Comprehensive Examination

The Graduate School requires all Ph.D. candidates to pass a comprehensive examination administered by their doctoral committee. This examination is intended as an opportunity for candidates to demonstrate the expertise acquired through the completion of their Plan of Study. The comprehensive examination is not a review exercise in which the candidate reiterates information. Rather, the examination is an attempt to assess the candidate’s facility to integrate disparate information, to respond creatively and critically to the issues raised, to conduct and present original research, and to communicate these matters in a scholarly manner. The comprehensive examination is an individualized process in which a unique set of questions or written tasks is prepared for each candidate. Accordingly, the C I faculty recommends that candidates schedule a pre-comprehensive-examination meeting with their doctoral committee at which they discuss the topics and format for the examination to follow. The C I Graduate Program Office may assist in scheduling a room and acquiring the appropriate paperwork.

A comprehensive examination has written and oral components. The written component is organized and conducted according to the guidelines of the candidate’s C I emphasis area and the discretion of the doctoral committee. Following the completion of the written component, each member of the candidate’s doctoral committee reviews and evaluates all written responses according to the criteria listed on the Evaluation of Written Comprehensive Form. The candidate’s doctoral committee adviser collects these evaluations and determines whether the candidate has passed the written component. To achieve a pass, each member of a doctoral committee must accept the body of a candidate’s written work as competent. If a candidate fails the written examination, the oral portion cannot proceed, and the doctoral committee sets conditions for the candidate to meet before a second written examination can be conducted. These conditions may include additional coursework. Upon successful completion of the written component, the candidate’s oral portion can be held.

The oral component of the examination is designed to allow committee members to probe more deeply the areas that the candidate addressed in the written component, to consider the candidate’s understanding of relevant theory, to listen to the candidate’s point of view or philosophy on educational matters, to inquire about the candidate’s growth as a doctoral student, or to inquire about a candidate’s plans for further research. The oral component typically is scheduled as a two-hour sessionthat may be open or closed at the discretion of the committee and the candidateduring which the full doctoral committee is present and actively questions the candidate. The oral component must be scheduled at least three weeks in advance of the examination date through the C I Graduate Program Office.

Immediately upon completion of the oral component of the comprehensive examination, the committee members confer to evaluate and grade the candidate’s performance according to the criteria listed on the Graduate School Comprehensive Examination Report. At least two-thirds of the committee members must agree for a passing grade to be awarded. Failure on the comprehensive examination can result in a candidate’s termination from the doctoral program, or committee members can set conditions for the candidate to meet before a re-examination can be held. All decisions are recorded on the Graduate School form, and the date of passing becomes part of a candidate’s permanent record. After the oral component, the adviser should provide the candidate with specific and detailed analysis of his or her performance.

Candidates are responsible for arranging their comprehensive examinations. Candidates must have completed the C I core and all their work in the Research Knowledge and Capabilities category, must have a minimum grade point average of 3.0, and no missing or deferred grades before the oral component can be scheduled. The following is a list of steps for planning the comprehensive examination.

  1. Meet with adviser to review emphasis area’s policy on comprehensive examination and to discuss the time frame and topics for the written portion.
  2. Schedule a pre-comprehensive-examination meeting with the full doctoral committee to be sure that all members are aware of policy and agree on topics and timeline.
  3. Set date to complete the written component of the comprehensive examination, being sure to leave at least two weeks for committee members to read and respond to written material before the agreed-upon date for the oral component.
  4. Three weeks prior to the agreed-upon date, notify the C I Graduate Office of the date, time, and location for the oral examination. The C I Graduate Office notifies the Graduate School, which sets the official call for the oral portion of each candidate’s comprehensive examination. The Graduate School is not involved in the written portion of the examination.

Ph.D. Manual
Expectations of the Curriculum & Instruction Doctoral Program
Roles of an Adviser ○ Admission to Candidacy ○ The Doctoral CommitteePlan of StudyComprehensive ExaminationDissertationProcedures Concerning Graduation