Protocol for Comprehensive Examinations
The comprehensive examination consists of three different sections: the student’s area of concentration; an area of study (sometimes called a minor) within the Policy Core; and the student’s prospective dissertation topic. Over a one-week period, the student writes an essay in response to a question on each of these sections, so that all three sections are covered over three weeks. Each essay should be approximately 10-12 pages in length (2500-3000 words excluding bibliography) but no more than 15 pages (3750 words excluding bibliography) overall. The essays should include complete citations and bibliography in APA or Chicago Manual of Style format.
Each essay is read by the faculty member who composed the question. The student must pass all sections to receive a pass on the examination overall. In exceptional cases, a student could receive a “Pass with Distinction” if the student’s essay on at least two of the sections are graded as outstanding by the examiners. A student who fails on two sections is dropped from the program. A student who fails one of the three sections can retake that section one time only. The student who fails a retake is dropped from the program. The faculty member who composes the examination for a given section is the first reader for that section. A pass from the first reader constitutes successful completion of the section. If the first reader fails the student, a second reader is asked by the GPD to grade the examination. If the second reader concurs with the first, the student fails the section. If the second reader disagrees with the first, the GPD decides whether the student passes or has to retake the section.
These are the steps that lead to the actual examination. First, the student makes an appointment to meet with the advisor about the comprehensive exams. This meeting should take place the semester before the student plans to take the comprehensive exam. At the time the student requests this meeting, he/she identifies a policy core area to be tested on as well as a prospective topic the student is likely to choose for the dissertation. The advisor then compiles a reading list in the depth area for Question #1, arranges for a policy core colleague to compile a reading list in the policy core area chosen by the student for Question #2, and compiles a reading list on the student's prospective dissertation topic for Question #3. At the meeting itself, the student is provided with these reading lists and the advisor clarifies any questions the student may have about the procedure. The reading lists are not to be viewed as exhaustive, but as a platform for viewing the questions. Citations the students will use in addressing the questions will include both sources on the reading lists as well as other sources. Finally, the comprehensive exam essays are to be written over a three week period of the student's choosing during either the fall or spring semester.