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Comprehensive Exams

Near the time you complete your course work, you will take comprehensive examinations in your major and cognate areas, if applicable. Your department or doctoral committee will administer and evaluate the exams. You will work with your committee to determine the course work and other preparation necessary to be included in the exam. Exams are offered each semester, and the department or academic unit will determine the time and place.

The following guidelines apply: 

  • The examinations consist of two parts, one written and one oral. 
  • You will take the written examination during one week (exceptions must be approved by the program director and your doctoral committee), and you’ll take the oral exam within three weeks (excluding vacation periods) of the written examination. 
  • Your doctoral committee (now called the examining committee) will include a minimum of four members of the regular graduate faculty who will evaluate your performance and decide if your written examination is of sufficient quality to proceed to the oral examination. All committee members responsible for the oral portion of the examination must participate in the oral exam unless excused in advance by the graduate dean. 
  • After you complete your oral examination, your committee will determine whether you pass or fail. You can pass the entire examination with one dissenting vote. However, if two or more committee members dissent, you fail the entire examination. 
  • The examining committee chairperson will send written notification of the outcome of the comprehensives to you and the dean of the Graduate School after you complete the oral exam. 
  • If you fail a comprehensive examination, you’ll receive a written statement from your committee chairperson with reasons for the failure and the time specified before the next exam. 
  • A failed comprehensive examination is defined as one of the following: 1) failure of both the written and oral portions; 2) failure of the written portion if the examining committee determines that you should not proceed to the oral portion; or, 3) failure of the oral portion if the examining committee determines that you were unable to correct deficiencies in the written portion. You can repeat a failed comprehensive examination only one time. The committee members who administered the first examination will also administer the retest. 
  • If you fail to pass the second examination, you will be considered ineligible to continue and will be dismissed from the doctoral program. 
  • If you successfully complete the comprehensive exam but you have exceeded your seven-year time limit, you will need to retake the entire exam.

The dean of the Graduate School must provide advance approval of any exceptions to these guidelines.