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Exams & the Honor Code

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Faculty members often ask us questions about how the Honor Code affects the types of exams they may give and what the rules are for administering exams.

For previous guidance regarding the Honor Code that was in effect prior to September 1, 2023, please see the previous version of this page. 

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General Rules about Instructor Discretion

Instructor discretion includes the following:

  • exam location
  • alternate times for exams
  • alteration of due dates
  • with the consent of the instructor, tests may be taken from the classroom

(Based on Interpretations of the Honor Code, 2002 )

For additional information, please examine the rest of our website, which includes

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Take-Home Exams

A number of faculty give take-home exams because they believe it is a better measure of student learning when time pressures are largely eliminated and the students can then consult written sources to develop their responses. In this sense, take-home exams are more like final papers than exams, and encourage students to be creative— thus in some circumstances this may be a more appropriate assessment for them.

Open-resource Requirement

As stated in the Interpretations of the Honor Code, “If take-home examinations are given, they should not be closed-book examinations…” Open-resource exams place no limitations (including use of the internet) on the materials or resources that a student may access during the exam.  For clarification on the types of resources that are appropriate to use during a take home exam, please see the BCA guidance issued for online exams during the pandemic - Does open book also mean open internet? What is the difference between open resource and collaboration? - which is equally applicable to the normal take home exam environment.  

Give Clear Rules to Students

Take-home exams should give very clear and specific rules about what students are allowed and not allowed to do—including that the exams are subject to the provisions of the Honor Code. Be explicit. Announce your guidelines in class before the take-home exam is administered and explain your rationale for collaboration, citation, unpermitted aid, etc. Attach your guidelines to the exam. Ask if there are questions about the exam before it is administered, and let students know how to get in touch with the instructional staff, during the take-home exam period, should they have questions.

Time Limitations

As stated in the Interpretations of the Honor Code,  take-home exams should not have "a specific time limit less than the full period between the distribution of the examination and its due date."  This is because under the Honor Code students cannot be expected to self-report their start and end times on take-home exams, as this would create a temptation to violate the Honor Code.

Take-home exams can be administered with time limits and align with the Honor Code if electronic time-stamps are used that record when a student opened the exam and when they submitted the exam.

Practical-style Exams in Laboratories

Instructional staff may be present for laboratory-style practical examinations. There is a compelling interest in lab-practical exams for instructional staff to be present. Instructional staff may, among other things, need to preserve exam specimens, handle timing, evaluate performance and deal with any problems that arise. Moreover, lab practicals can be considered akin to oral exams, which do not fall within the Honor Code's prohibition on proctoring. Before a lab-practical exam is administered, however, course staff should talk to students about the reasons for being present—and provide a written explanation in the syllabus.

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Departmental Solutions

We also recommend that instructors check with their department chair or program director for any local practices.

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Students Who Are Registered with the Office of Accessible Education

The Office of Accessible Education website has a tremendous amount of resources to assist you, including information on the Faculty & Teaching Staff Role and Faculty FAQs. Faculty are encouraged to contact the disability adviser named on a student’s accommodation letter if there are any questions or concerns about those accommodations. General questions can also be addressed by the Office of Accessible Education at oae-contactus@stanford.edu or 650.723.1066.