Faculty Legislation Regarding Reading and Exams Periods

Reading Period 

At the end of each term, a period of six or seven days prior to the start of final examinations is designated as Reading Period. Reading Period is intended to be a time for students to reflect, review, and synthesize what they have learned during the semester. In order to protect this educational purpose, the following rules apply during Reading Period:

  • With the exception of designated intensive language courses, no regular instruction may take place during Reading Period. Sections and review sessions may take place during Reading Period as may class sessions that must be made up due to weather or other emergencies.
  • Courses may not assign new material during Reading Period.
  • All seated final examinations, of whatever duration (up to three hours) or scope, must take place during the Exam and Course Deadline Group as assigned by the Office of the Registrar. (See also, section on Final Examination and Project Period, below.)
  • Final papers, take-home exams, projects, presentations, and other culminating course assignments due after the end of regular classes must be due on or before the day of each course’s assigned Exam and Course Deadline Group, but no earlier than the fourth day of Reading Period. Final projects that include individual or group presentations may be scheduled beginning on the fourth day of Reading Period and may extend through the Final Examination and Project Period.*
  • Short, regular assignments that address material covered in the last two weeks of classes (such as problem sets or response papers) may be due during the first three days of Reading Period.
  • Regardless of whether a class meets during Reading Period, that time is an integral part of the term. Students are expected to remain in the immediate vicinity of Cambridge throughout this period.

* Each course will be assigned a Exam and Course Deadline Group in order to spread out student deadlines and to establish grading due dates. While instructors may establish earlier deadlines per faculty legislation, the spirit of this recent change is to spread students’ final assignment deadlines across the entire exam period to avoid having all assignments due at the same time. If an instructor decides to use an earlier deadline it is very important that students are well informed about this change from the posted deadline.

Final Examination and Project Period
Courses that culminate in a final examination of any duration (up to three hours) must hold their exams during the designated Final Examination and Project Period and during the Exam and Course Deadline Group assigned by the Registrar’s Office. There are two exam sessions each day: morning exams begin at 9:00 a.m., and afternoon exams begin at 2:00 p.m.

Registrar-Scheduled Final Exams

  • The Exam and Course Deadline Groups are posted on the Registrar’s website. The three-hour final exam schedule is typically published within the first few weeks of the semester.
  • Instructional staff members are responsible for proctoring and administering the main final exams for their courses.
  • Bluebooks for each course will be distributed by the Registrar’s Office during Reading Period according to numbers provided on the Final Assessment Form. Small numbers of bluebooks are available for pickup from the Registrar's Office (Smith Campus Center, 1350 Massachusetts Avenue, fourth floor). 
  • A packet of exam materials for each course will be mailed to the course head. The packet includes a course roster, attendance slips, exam announcements, and directions.
  • If the exam will require media equipment, instructors must confirm their media requirements with Science Center Lecture Multimedia Services (for exams held in the Science Center) or Media and Technology Services (for all other buildings).

After the exam, instructional staff must complete the Exam Absence Form. On the form the instructor must indicate that no students were absent, or provide the name of any student who was absent.  Student taking the exam out of sequence should not be marked absent, as they are taking the exam at a different time and location. 

Out of Sequence Exams (OOS Exams)

  • The Registrar’s Office will schedule, administer, and provide proctors for OOS exams.
  • Instructional staff will receive email notification from the Registrar’s Office if any student in the course is scheduled to take an OOS exam. The email notification will contain the student’s name, the reason for the OOS exam, as well as the time, date, and location of the exam.
  • If OOS exams have been scheduled for the course, please send the exam to the Registrar’s Office at least 48 hours before the first scheduled out of sequence exam.  The exam can be sent via email (, via Secure File Transfer (Accellion), or delivered to the Registrar’s Office (Smith Campus Center, 1350 Massachusetts Avenue, fourth floor).

Please contact the Registrar’s Office at 617-495-1542 or with any questions.