Comprehensive Exam Requirements and Assessment Guidelines for Doctoral Programs

The responsibility for initiating the comprehensive examination process lies with doctoral students. Students must inform to the chair (co-chairs) of their committees that they are ready to sit for the exam at least one month before their intended date. Students must be in their last semester of coursework and have the consent of their chair(s) to be eligible to sit for the comprehensive exam. It is highly recommended that students be enrolled in no more than six semester hours while preparing for the exam. For examples of comprehensive exam questions, students should contact the Coordinator for Doctoral Studies.

Doctoral comprehensive exams will be held fall and spring semesters.
The comprehensive examination is given to provide doctoral students with the opportunity to demonstrate their level of knowledge in a selected field of study and to synthesize that knowledge into a professionally written paper. The committee chair(s) will meet with the doctoral student and collectively identify the major areas from which possible exam questions will be drawn. While the examination questions will be unique for each student, doctoral students will usually write one question related to the emphasis area, one question related to the cognate or specific area of focus, and one question related to educational research. (For the Ph.D. in Teacher Education, students will usually write one question related to the broad field of teacher education, one question related to their particular research interest, and one question related to designing a research study.) The student should submit a draft of possible questions to the chair. The chair will then revise and formulate the questions with the student. The entire doctoral committee will approve the three final comprehensive exam questions. Responses to examination questions will be evaluated based on the: organization and presentation of ideas, quality of response, knowledge of the literature, and quality of writing.

Doctoral students have the option of writing part or all of their comprehensive examinations off campus. In consultation with their program chair and committee, students will decide which question(s) will be written on campus and off campus. Students must complete off-campus responses within four weeks of having the questions approved by their committee and the Coordinator of Doctoral Studies.

On campus comprehensive examination questions will be conducted over the span of not more than 5 working days. Students will write their answer to one question each day and have up to four hours per day in which to write the exam. Students will be allowed to use a word processor and be permitted to bring a 1-page listing of the major citations that may be used in their responses.

All committee members will read, within 10 working days, the three completed exam questions and evaluate them as "pass with distinction", "acceptable/pass", or "unacceptable/fail". Within two weeks of the submission of the written exam, doctoral students will meet with their committee for an oral response to the examination. The committee will make its final decision and communicate it to the student immediately following the oral. The committee's decision must be unanimous. "If the vote is not unanimous, the student may request the department to administer a second examination. The student must wait at least three months before taking the second examination" (UNLV Graduate Catalog). The committee may suggest additional course work or readings. The comprehensive exams must be completed successfully before students advance to doctoral candidacy and register for dissertation hours.