Universities have a long-established tradition of granting students special consideration when circumstances beyond their control negatively affect performance in assessments. Typically, such situations affect only one student (e.g. medical emergencies) but we consider the impact of a natural disaster that led to all students being eligible for special consideration on a single assessment. Students did not have to get applications for special consideration endorsed by a qualified professional but were able to rate their own level of impairment. Our findings indicated that students were impaired in their performance and accordingly application for special consideration was warranted. Those few students who did not submit an application were disadvantaged relative to their peers. There was little relationship between the students’ self-reported levels of impairment and their performance, but those who considered themselves seriously impaired were disproportionately unlikely to complete the assessment. Those with poorer grades leading into the final assessment were no more likely to request special consideration. Although our observations were with an unusual example, our overall findings support the need for a special consideration policy, and indicate that students can treat such a policy appropriately and not exploit the opportunity to obtain unmerited advantage.