Master’s Degree Comprehensive Exams

Published: July 11th, 2017

Category: Documents and Resources

Students choosing the non-thesis option must pass a final comprehensive examination after completing the coursework. Students choosing to write a thesis may be required by their committee to take a written comprehensive examination in addition to completing the thesis.

The timing and format of the examination is agreed between the student and the committee. Questions tailored to the student’s interests and specializations are answered in writing by the candidate, and graded by their committee (pass/fail), with the timing and format of the examination agreed between the student and the committee.

When formatting the written comprehensive exam, all of the supervisory committee, working with the student, must agree about how long a student may take in answering each question, or choosing from a list of questions, and whether the student can have access to notes, books or the library. The comprehensive examination will normally be taken during the academic year (Fall and/or Spring semesters). In practice, some students answer a question per day for four days in two-hour sessions without access to outside resources, while others can take a week for each question, with access to notes and the library. The most common practice is the “weekend” format where the student picks up the exam at an agreed upon time on Friday and returns the exam at a scheduled time on Monday morning.

Summary:

  • All non-thesis MA students must take a comprehensive exam. Thesis MA students must take a comprehensive exam if their committees require them.
  • The comprehensive exam should be taken after completing the coursework, generally during the semester the MA is earned.
  • The student should be registered during the term the comprehensive exam is taken.
  • The format is agreed on between the student and the committee.
  • The questions are chosen by the committee.
 

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