Comprehensive Examination and Admission to Candidacy

When a student has substantially completed studies in the doctoral program (PhD, EdD, DMA), he/she must pass a written comprehensive examination, in the major and minor fields of study.

Requirement and scheduling

The Supervisory Committee arranges for comprehensive examinations — written and potentially also oral — at least seven months prior to the final oral examination (dissertation defense).

  • Written: The written comprehensive examination is not a repetition of course examinations but is an investigation of the student’s breadth of understanding of the field of knowledge of which his/her special subject is a part.
  • Oral: At the discretion of the Supervisory Committee, an oral comprehensive examination may be required. The oral examination may include the minor or related fields in addition to the major field of study.  If an oral exam is required, this is considered a part of the comprehensive exam requirements to be met before candidacy can be achieved.

After the exam(s)

When the student has passed the comprehensive examination, satisfied language and research tool requirements of her/his approved program, and removed any provisional admission requirements, the committee will recommend to the Office of Graduate Studies the doctoral student’s admission to Candidacy by filing the Application for Admission to Candidacy for the doctoral degree, noting the dates of completing the comprehensive examination(s).

The Application for Candidacy must be filed at least seven months prior to the final oral examination (dissertation defense).

Following admission to Candidacy the student must register for at least one credit hour during each fall and spring semester until he/she receives the doctoral degree, even if the student has already met the total dissertation hours on their approved program of study. Failure to register during each academic-year semester will result in termination of the program of study.

Should the Supervisory Committee determine the student has failed the comprehensive examination, a letter must be submitted by the chair of the Supervisory Committee to the Dean of Graduate Studies stating the conditions under which the student may attempt another examination, or part thereof. Additional attempts may not be earlier than the following academic term or summer. Typically, but upon the discretion of the Supervisory Committee, only two attempts to pass the comprehensive examination will be permitted.