Compsci 82, Fall 2009, Final Details

The final for Compsci 82 was announced on the first day of class as taking place on December 12 at 2:00 pm. This is not the last possible date for a final, but it's during the last weekend of final exams.

On the first day of class I announced that I would not consider special cases or early exams. In a large class the logistics of dealing with the exceptions mitigate against permitting exams to be taken outside of the normal time. Nevertheless, extenuating circumstances do arise, and it is natural for students to ask questions about the policy.

The logistics of grading more than 340 exams in 24 to 48 hours, combined with the requests for alternative dates for the final, have led me to the policy described in this document. I am publicizing these changes to ensure transparency. If any exceptions are granted to a student who asks for an exception, the same opportunity should be available for everyone.

Format of Final

The final exam accounts for 15% of the final grade in Compsci 82 as announced on the first day of the class. The final will be given in two parts: a take-home portion as well as an in-class portion. The take-home portion will be primarily online, and must be completed before the in-class final begins at 2:00 pm on December 12.

The take-home portion will account for 8% of the 15% the final is worth; the in-class portion will account for 7% of this total. Students with extenuating circumstances may request relief from the in-class portion of the final. This relief, if granted, will not be total. Relief will consist of having the take-home portion account for 11% rather than 8%, and losing the remaining 4% of the final. In other words, you can request relief and if granted you may count the take-home portion of the final as 11% of your final grade and you will lose 4% of the final grade. You must decide if this trade-off is worth it in make the request.

I will only provide this relief when the circumstances warrant it as I judge the situation. For example, an unexpected opportunity that could not have been anticipated, which is not in your control, and which allows for serious personal, family, or professional reward.

Furthermore, you should understand that the Duke policy for students who miss a final exam requires recording a grade of 'X' as the final grade in a course. The 'X' grade is changed to an 'F' if an academic dean is not consulted within 48 hours as explained on this Duke site. That site also explains the policy whereby an 'X' is permitted, e.g., sudden illness or family emergency. In such cases your final grade will be based totally on the take-home portion of the final, assuming you complete that before the illness or emergency takes place. To summarize: if you are ill or have a family emergency Duke rules apply and you do not fall under this relief policy. Instead I will count your midterm as your final in such situations. If I grant relief, I will not record a grade of 'X'.


Illnesses and emergencies that cause you to miss the final are covered by Duke policy. In this course I'll consider requests for missing the inclass portion of the final -- these requests must be far outside of the ordinary to be ranted relief. If relief is granted, you'll have the take-home count 11% and lose 4%. If relief is not granted, you're expected to take the inclass portion of the final, though I'll allow for missing 7% of the final and counting only the take-home portion of the exam.

Relief Consideration

To be considered for relief, which means you will lose 4% of the 15% the final accounts for in determining your final grade, please send an email to ola AT duke DOT edu whose subject is: final relief Compsci 82 and which explains the situation in sufficient detail for me to make a judgment. I am always happy to talk in person about this policy if you think your situation is unique to the point of being outside of this policy, or if you simply want to discuss this in person rather than by email; please let me know.

Owen Astrachan