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Comprehensive Exam Guidelines

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  • ​Students in the comprehensive exam-track will have 15 hours of elective coursework in addition to the 15 hours of required courses. Six of these 15 hours must be on a focused topic or area that has been approved by their graduate advisor and committee. The comprehensive exam covers the entirety of the student's coursework, including the student's specialty area. It will not cover new material except as needed to bolster the specialty area. It consists of both a written and oral portion. The written portion of the exam, generally scheduled for the week after spring break, is 6 hours in length: 2 hours on research methods, 2 hours on general communication theory, and 2 hours on the specialty topic. The oral defense of the comprehensive exam is held as soon as possible after the student has completed the written portion and provides an arena for the student to answer any additional questions of committee members. The student who chooses to take the comprehensive exam generally completes all requirements for the degree in time to graduate in May. Students are permitted one retake of the written portion of the comprehensive exam.

  • The student who opts to take the comprehensive exam will meet with the Graduate Director to review the student's program (present and future) and to insure that the student has selected an advisor.  For full-time students and those on fellowships and assistantships, this meeting should be held during the spring of their first year of study.  For part-time students, it should be held sometime between the sixth and twelfth credit hour of graduate work.

  • At the start of the second year of study, the student should meet with her/his advisor to set up the examination committee (click for form).  This committee should be made up of the advisor and two other faculty members.  This meeting will also coordinate areas of knowledge for the exam and specify the student's area of specialization. 

  • The comprehensive exam is a six-hour exam.  Two hours focus upon communication theory, two hours on communication research methodology, and two hours in the selected area of specialization.  The exam is typically taken during one week, with one day in between sections.  The exam is taken in the department and written on a department computer. It is often scheduled the week after spring break.

  • The oral component of the comprehensive exam will be held as soon as possible after the student has completed the written portion of the exam.  The student will meet with members of the examination committee and will answer any additional questions of the committee members. Click for Oral Exam form.

  • If the student does not pass one or more sections of the comprehensive exam, these sections may be rewritten prior to the oral exam.  Only one repeat written examination will be permitted. 

Time Table for the Comprehensive Exam

Spring of First year:

  1. Meet with the graduate director to discuss comprehensive exam option, possible advisor, and members of the committee
  2. Decide to write the comprehensive exam

Summer between first and second year:

  1. Talk with your primary advisor and members of your committee about areas of questioning

Fall of second year:

  1. Continue talking to advisor and committee members
  2. Begin studying

Winter of second year:

  1. ​Continue to study for exam

Spring of second year:

  1. Take the comprehensive exam the week after spring break
  2. Do any re-writes that may be required
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