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Missed your midterm? Here’s what to do next

Published April 8, 2024| minute read
Hadiya Iqbal

Senior Associate, JPMorgan Chase

    Missing a midterm is the kind of thing college students have nightmares about. That being said, it does occasionally happen.

    Whatever the reason, missing a midterm exam can have a huge impact on your ability to pass a class. In most cases, midterms make up a significant percentage of your grade, making it impossible to do especially well in a class or pass the course if you miss it.

    While you likely know the consequences already, understanding how to fix the situation is important. If you’re freaking out after missing an exam, here are some things to do as quickly as possible.

    Immediately contact your professor if you miss your midterm

    Whether you slept through your alarm or woke up too sick to function, contact your professor immediately. Apologize for your absence and ask what you can do to make up for missing the test. It’s worth inquiring about a make-up exam, but keep in mind this may not be available unless you have proof that there was a legitimate reason for you missing the test.

    If making it up isn’t an option, you should ask your professor how you can work toward a passing grade. This can come in the form of extra credit, assessing what grades you’ll need to get on future assignments and tests, and gathering other information they might be able to provide to you.

    Your professor is a vital person who can help you get back on track. Reaching out to your professor and sincerely expressing that you want to rectify the situation is much more likely to inspire them to help you than if you don’t.

    Get a doctor’s note if the situation calls for it

    If you woke up sick on the day of an exam and were unable to take it because of that, the first thing you need to do is get a doctor’s note. Without proof of your illness, it’s not likely that your professor is going to allow you to retake the exam.

    Ensure the note has the correct date and outlines the illness or injury that prevented you from attending class. As soon as you have this, email it to your professor and explain what happened. Illness should be an approved absence, and you’ll likely be able to retake the exam. However, this is still entirely up to your school’s policy and your professor.

    Beyond being sick, you could have been involved in another type of emergency that prevented you from taking an exam. Follow similar steps to get proof of that emergency, like getting a note from a police officer.

    Get ready to work overtime to improve your grade

    If you find out that a make-up exam is out of the question, you should prepare to work overtime, focusing on the class you missed the midterm in specifically. Whether that means asking for extra credit or ensuring you get a high grade on all following assignments and tests, every little bit helps.

    You’re going to need to put all you’ve got into doing well on the remaining requirements. Schedule extra study and homework time into your calendar so you know when you need to sit down and complete the work. Ask for extra help from your professor, teaching assistants, or tutors if you need to.

    Learn from the mistake so you don’t miss another midterm

    College is a time of learning. This won’t be the first time you have to learn how to schedule and organize your life without the assistance of your family. It’s totally normal for even the most organized of us to slip up from time to time. In some cases, all you can do is learn from the mistake and do better next time.

    If you missed your exam because you overslept, figure out how to keep that from happening in the future. Don’t pull all-nighters—make sure to set multiple alarms, or ask your roommate (if you have one) for help waking up on days when you know you have something especially important, like an exam.

    If you missed an exam because you were sick or because another kind of emergency came up, this likely couldn’t have been helped. Circumstances like these come down to how you handle them afterwards.

    Final thoughts

    For the most part, missing a midterm will not be the end of the world (or, in this case, your college career). The repercussions will primarily depend on how you handle it after it happens.