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Comprehensive Exam Procedure


PhD Comprehensive Examination: Key Elements and Suggested Calendar


KEY ELEMENTS

1:  The primary objective of the comprehensive examination is to assess the student’s knowledge of the major field of study (geography, geographic education or GI Science) and to determine the student’s ability to undertake and complete original research. 

  • Students who pass the comprehensive examination have not achieved candidacy until they have defended their proposal.

2:  The student’s comprehensive examination committee consists of at least four members. 

  • At least three must be members of the Department of Geography. 
  • All members of the Department of Geography serving on the committee must be members of the PhD core or Associate Doctoral Faculty. 
  • The committee is chaired by the student’s research advisor, who must be a member of the PhD Core Faculty in the Department of Geography.

3:  The examination consists of a written component and an oral component. 

  • The student must pass the written component before proceeding to the oral component.

4:  Before formal arrangements for the written examination are made, the student meets with the research advisor and the committee to agree upon examination dates and format.

  • The examinations should be administered during the fall and spring semesters – ONLY

5:  Once the agreement is made and at least two weeks prior to the beginning of the written component, the research advisor invites each member of the committee to submit a written question or questions for inclusion on the examination.

6:  Questions are to be received by the advisor at least one week before the scheduled beginning of the examination. 

  • The research advisor may edit the questions for clarity are/or duplication. 
  • The research advisor provides all committee members with the complete list of questions for the committee’s comment and approval before administering the examination to the students.

7:  The entire written examination lasts five days and is to be completed within one week. 

  • Under ordinary circumstances, each daily examination period should last no more than four hours. 
  • The Department will provide a computer, word-processing software, and a quiet and comfortable place free of distractions to the student.

8:  After the student has completed the written examination, the research advisor emails the committee the student’s responses to their questions.  Each committee member will receive all five days’ worth of responses.

9:  Committee members including the research advisor are expected to read and evaluate the answers as soon as possible after the student completes the examination. 

  • After reading the answers, each committee member offers judgment about whether the student passes the written examination. 
  • Each committee member then communicates his or her judgment of the written examination to the research advisor.

10: If all or all but one member of the committee judges the written examination to be passing, the student passes the written examination. 

  • If two or more members of the committee judge the written examination to be not passing, the student fails the written examination. 
  • The committee’s judgment concerning the outcome of the written examination must be communicated to the student orally and in writing within one week after the student completes the written examination.

11: A student who fails the written examination is eligible to retake the written examination once. 

  • The second examination must take place no less than three months and no more than one year after the end of the first written examination. 
  • A student who fails the written examination twice is suspended from the doctoral program.

12: At the committee’s discretion, the candidate can be required to complete up to six hours of additional course work before retaking the examination.

13: Once the student has passed the written component, the oral component of the examination is scheduled by the research advisor in consultation with the committee and the student. 

  • The oral examination takes place within three weeks after the end of the written examination.

14: The oral examination is to last no more than two hours.

15: After the oral examination is finished, the student is excused while the committee deliberates the result of the examination. 

  • If all or all but one member of the committee judges the examination as passing, the student passes the examination.
  • The committee then notifies the student no more than thirty minutes after the end of the oral examination.

16: A student who has failed the oral examination is eligible to retake the oral examination once. 

  • The second oral examination must be taken no less than three months and no more than one year after the date of the original oral examination. 
  • A student who fails the oral examination twice is dropped from the doctoral program.

SUGGESTED CALENDAR

Week 1      Advisor requests questions

Week 2      All committee members send written questions to the major advisor; Before the end of week 2, the advisor distributes the questions to the committee

Week 3      Student takes the written examination

Week 4      Committee reviews answers; advisor informs student the outcome of the written examination (pass or fail)

Week 6      Before the end of week 6, the oral exam must occur
 

All of this must occur during one of the regular long semesters and cannot extend over a semester break.