How exceptional circumstances work

Find out what to do if your attendance or ability to complete an assessment has been affected.

What an exceptional circumstance is

Exceptional circumstances are unexpected, unavoidable, and outside of your control. They:

  • impact your ability to complete an assessment
  • impact your academic performance in an assessment
  • cause you to miss a coursework deadline where you did not have an extension.

If you experience this, you can ask the exam board to consider the impact on your performance. They will decide an outcome (if any action is needed).

The exceptional circumstance process does not include circumstances where mitigations could have been put in place in advance. It takes into account how close the circumstance is to your assessment.

If you are already aware of circumstances or long-term health conditions that may affect your studies, it is important that you tell us (the university) or your personal tutor in advance so that support can be put in place before the assessment.

Circumstances where action is likely to be taken:

  • a sudden illness or injury
  • a flare up or worsening of a chronic condition or disability, including mental health condition, where adjustments in your study support plan (SSP) are not enough or not in place yet
  • mental health problems that unexpectedly affected your studies
  • someone close to you dying or is seriously ill
  • symptoms of an infectious disease that could be harmful if passed to others
  • unexpected changes in your personal responsibilities, such as caring for someone close to you
  • jury service
  • money problems that unexpectedly affect your studies.

This is not a complete list.

Circumstances unlikely to be considered:

  • holiday, weddings or other celebrations
  • house moves or other events that were planned or are reasonably expected
  • minor illnesses such as common cold, unless the symptoms are particularly severe
  • assessments that are scheduled close together
  • poor time management
  • minor transport disruption
  • computer failure where the student has not backed up their work
  • exam nerves
  • paid employment.

If you miss an exam, you may be able to self-certify your absence and take it again at the next opportunity. This is likely to be in the reassessment period.

Who can submit

  • International Foundation Programme students
  • Undergraduate students
  • Postgraduate taught students
  • Postgraduate research students taking taught units

Students on the Study Abroad programme should follow the Study Abroad process.

How to submit

You can tell the university about your exceptional circumstance before your assessment, but it can be helpful to submit it afterwards so you can explain the full impact on your assessment.

You must submit before the deadline.

Find out how to complete the form

How exceptional circumstances are considered

Your school's Exceptional Circumstances Committee (ECC) will review your form and evidence to consider if:

  • the circumstances are unexpected and beyond your control
  • the circumstances have reasonably affected your performance in an assessment
  • sufficient allowance has not already been made
  • relevant evidence is provided from an independent source and is in English.

If your exceptional circumstances are accepted, they will be classified according to the severity of the impact on your assessment (low, medium, high, severe) and not the situation itself.

To determine the classification, the ECC will consider the impact on and proximity to your assessment. 

The exam board will then decide what action, if any, is required to take these circumstances into account.

It will consider:

  • the number of assessments that have been impacted
  • the proximity of the circumstance to your assessment period
  • the evidence of impact on your performance during the assessment, in reference to the marks you have achieved 
  • the level and year of study (and whether it relates to your progression, the award of the qualification or its classification)
  • whether the impact has been already mitigated by prior action 
  • whether any potential mitigation may impact your academic progression, award or classification 
  • the academic requirements of the programme and the overall fairness of the outcome.

The exam board will not know your identity when reviewing your marks, making progression or awarding decisions.

Impact classifications and possible outcomes

Get advice

You can speak to your personal tutor, your senior tutor, or your school office. You can also get help from Bristol SU's academic advice service.

How we store your data

Find out how we keep your personal data safe and secure.

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