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Comprehensive Exam Guidelines

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  • Students in the comprehensive exam-track will have 15 credit hours of elective coursework in addition to the 15 credit hours of required courses. Six of these 15 credit hours must be on a focused topic or area that has been approved by their comprehensive exam 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 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 ensure that the student has selected a comprehensive exams committee chair.  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 their committee chair to set up the examination committee.  This committee should be made up of the chair 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.  For full-time students the exam is typically taken in the two weeks immediately following spring break, with exams occurring on the Tuesday and Thursday in the week immediately after Spring Break and on the Tuesday in the next week that follows. For part-time students the schedule of the exam is organized with the student's Comprehensive Exam Committee and the department's Director of Graduate Studies. The exam is taken in the Department of Communication and written on a department computer.
  • 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 their exam committee and will answer any additional questions of the committee members. View the Oral Exam form.
  • If the student does not pass one or more written 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:

  • Meet with the Director of Graduate Studies to discuss the comprehensive exam option, possible committee chair, and members of the committee
  • Make the final decision to write the comprehensive exam

Summer between first and second year:

  • Talk with your committee chair and members of your committee about potential areas of questioning

Fall of second year:

  • Continue talking to chair and committee members
  • Begin studying

Winter of second year:

  • Continue to study for exam

Spring of second year:

  • Take the comprehensive exam over the two weeks after Spring Break
  • Do any re-writes that may be required
  • Have oral defense of the written portion of the exam
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