Exceptional circumstances during the examination period

Please note that the information below applies to students on undergraduate and taught Masters (including MRes) programmes only. Students on PhD programmes should contact the Research Degrees Unit for further advice.

1. What are Exceptional Circumstances?

Exceptional circumstances are unforeseen circumstances which you feel may have had a significant impact on your academic performance, e.g. an exam or other form of summative assessment. Such circumstances might include, but are not limited to, illness, injury, personal/family problems or bereavement.

By submitting an assessment* or by just entering the exam room you are declaring yourself fit enough to attempt the assessment*. If you experience disruption to your studies prior to the assessment* (e.g. due to personal difficulties, bereavement, illness etc.) you must think carefully about whether you should attempt it or whether you should discuss applying for an extension or deferring the assessment* with your academic department. You may request a deferral at any point up to the submission deadline or end of the exam but we recommend that you contact your academic department at the earliest possible date.

If, having attempted an assessment*,  you experience difficulties which you feel may have had an impact on your performance, you should submit an Exceptional Circumstances Form (ECF) within the deadline (see item 3 below). When considering your ECF, the Exam-Board(s) reserve the right to determine whether or not it was appropriate for you to attempt the assessment.

2. Why submit a Form?

Submitting an ECF to the Student Services Centre (SSC) is the only way to make the relevant Exam-Boards aware of your circumstances when it considers your results.

3. What is the deadline for submission?

You must submit your ECF and corroborating evidence by the following deadlines:

  • Week zero exams; no later than seven calendar days after your last exam in this period.
  • Summative assessments during term time; no later than seven calendar days after the submission deadline of your last assessment which could be an exam or your dissertation/project,
  • Summer assessments; no later than seven calendar days after your last assessment. For 12 Month Master’s candidates, this means no later than seven calendar days after the dissertation/project submission deadline.
  • 12 Month Master’s dissertations/project work; no later than seven calendar days after the submission deadline.

If the seventh calendar day after your last assessment falls on a bank holiday, then your ECF will still be accepted on the next working day after the bank holiday. Any documentation submitted after this deadline may not be considered by the Exam-Boards.

4. How do I make a submission?

You can print an ECF here. The Form must be accompanied by appropriate official corroborating evidence (see Section 9 below)

The Exam-Boards can only consider documentation that is submitted to the SSC. Therefore, you should ensure that any relevant documentation you may have given to your Department is also submitted to the SSC. Please note the SSC and/or your Department will NOT contact you to request further details or documentation to support your form.

You should submit the completed form together with original evidence (with an official translation if applicable) by hand to the SSC. You can either give your submission to SSC counter staff or, if outside of opening hours, post it in the drop-box opposite the counter. Please see the Student Services Centre webpage for information about the SSC opening hours

If you are unable to submit these documents by hand, they should be posted to the following address:

Registry, Student Services Centre, Old Building, LSE, Houghton Street, London, WC2A 2AE

It is your responsibility to ensure that your submission is received by the SSC within the deadline.

5. What if I have already informed my Department or Academic Advisor about my circumstances?

All marks and exceptional circumstances are considered anonymously at Exam-Board meetings. Therefore, the only way in which your circumstances can be considered by the Exam-Boards is by submitting an ECF with evidence to the SSC.This includes if you have requested and were granted an extension but still feel that your performance was impacted by circumstances beyond your control. When considering your ECF, the Exam-Boards reserve the right to determine whether or not the extension was enough to compensate for your circumstances and/or whether it was appropriate for you to attempt the assessment.

6. I have been given Individual Exam Adjustments (IEA). Do I need to submit an Exceptional Circumstances Form?

Exam-Boards will not be notified of any IEA that you have in place or of your condition. The Disability and Well-Being Service (DWS) will not pass on any information about your circumstances to Exam-Boards. Therefore, you must submit an ECF if you feel that the agreed IEA did not fully compensate for your condition, or if there are other circumstances which you wish to bring to the attention of the Exam-Boards.

7. What can the Exam-Boards do for me? 

Individual marks are never changed as a result of exceptional circumstances. Rather, the normal classification rules can be suspended so that you are awarded a higher degree classification than your overall mark profile would ordinarily allow. Such cases would only occur where the Exam-Boards believe that, as a result of your circumstances, your performance fell marginally** short of a higher degree classification.

If you are a first or second year student and the Exam-Boards believe that your circumstances have resulted in you failing or being absent from an exam, it may recommend that your failed or absent attempt be discounted (i.e. removed from your academic record) or a further exceptional attempt be awarded.

**Exam-Boards are looking for very specific conditions before the normal application of the classification rules can be suspended. Such conditions may include that a student must;

(a) be very close to the next higher classification boundary (normally within 3 marks of a single full unit course or 5 marks on aggregate),

(b) have marks in that higher classification range,

(c) clearly be able to show that the assessment(s) in question were significantly and negatively affected  by exceptional circumstances which were unforeseen and beyond your control,

(d) be able to show that his/her performance in the affected assessment(s) was significantly out of line with their performances in other, unaffected assessments.

In light of these specific criteria, suspension of regulation cases are very rare.

8. What information should I include in the form?

Exam-Boards cannot guess, assume or predict how your circumstances might have affected you. You therefore need to write a statement explaining how you feel the circumstances affected your wellbeing and your performance in an assessment or examination.

Please be precise about how you feel the circumstances affected you, and give relevant dates. For example:

'I became ill six days before my EC700 exam. This affected my revision because the medication I was prescribed made me drowsy and I could not concentrate fully. I was also ill on the morning of the exam on 25 May. I felt sick and unable to concentrate and was not able to complete the paper'. 

If your circumstances are of a kind where you feel your performance was affected because you were worried about somebody else’s wellbeing (for example a very sick relative), then where possible you should provide evidence of their illness. However, in such cases the School will also need evidence of how these circumstances specifically impacted on your own wellbeing. Therefore, you should also provide information and evidence relating to the impact of these circumstances on your own health and wellbeing.

9. What type of evidence should I include with the form?

You must attach an original version of official, corroborating evidence of your circumstances to your ECF. Examples of evidence include a detailed doctor's letter, a death certificate or police report.

Where the circumstances concern your health and wellbeing, the School expects corroborating evidence to clearly and concisely set out your symptoms, diagnosis and the period of time during which your health was affected. Exam-Boards cannot interpret technical medical reports, X-rays, prescriptions or photographs of your condition.

All evidence must be in English. If your evidence is not in English then you must submit an original source-language copy of the evidence together with an officially translated copy. The translation must include a statement signed by a Notary Public, attesting that the translated text is an accurate and complete translation of the source-language text.

The LSE Language Centre may be able to help with official translations of some languages. 

It is your responsibility to attach all relevant documentation and to obtain an official translation at the time of submission.  The School is not able to obtain any documentation on your behalf.

10. What if I am unable to submit evidence on time?

If you can obtain corroborating evidence but will not be able to submit the evidence within the seven day deadline then you must still complete and submit the form and clearly note on the form that the evidence will follow shortly. You should then submit the evidence to the SSC as soon as you can.

If you submit evidence separately to your ECF, you should attach a note to the evidence which confirms your name and student ID number and state that it is to be added to your ECF.

11. I am worried that the content of my submission contains extremely confidential and private information.

Information submitted through the exceptional circumstances process will only be made available to staff who are directly involved with the process.

Only the Chair of the Exam-Boards may know your identity at Exam Board meetings at which your ECF is considered. Your identity will remain anonymous to the other members of the Examination Boards.

The School will consider your exceptional circumstances submission in confidence. It will not inform anyone outside of the exceptional circumstances process about your circumstances. For the avoidance of doubt, the School will never talk to any external agencies about your circumstances or any of your personal details (not even to confirm that you are a student at the School) without your express authorisation.

12. What happens once I have submitted my form to the SSC and how will I know it has been considered?

Once your form has been logged and filed we will send you an e-mail to confirm it has been received. A record that an ECF has been submitted will be kept on the School’s central database. Your submission will then be made available to the Exam-Boards.

Continuing Students

If you are a continuing student and have passed all of your papers for the year, your submission will be filed for careful consideration at the end of your programme. This is when the Exam-Boards will determine which classification you should be awarded.

If your ECF relates to a failed first or second year paper (including an unauthorised absence from an exam), the Exam-Boards will consider your circumstances at the end of the year in question. On the basis of your submission the Exam-Boards will determine whether or not to discount your failed attempt. Or, in cases where you have exhausted the usual maximum number of attempts, the Exam-Boards will determine whether or not to allow you an exceptional attempt.

Where a discount has been approved the fail or absence mark will not appear in LSE for You or your final transcript. If you have been granted discount(s) or if you have exhausted attempts and have been granted an exceptional third attempt then the Registry will write to inform you of this within a week of the release of the results.

Finalist or 9/12-Month Masters Candidates

Individual marks are never changed as a result of ECFs. However, Exam-Boards may suspend the regulations and adjust your overall award (see section seven above). You will not be sent notification of this but will need to check your results on LSE for You when they are formally published. If an adjustment has been made it will be reflected in the award you see on LSE for You on the day the results are released. If your overall award has not been adjusted on LSE for You it means the normal regulations have been applied in your case.

For all students, decisions about exceptional circumstances are confirmed on the day your formal results are released and can be seen by checking your results on LSE for You. You will only receive individual notification if you have been granted an exceptional third attempt or had attempt(s) discounted. Candidates are not sent separate notification if their exceptional circumstances have not resulted in a suspension of the regulations. 

Please note that the School has very few instances in which the regulations are suspended. This means that although all forms will be considered very carefully, the vast majority of submissions will not result in a suspension of the regulations. 

13. I do not know how much my circumstances may have affected my performance. Can I just wait until I see my results and submit an appeal?

No, if you are aware of your circumstances before your results are known then you must submit an ECF within the seven day deadline.

It is an important part of the exceptional Circumstances procedure that you submit information about your circumstances before your results are known. This is so that the Sub-Board for your programme can properly consider them at the point of classification and if necessary suspend the regulations before your results are formally released.

Exceptional circumstances that are not declared within the seven day deadline normally cannot later be taken into account, i.e. they cannot be used as the basis for an appeal unless there is an extremely compelling reason why the circumstances were not declared to the School within the seven day deadline.

Failing a course or failing to be awarded a degree is not considered to be evidence that the assessment was affected by exceptional circumstances.

14. What do I do if I need further assistance?

If you are experiencing difficulties and require advice, you may wish to approach your Supervisor or Academic Adviser in the first instance. Please note, however, that any information given to your department will only be made available to the Sub-Board if you submit an Exceptional Circumstances Form via the SSC (see paragraph 4 above).

For specific advice on submitting the Form, and on degree and classification regulations, please contact the Student Services Centre.

The Teaching and Learning Centre  can provide help and advice regarding essay writing, time management, dissertation planning etc.

The Students’ Union Advice Service can provide independent advice on your case. You can call (020 7955 7158), email (su.advice@lse.ac.uk) or drop in (Monday-Friday 11-1) to speak with an adviser. You can find more information about the service here.

- *The term assessment in this document can mean either a summative essay/coursework or a timed, unseen examination.