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Comprehensive Exam Process

A doctoral student must pass a comprehensive examination in the major field of study. This examination, which may be written, oral or both, is not limited to the areas of the student’s course work, but tests the student’s grasp of the field as a whole. The administration of this exam is governed by the following guidelines:

1. Students must have a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0 at the time of their examinations.

2. Students must be enrolled in a minimum of one credit of graduate course work the semester in which they take the doctoral comprehensive examination. Students may enroll in 699/dissertation hours to prepare for the comprehensive exam; however, those credits will only count towards dissertation hour requirements if taken within the same semester as the passed exam.

3. At least two weeks prior to the date of the examination, the major graduate unit must request approval from the Dean of Graduate Studies to hold the exam. It may not be conducted until the Dean of Graduate Studies approves the Announcement of Examination Form and it is returned to the unit.

4. The doctoral comprehensive examination committee (usually the student’s Committee on Studies) consists of a minimum of three members approved for committee service. See the Comprehensive Exam Committee section of this page for more information.

5. In order to qualify to sit for a doctoral exam during the intersession, the student must be registered for the following semester.

6. Barring extraordinary circumstances, the graduate unit will notify the student of the results of the examination no later than two weeks after the date on which it was administered. Should such circumstances arise, the graduate unit will notify the student in writing of the reason for the delay and let him/her know when notification can be expected.

7. The results of the examination must be reported to the Dean of Graduate Studies on the “Report of Examination” form no later than two weeks after the date of the examination.

8. If a student fails the examination, the Committee on Studies may recommend a second examination, which must be administered within one calendar year from the date of the first examination. The doctoral comprehensive examination may be taken only twice. A second failure will result in the student’s termination from the program.

Conditional Pass

Having evaluated the materials required for the examination, if the Committee feels that, although the student has demonstrated knowledge and understanding of the field, it is not quite sufficient to justify a grade of “ pass,” the committee may assign the grade of “Conditional Pass” and require that the student meet additional conditions before a grade of pass will be awarded. The student must meet the conditions noted on the Conditional Pass by the end of the subsequent term. However, students who plan to graduate in a specific term must resolve a Conditional Pass by the posted deadline for submission of examination results. The committee will note the conditions that need to be met by the student on the examination form. Once the committee indicates the student has met the conditional pass criteria, they will submit a memo to Graduate Studies.

Comprehensive Exam Committee

The role of the examination committee is to approve the exam questions, conduct the exam, evaluate the student response and report the results. Each committee must consist of a minimum of three members approved by Graduate Studies. Although this committee generally remains intact as part of your Dissertation Committee, some members may change with permission from your advisor.

  1. Two members must be Category 1 OR one member can be Category 1 and one member may be Category 3 if his/her appointment is within the student’s major

  2. The chair of the exam committee must be Category 1, 5 or 3, if his/her appointment is within the student’s major

  3. The third member can be any Category (1-6)

  4. A co-chair can be from any Category (1-6) as long as the other co-chair is a Category 1 or 3 if his/her appointment is within the student’s major

  5. No more than one voting member can be in Category 4. Departments can impose a more restrictive structure for exam committees.