Personal tools
You are here: Home Graduate PhD Program Comprehensive Examinations

Comprehensive Examinations

Information about comprehensive examinations

Composition Guidelines

Comprehensive examinations pertain to areas of knowledge rather than specific courses.  The material covered, number and format of the questions, grading criteria, and other such details are determined by the graduate faculty in the area developing the exam.  It is strongly recommended that the student consult with the Area Coordinator well in advance (at least two months) of the comprehensive exam date, so that the Coordinator can direct the student to appropriate graduate faculty members for guidance in selecting reading materials for study.
The Ph.D. Coordinator requests questions from selected graduate faculty who teach in the area which the student has specified as his/her area of concentration.  Faculty submit their questions to the Ph.D. Coordinator, who compiles them and works with the Comprehensive Examination committe to create the comprehensive exam for the student. 

The Comprehensive Examination Committee is composed of graduate faculty in the GSM, and is appointed by the Ph.D. Coordinator.  This committee reviews all questions submitted by the graduate faculty and selects a set of questions which comprehensively examines the student in the area of concentration.  The concentration exam should be designed not to require more than eight hours over two consecutive working days to complete while each minor exam should not exceed four hours over one day.
The writing and grading of Ph.D. comprehensive exams are restricted to graduate faculty members.  Any or all members of the graduate faculty in the student's area of concentration may be called upon by the Coordinator to participate in the Ph.D. examination process.  Thus, the student should not expect only those professors from whom coursework has been taken to participate in the writing and/or grading of the comprehensive exam.

Detailed information can be found as part of the PhD handbook (html version 2006-2007)

Writing Questions

Graduate faculty participating in these examinations will be requested to provide the following information about comprehensive questions:
  • The title
  • Scope
  • An answer key
See the examples provided for previous examinations at

Guidance to the Student

  • At the minimum, students taking these examinations will be provided with both the title and the scope of the questions.
  • The PhD handbook further recommends that each student contact the graduate faculty for guidelines in selecting reading materials for study (first paragraph, last sentence under Composition Guidelines). But, it does not imply that students be given a specific, or an exhaustive reading list. A partial reading list for IS student can be found here.
  • These examinations are comprehensive, and any list, even if provided, should act only as a guideline to the type of material a student should be familiar with to do well in the examinations. Questions, as long as they conform to the scope, can come from outside any such list. Ultimately, the student is responsible and accountable for any relevant literature in their area of study.


Use the link below to open an example schedule of timing typical to comprehensive exams.
Document Actions