Information pertaining to the Comprehensive Examination.

The primary purpose of the Comprehensive Examination is to evaluate the student’s mastery of the major field and, if appropriate, dual-title and minor fields, and to determine whether the student is prepared to succeed in their dissertation research. The Exam will probe whether the doctoral candidate has acquired sufficient knowledge in his/her field, can design and evaluate significant research, has resourcefulness in formulating and solving problems in his/her field, and can communicate effectively with both scientists and laypeople. The Ph.D. Committee will evaluate the competency of the student to conduct their research considering the program’s defined Learning Objectives.

Comprehensive Examination Requirement

  • The examination must be scheduled at least four (4) weeks prior to the date of the examination with the program's Graduate Program Coordinator.
  • To be Eligible to take the Comprehensive Examination the graduate student must:
    • be in good academic standing and must be registered as a full-time or part-time graduate degree student for the semester in which the Comprehensive Examination is taken;
    • all students are required to have a minimum grade-point average of 3.00 for work completed at the University as a graduate student at the time the Comprehensive Examination is administered; and
    • have no deferred or missing grades.
  • The Comprehensive Examination may not occur before:
    • the completion of all course work required by the program and the Ph.D. Committee (this does not preclude the Ph.D. Committee from requiring additional education, including course work);
    • the student has satisfied the English competency requirement; and
    • the student has satisfied any program-specific communication and foreign language competency requirement.
  • The Comprehensive Examination should be scheduled within a year of completion of all required course work to provide students with timely assessment of their ability to complete their dissertation, but it must be scheduled no later than five years following the passing of the Qualifying Examination.
  • When a period of more than six years has elapsed between the passing of the Comprehensive Examination and the completion of the program, the student is required to pass a second Comprehensive Examination before the final oral examination or final performance will be scheduled.

The Comprehensive Examination is administered, overseen, and evaluated by the entire Ph.D. Committee. In administering the Comprehensive Examination, the Ph.D. Committee must evaluate the competency of the student to conduct their research in light of the program’s defined Learning Objectives, particularly with respect to:

  • the student’s mastery of the major, and if appropriate, dual-title and minor fields of study; and
  • whether the student is prepared to succeed in their dissertation research.

Comprehensive Exam Planning

The student should provide copies of his/her dissertation research proposal prior to the exam.

The committee should confer prior to the Comprehensive Examination to review the objectives of the candidate’s program and the structure of the examination.

  • Questions should examine the candidate’s knowledge of his/her major and minor fields of specialization.
  • If the student is also enrolled in a dual-title graduate degree program, the Comprehensive Examination requirements of the dual-title program must be integrated into the Comprehensive Examination of the student’s major program.
    • The dual-title faculty representative on the Ph.D. committee will participate in constructing comprehensive examination questions and assessing student performance related to the dual-title area of study as part of a unified comprehensive examination with the major program administered to the student.

Comprehensive Exam Procedures

The Comprehensive Examination consists of both written and oral components, with the written component preceding the oral component.

Written Evaluation

  • All written questions, from any one faculty member, are not to take more than 3 hours total to complete.
  • Questions from a maximum of two faculty may be assigned to a student in a single day (for a total of 6 hours of written questions).
  • Each committee member may require their written questions be responded to either as an open book or a closed book exam.
  • The student may discuss with the Ph.D. committee members the types of questions that might be asked on this exam.

Oral Evaluation

  • The oral exam should be scheduled within ten days following the last written exam.

Results of Comprehensive Exam

A two-thirds favorable vote of the student’s committee is required for successful completion of the Comprehensive Examination.

Evaluation of Comprehensive exam performance:

  • Pass without reservation.
  • Fail without reservation.
  • Fail with the opportunity to retake the examination again. No more than one retake no later than one (1) month following the first examination will be allowed.

Reporting Results

The committee chair submits the Comprehensive Examination results to the Graduate Program Coordinator in writing immediately following the examination.

IMPORTANT: The student must be registered continuously (SUBJ 601 full-time; SUBJ 611 part-time) each semester (excluding summers) beginning with the semester following the passing of the Comprehensive Examination and continuing each semester until the Final Oral Examination (Defense) is passed. SUBJ 601 and SUBJ 611 do not hold an academic grade and offer substantial reductions in tuition costs. While enrolled in either SUBJ 601 or SUBJ 611, students can enroll in an additional 3 credits. It is essential to bear in mind that taking any additional credits will incur additional tuition expenses. Therefore, all coursework requirements should be fulfilled before undertaking the Comprehensive Examination. International Ph.D. students should contact Global Programs regarding their visa status after passing the Final defense.