Accommodation for illness or extenuating circumstances

Updated procedure and information during Fall 2020 term

Until further notice students should:

1/ Self-declare an absence on Quest if they have or suspect they have influenza-like illness.

2/ Obtain a verification of illness form (VIF) for other conditions or those lasting more than 14 days and send a high-quality scan or picture to while the Science Undergraduate Office staff work remotely.

3/ Note the following advice:

-A self-declaration on Quest is its own absence category, neither moderate nor severe, as described below. Students' disengagement across their courses should be consistent in an absence period. Inconsistent behaviour risks an allegation of misrepresentation in the same manner as with a moderate or severe VIF.

-Any questions about what to do or your specific situation, please ask! Email

The remaining information on this page (August 2019 update, information below) is published for reference and review as needed.

As a student, you may encounter situations such as significant illnesses, ongoing medical conditions, or other circumstances that prevent you from meeting academic obligations. 

The Accommodations section of the Undergraduate Calendar will provide an overview for accommodation, while the process below addresses the specifics for students taking Faculty of Science courses.

On this page

Last updated August 2019

Verification of Illness Form

The Verification of Illness Form (PDF) is used by instructors to make accommodation decisions for missed mandatory assessments (labs, quizzes, midterms, final exams, etc.). Instructors will consider VIFs issued by the University of Waterloo's Campus Wellness Services (Health Services and Counselling Services), when this service is open.

If a student cannot access Campus Wellness Services, whether it is open or closed, these are their options:

The above information is important to instructors who need clear guidance on making accommodation decisions.

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Degree of incapacitation (severe or moderate)

The VIF indicates the determination by a care provider (normally a physician) of the degree of incapacitation for a given period of time. Instructors will determine what accommodation, if any, they will provide. When making these decisions, instructors may consider VIF information (i.e., date; incapacitation severity and period) or the circumstances; and the student’s actions (i.e., when the student notified the instructor and submitted the VIF/other supporting documents to the Science Undergraduate Office).  The course outline should provide guidance regarding how missed course elements are normally addressed.

Students must discuss the VIF-specified degree of incapacitation with their instructors so that their actions are not misinterpreted or viewed with suspicion. For example:

  • A “severe” incapacitation indicates students are unable to engage in any academic studies during the period indicated. If they attend classes/labs, submit assignments/reports or write tests/exams during this period, they are at risk of being accused of “misrepresentation”; an academic offence, which carries a severe penalty that normally includes suspension.

Instructors have the authority to determine whether a VIF indicating "moderate" incapacitation will be accommodated. Students should review their course outline to see if any guidance is provided. In the absence of stated course rules, students should consider the following:

  • Tests and exams are not to be written during the incapacitation period of a "moderate" VIF
  • Misconduct/misrepresentation will not normally be alleged if a student inconsistently participates in other course elements such as assignments, quizzes, labs, and lecture attendance/participation during the VIF "moderate" incapacitation period.
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Submitting a Verification of Illness Form (VIF) and/or other supporting documentation

All documentation must be submitted in-person, by the student, and no one else. Following Policy 46, advisors in the SUO cannot engage in the detailed discussions that are required with anyone but the student. 

Multiple VIFs submitted for a term could result in a meeting with the Science Student Success Officer to discuss and resolve barriers to academic success.

Students who have been absent from classes for two weeks or longer, whether by illness or extenuating circumstances, should follow-up with their individual instructors and their academic advisor to assess whether their schedule of lectures or labs is still viable. For example, some students cannot complete a lab course, no matter the circumstances, if multiple labs have been missed.

If students cannot directly submit their VIF or other documentation within 48 hours, a copy of the document should be submitted by email, until the original can be submitted. Instructors will make their accommodation decision once the original copy has been submitted.

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Incomplete (INC) grade process

The Incomplete (INC) grade process begins when students contact their course instructors to discuss an INC grade as a possibility. This discussion with the instructor addresses the student’s circumstances, supporting documentation, missed or unfinished course elements, and the student’s engagement in the course up to that point in the term.

Failure to write scheduled make-up tests or submit outstanding course work by the end of the instructor-specified lapse period will result in a final course grade being posted to Quest that is the earned grade, based on all completed course element(s). If the course outline specifies that the missing coursework is required to pass the course, the lesser of the earned grade or 4% less than the passing grade will be posted to Quest.

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Make-up exams

Make-up exams are considered formally scheduled events and must occur within one year of the official grade date for that course. If students experience a situation that caused them to miss a make-up exam, they must meet with the Student Success Officer or Associate Dean, Undergraduate Studies, who will review the documentation. An alternate make-up exam may not be approved.

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