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Exceptional circumstances affecting assessment

Sometimes things happen that can seriously impair your performance in an assessment or prevent you undertaking the assessment at the scheduled time. If these events are unforeseeable and exceptional (ie serious and unusual) you may be able to defer an assessment or take it again.

Update to EC policy for 2023/24: SCA has appoved the policy to apply exceptional circumstances for students undertaking defined media activities to support elections and the University of York/University of Lancaster annual ‘Roses’ tournament in the 2023/24 academic year. This will be made permanent policy in 2024/25, the full policy is at the bottom of this page (April 2024.)

Student Support Plans (for students with a disability) sometimes have the option to request an extension on a piece of work as part of their Plan's adjustments or to defer an examination attempt. The way to request such an extension or exam deferral is to use the exceptional circumstances claim form (at the end of this page) but to indicate that you are requesting an adjustment via your SSP when the form asks for this. Your request will then be forward to your departmental Disability Officer directly. Do not use self-certification for conditions which are addressed in your SSP.

To submit an evidenced exceptional circumstances claim, you should complete and submit the online form. 

Self-certification: This form may be used by some departments for self-certification - so please check first with your department as they may have a different form for self-certification.

Exceptional Circumstances Application Form

If your performance in or completion of a summative assessment has been seriously impaired by medical or other unforeseen circumstances, then you may be able to claim exceptional circumstances through this policy using:

  1. Self-certification for short-term, acute illnesses or short-term unforeseen circumstances prior to submission of an open assessment or commencement of an examination - no evidence needed. Students may use self-certification for a maximum of 3 assessments per academic year. Self certification is not available for use on PGR programmes or York Online programmes.
  2. Exceptional Circumstances application for assessments where the start time (exams) or deadline (open assessments) has past or where the self-certification may not be possible due to the severity of the circumstances/impact on assessment.

A summary of these processes and other FAQs are included in the tabs below (the full details are in the EC policy link further down the page).

Students studying on 100% online part-time Masters programmes have a different policy to support disruptions that impact assessments. See the York Online Programmes tab below or your Orientation module to learn more about the York Online Fit to Sit / Submit policy.

1. Self-certification

1. Self certification of assessment 

Not to be confused with self certification of illness if you are ill during semester time and miss teaching.

This information does not apply to York Online students, please see the York Online Programmes tab or your Orientation module for guidance about the York Online Fit to Sit / Submit policy.

For most departments, this can be done via the Self-certification Task in e:Vision. Please follow the guidance from your department.

This process means a student may either defer or have a short extension to an assessment without the need for evidence - this is suitable for short-term, acute illnesses or short-term unforeseen circumstances prior to submission of an open assessment or commencement of an examination. Students may use self-certification for a maximum of three assessments per academic year.

Assessment types permitted for self certification (see EC5 for details).

This may apply to the following assessment types:

Deferral - only before the start of the exam window

  1. Closed Examinations
  2. Aural Examinations (Listening tests)
  3. Online Examinations
  4. Open examinations up to two weeks of various durations

Four calendar day extension - only up until the submission deadline.

  1. Coursework/Essay
  2. PGT Dissertations
  3. UG Projects

Grounds for self certification 

When a student asks for self certification, approval will be automatic, as long as the criteria are met and the request is made on time. Students will be required to state the reason for the claim, ie one of the following:

  • Exceptional Medical Circumstances (Physical Health)
  • Exceptional Medical Circumstances (Mental Health)
  • Exceptional Medical Circumstances (Physical and Mental Health)
  • Exceptional Personal Circumstances
  • Inadequate IT resources

Knock-on impact of extensions and deferrals: Students must be aware of the impact of using self certification on a number of assessments. If you use self certification, this may have a knock-on effect on assessment and progression.

For example,

  • If you defer an examination and then fail the SAIFFT in the summer, then you may have to take a Leave of Absence before the next assessment opportunity.
  • A four-day extension on an assessment may mean you are working on an assessment when other assessments, classes or other responsibilities must be met.

So please, only use self certification where you have exceptional circumstances and it is absolutely necessary and appropriate to do so.

Submitting a claim 

All self-certification claims must be submitted before the relevant deadlines.

Adjustments equivalent to self certification

Although not strictly self certification, you can use the Exceptional Circumstances form to get self-certification adjustments (ie a deferral or extension depending on the assessment) in each of the cases set out below. You will need evidence to back up each type of claim and must apply before the deadline for which an adjustment is requested. For details see the relevant section of the EC policy specified:

  • For ‘bunched’ assessments. You can seek a self-certification adjustment for any exam-like assessment starting or coursework assessment with a deadline within 72 hours of another assessment for which you have made a self-certification application (see EC
  • If you are in one of a number of groups of students who, by reason of their circumstances, are entitled to see more than the usual three self-certification adjustments. You will have received a letter if this applies to you (but see EC for more details).
  • To regain the use of a ‘wasted’ self certification. This only applies if you previously used one of your three self certifications but that situation was also found to be a valid Exceptional Circumstances claim. So long as you can show that you made an EC application in good time on that first occasion, you can make an EC application to ask for another self-certification adjustment (see EC

Monitoring: Departments will track usage of this system for signs of abuse or students who may need further support to manage their studies. Fabrication of exceptional circumstances using self-certification will be treated as academic misconduct.

Self certification is not available for usage on PGR programmes or York Online Programmes.

2. Evidenced claims

2. Evidenced claims 

This information does not apply to York Online students, please see the York Online Programmes tab or your Orientation module for guidance about the York Online Fit to Sit / Submit policy.

Evidenced claims are made using the link to the Exceptional Circumstances Application Form at the top of this page.

In certain cases, self-certification may not be possible due to the severity of the circumstances/impact on assessment or the deadline/exam has passed or due to the assessment type. Students may then submit an exceptional circumstances claims to a departmental Exceptional Circumstances team. These claims must be evidenced (see EC3.2 for details). Evidence is preferably submitted with the claim but a decision may be made ‘subject to evidence’. In that case you should submit the evidence as soon as you reasonably can so that your case can be finally resolved and, in any event, you must submit all evidence before Monday of Week 2 of the Summer Semester (ie 18 June 2024).

Claims should be made before the assessment deadline or date of the examination. If you apply later than this, your claim will only be accepted if you can show good reasons for not applying earlier. If you do not make an application for an extension at least two days prior to an assessment deadline, your department may not be able to confirm your application before the relevant deadline. We recommend that you submit an assessment by the deadline just in case your claim is rejected. Your department will respond to your application as soon as they can.

Adjustments available for an ECA Claim:

  • SAIFFT - Sit “as if for the first time” (EC2.1)
  • Extension
  • Alternative assessment
  • Additional work to reach learning outcomes
  • Aegrotat degree
  • Waiving on up to 20% of module assessment
  • Up to 40 credits of SAIFFT at end of stage

Long-term conditions or circumstances

For more long-standing conditions and circumstances you will be expected to use the appropriate support services provided by the University (eg Disability Services) in order to have relevant adjustments made, and/or to develop coping strategies which will see you through your study.

Step by step guide to requesting individual arrangements

Submitting a claim

You must submit a claim before the deadline for the assessment (or date of the exam) if possible. You must also check your departmental guidance on deadlines for submission of a claim.

Adjustments equivalent to self certification

You may also get an adjustment you might get under the self-certification process (i.e. a 4-day extension or deferral as appropriate depending on the particular assessment) rather than one of the above outcomes in certain situations:

  • Where you have self certified for one assessment and there are assessments within the next 72 hours;
  • For students in particular vulnerable categories who have received a letter informing them of their entitlement to seek such extensions;
  • Where a student previously had to use self-certification for an assessment for which exceptional circumstances were also granted (but only if the student can show that they acted promptly and reasonably in seeking both self-certification and exceptional circumstances for the same assessment). 

In these situations, students may be entitled to a self-certification (rather than any other) adjustment but will need to apply using the EC form and produce some evidence to support their request (See EC 3.3.8 for detail of what needs to be shown).

An application on these three grounds must be made before the exam start/submission deadline. Work submitted despite an exam/online exam deferral will not be marked.

3. Online examinations

3. Online examinations

This information does not apply to York Online students, please see the York Online Programmes tab or your Orientation module for guidance about the York Online Fit to Sit / Submit policy.

Can I submit an Exceptional Circumstances claim if I am unable to submit my online exam?

Students are allowed to submit an ECA claim citing any of the circumstances or any circumstances normally covered by the Exceptional Circumstances Policy

Before the start of the examination: Use self-certification or an exceptional circumstances application

After the start of the examination: Make an exceptional circumstances application

  • a student who does not submit the online exam can submit an ECA claim if the non-submission is as a result of exceptional circumstances
  • a student who submits the online exam can also submit an ECA claim if they believe that exceptional circumstances have affected their performance in the exam
  • the ECA claim should ideally be made before the end of the submission window unless a good reason for apply later is set out as part of the application
  • the outcome of successful claim would be the opportunity to sit the affected assessments(s) 'as if for the first time' (sometimes referred to as SAIFFT) at the next opportunity. You will not be granted an extension to complete the work.

Deferring assessments does create risks to your chances of progressing so should only be used when really needed.

Although you may be able to make further uses of self certification or ECA applications in relation to the deferred assessment, if those assessments are similarly affected, or students fail to meet the progression criteria at the delayed attempt at the assessment, it is unlikely that they will be able to retake or pass the assessment in time for progression or graduation.

For Undergraduate students it is very likely that you will need to take a Leave of Absence for the following academic year.

4. York Online Programmes

4. York Online Programmes

York Online programmes operate a “Fit to Sit / Submit” policy to support students to manage any disruptions that could impact their ability to complete a summative assessment on time. This means that if a student sits an exam or submits an assignment, they are declaring themselves fit to do so and the mark achieved should stand. “Fit” means that the student is well and unaware of any circumstances that would prevent them from undertaking or being able to prepare for an assessment. Students who are not capable of taking the assessment should not attempt to do so and should declare to the University that they are not fit to sit the assessment. Students are only considered unfit to take an assessment when they inform the University in the timescales and manner set out in the policy. 

Key facts about the Fit to Sit policy:

  • Students can defer an assessment before an exam has started or a summative deadline has passed for any reason and without requiring evidence.
  • Claims submitted after an exam has started or a summative deadline has passed will require evidence and not all circumstances are accepted. 
  • All declarations of being unfit to submit an assessment or sit an exam either before or after the deadline should be made using the Exceptional Circumstances application form linked at the bottom of this page.
  • Common outcomes for students who use this policy will be an extension, an opportunity to sit the assessment ‘as if for the first time’, or a late penalty waiver.
  • Extensions granted will always be two weeks. Students may only receive one extension per assessment.
  • Students will be required to submit claims within 7 days of the assessment deadline, or evidence a good reason for submitting the claim late.

Further information is available in your Orientation Module and within the York Online Fit to Sit / Submit policy (see bottom of this page).

Long-term conditions or circumstances

The Fit to Sit / Submit policy is designed as a short-term support for students whose ability to prepare for or attempt a summative assessment (including reassessments) has been negatively affected by circumstances outside of their studies.

This policy is not designed to support students in the case of long-term health conditions or changes of circumstances. In these cases, students are expected to use the appropriate support services provided by the University (eg Disability Services or taking a Leave of Absence). Students whose studies have been disrupted for more than two weeks should contact their Student Success Coordinator to discuss alternative methods of supporting their studies.

5. Exceptional Circumstances

5. Exceptional circumstances

Circumstances that may fall into this category are:

  • Physical and mental illness or health emergencies (including treatment that has had a sufficient impact on the ability to undertake the required assessment activities and which cannot reasonably be changed or delayed).
  • Disabilities for which a Student Support Plan is not yet in place.
  • Bereavement by reason of the recent death of a person to whom the student can show a close relationship. This can be assumed in relation to close relatives or persons with whom the student is living and inferred in relation to other persons with whom the student appears to have a close relationship. 
  • Being a victim of crime or otherwise involved in criminal or other legal proceedings.
  • Disruptions to transport or travel beyond what might be reasonably anticipated and accommodated within plans to complete the assessment at the time or to the deadlines.
  • IT difficulties beyond what might reasonably anticipated and accommodated within plans to complete the assessment at the time or to the deadlines (including use of University facilities, the backing up of work, etc).
  • Unavoidable commitments and obligations that could not reasonably be delayed or deferred or accommodated within plans to complete the assessment at the time or to the deadlines. (Note, students are generally expected to prioritise their assessments over other social, family and other commitments).
  • Any other situation or condition that is shown to be temporary or short term, sufficiently impactful on the student’s ability to complete assessments and for which they could not reasonably have made adjustments.

6. Circumstances not (usually) considered exceptional

6. Circumstances not (usually) considered exceptional

Academic studies are challenging and everyday life is full of ups and downs. We expect you to use the appropriate support services to help you develop strategies for managing normal difficulties. Your supervisor, college staff or other members of the academic community can help you access these.

We also expect you to prioritise assessment activities. This does not mean that you cannot do other things but, if you do, they should be accommodated around a plan that prioritises completing assessments to specified deadlines or on scheduled dates. 

The following not likely to be accepted as exceptional circumstances on their own:

  • Loss of work not backed up or printing problems
  • Accidental submission of an incorrect document (eg an assignment from another module or an incomplete earlier draft of the assignment
  • submitting the wrong file type or a corrupted file
  • Late submission where the upload started after the deadline has passed
  • Late submission due to slow uploading of electronic assessments unless there is clear evidence of a power outage or local internet failure where the student lives or a system failure on either the VLE or the University network
  • Misreading of the examination timetable
  • English not being a first language
  • Deadlines for work or exams being set close together

The following are unlikely to be accepted as bases for claim on their own without additional evidence (depending on the type of claim) of their impact on physical or mental health or wellbeing or that the situation could not be reasonably anticipated, avoided or factored into overall planning to complete the assessment:

  • Weddings
  • Constraints arising from paid employment (full-time students)
  • Holidays
  • Relationship breakdown
  • Moving house
  • Disabilities for which reasonable adjustments have been made
  • Financial difficulties
  • Planned health appointments
  • Slow internet access or uploading speeds

Use support available

The University offers a range of services to help you develop skills to cope and manage challenges: