In addition to regular examinations, a final Comprehensive Examination on the content of a degree program is required of candidates in some master’s degree programs. Students writing a thesis must pass the required comprehensive examination before the thesis is defended. The Comprehensive Examination will cover topics as outlined by the department. The written examination will be constructed by the faculty and administered by the department chair or an appointee of the chair. The examination must be administered at least eight (8) weeks before the end of the semester in which the candidate expects to receive the degree; the date is specified on the Graduate Programs Calendar. A candidate is eligible to take the examination after completions of all course work or while the final courses are in progress. Students also must have been admitted to candidacy and must have a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or better to be eligible to take the comprehensive examination. Candidates may take the written examination twice, but they cannot retake the examination in the same semester. Candidates who fail the written examination on the second attempt will be terminated from the program. Students will be notified of their examination results by the chair of the department. The department chair will submit a copy of the results to the dean of school or college, who will submit a copy to the Office of the Registrar.
If an oral examination of the written comprehensive examination is required, it will be administered by a committee of three graduate faculty members recommended by the department chair, and the appropriate dean of the school or college. A unanimous vote by the committee is required to pass the oral comprehensive examinations. Passing of the oral examination may be conditional and dependent upon the completion of additional work to the satisfaction of the committee. A formal re-examination will not be required in this case. Graduate faculty are invited to attend the oral comprehensive examination sessions for all graduate degree candidates. Discussions and decisions of the examination committee are confidential.
Applications for the Comprehensive Examination are available online. Please note that it is the student’s responsibility to apply to take the Comprehensive Examination.
If a student fails the comprehensive examination, he or she should first consult with the graduate coordinator for his or her program. The graduate coordinator will arrange to have faculty members who graded the examinations to provide feedback to the student. If this initial step is unsuccessful in resolving the student's concern, the student may initiate a formal appeal.
The formal appeal of the results of the comprehensive examination must include documentation that one or more of the following occurred: 1) the faculty members who graded the examination made an error in calculating points from the grading rubric; 2) the decision to fail the student was based on criteria and/or standards at variance with the grading rubric; and/or 3) the decision to fail the student was based on factors other than student achievement/performance. Failure to address one or more of these three reasons is a basis for rejection of the appeal.
The student must submit the written appeal, with documentation, to the department chair of his or her graduate program. Upon receipt of the appeal, the department chair will appoint one graduate faculty member to review the appeal and the grading, and report findings to the chair. If the faculty member agrees with the decision to fail the student (i.e., if the three faculty members unanimously agree), the department chair will uphold the original decision and inform the student that he or she has failed the examination. If the faculty member disagrees with the decision to fail the student (i.e., if the three faculty do not reach a unanimous decision), the department chair will call an emergency meeting of the entire graduate faculty to review the appeal. If a simple majority of the graduate faculty members agree with the decision to fail the student, the department chair will inform the Dean and the student that she or he has failed the examination and may not appeal further. Alternatively, if a simple majority of the graduate faculty members disagree with the original decision to fail the student, the chair will inform the Dean and the student that she or he has passed the comprehensive examination.
The student may appeal to the dean of the college/school whose role will be to review the appeal procedures to ensure that the appeal was given full consideration and that the student was treated fairly. The student must bear in mind that the role of the dean is NOT to review the faculty’s decision regarding passing or failing the comps, but to make sure the appeal process is conducted fairly.