Comprehensive Examinations

Some graduate programs require students to pass a comprehensive examination. Comprehensive exams are designed to examine a student’s broad understanding of their field of study, area(s) of interest, and/or the nature and design of their capstone project. Individual programs may have additional policies and regulations concerning comprehensive examinations. Review the program's website for information on program requirements and policies.

Written Comprehensive Examinations

Written comprehensive examinations are scheduled, written, administered, and graded by the department.

The written examination typically covers program coursework and/or designated reading material and is graded as pass, fail, or decision deferred.

To pass the whole exam, the student must pass in all sub-areas; however, students may retake the examination one additional time only, if necessary.

The department records the student's grade on the Written Comprehensive Examination Request and Report form and submits a copy to both the student and the Office of Graduate Studies.

Oral Comprehensive Examinations

The student arranges the time and location of the oral examination after consulting with their examining committee. Before scheduling the exam, the student must have had their thesis or alternate plan paper draft approved. 


Typically the examination requires a minimum of one hour and does not exceed two hours.


The examination ordinarily covers the student's field of specialization and subject matter of their capstone project, although, the exam does not need to focus exclusively on the student's capstone.


The examining committee determines whether the student has passed or failed the oral examination. The vote is conducted with only the committee members present and must be unanimous.


May I Re-Take the Oral or Written Examination?

Comprehensive examinations may be retaken only once. Students who wish to retake the exam must file a request with their examining committee or the program's graduate coordinator. Sufficient time should be allowed to make corrections uncovered in the first examination.