Some graduate programs require students to pass a comprehensive examination. Comprehensive examinations are designed to examine the student's broad understandings of his/her field of study, specific areas of interest and/or the nature and design of the research project. Exams may be oral and/or written. Individual programs may have additional policies and regulations concerning comprehensive examination. Consult the program's graduate coordinator to determine additional program policies concerning comprehensive exams.
Written Comprehensive Examinations
Regularly scheduled written comprehensive examinations are administered by the major department. They generally cover coursework and/or designated reading lists. The department decides who shall write and/or grade the examinations. The examinations are graded as pass, fail or decision deferred. Students must pass in all sub-areas to qualify and may retake the examination once. The department reports the results by sending the Written Comprehensive Examination Request and Report form to the student and to the College of Graduate Studies and Research.
Oral Comprehensive Examinations
The Oral Examination, sometimes referred to as the Thesis Defense, is held after the examining committee approves the draft of the thesis or alternate plan paper. The student arranges the time and place after consulting the examining committee who conducts the examination.
The examination generally deals with the capstone project and the portion of the candidate's field of specialization in which the capstone project falls, although it need not be confined exclusively to the subject matter of the capstone project. While there are no time requirements, normally the examination requires a minimum of one hour and not usually more than two hours.
The report of the examining committee must be unanimous. The vote on whether a student has passed or failed the oral examination shall be conducted with only the committee members present.
The written and/or oral comprehensive examination may be retaken by filing the necessary request with the graduate coordinator or the examining committee, respectively. Sufficient time should be allowed to correct weaknesses uncovered in the first examination. Comprehensive examinations may be taken a second time only with the consent of the graduate faculty in the department involved.