in the Mail

An Exam Taker’s Nightmare

What do you do if your exam is lost in the mail?

The relief I feel after writing an exam is tempered by anxiety. It’s a long journey by post from Ontario to Athabasca in Alberta. What if my exam gets lost? A lost exam is probably rare but must occasionally happen. As a university serving students all over Canada and beyond, AU is prepared.

Athabasca University has two related policies that address lost exams, the Undergraduate Lost Exam Policy and the Undergraduate Lost Exam Procedure. Not surprisingly, if an exam is lost before it is marked, the student can expect to re-write it. AU takes the sting out of having to re-write an exam by offering to reimburse students for costs incurred by the re-write. And if the original exam does finally show up, the best one wins. But the AU exam unit has not responded to repeated requests for statistics on lost exams, so how often this happens, we don’t know.

If AU hasn’t received a student’s exam from the exam invigilator within a reasonable period after it was mailed (21 days if mailed in Canada,) It’s treated as a lost exam. Once the interested parties at AU have been notified, AU’s Manager of Examination Services will contact the student. The student will have to arrange a re-write time with their exam invigilator, keeping in mind the deadlines advised by the exam unit. It is up to the student to submit another exam request to AU, but there will be no fees charged for the second test.

AU will, upon request, reimburse the student for costs associated with the re-write. The student will most certainly have to pay the invigilator their usual fee, but AU will reimburse the student upon request. Additionally, students may apply for reimbursement for mileage, child care, or any other reasonable expenses they incur in re-writing the exam. See the Lost Exam Policy for specific details. The maximum reimbursement is $200.

If, after the student has re-written the exam, the original exam shows up, both will be marked. The exam with the best mark wins and will be used in determining the course grade. If AU has reimbursed the student for expenses for the second exam, those amounts will not have to be paid back (unless the student happened to have anything to do with the first exam getting lost.)

The above are general comments on a complex topic. Refer to the related policies for complete details. If you are ever unfortunate enough to experience a lost exam, AU’s Manager of Examination Services or delegate will guide you through the process.

These days, an increasing number of AU exams are moving to an online format. Eventually, AU expects that 80% of its exams will be completed online. This will reduce lost-in-the-mail anxiety for many students. That leaves only worries that computer or internet problems will interfere on exam day.

As AU explains in their FAQs about online exams, an autosave is performed every 30 seconds during an online exam, guarding a student’s answers against technical difficulties. (The exception to autosave is multiple choice questions?students must click “save” to submit each answer.)

If major technical problems arise during an online exam and cannot be worked out between the invigilator and AU’s exam unit, the invigilator can print out a paper copy of the exam. The student will write, by hand, the unfinished portion of the exam. The portion completed online will be marked, along with the remainder completed on paper. As long as it doesn’t get lost in the mail.

Barbara Lehtiniemi is a writer, photographer, and AU student. She lives on a windswept rural road in Eastern Ontario