Department of Communication Studies

Comprehensive Exams

  • What Is the Comprehensive Exam?
  • When Should I Take Comps?
  • Who Asks the Questions?
  • How Much Guidance Will I Receive in Preparing?
  • What Are the Logistics Involved?
  • When are Comps Offered?
  • How Will I Be Notified of the Results?
  • How are Comprehensive Exams Evaluated?

    A comprehensive examination must be passed by all graduate students to obtain a Masters degree in the Department of Communication Studies.

    1. What Is the Comprehensive Exam? The exam is one means the department uses to assess your knowledge and skills related to communication studies. The exam will cover three areas in your graduate program: communication theories, research methods, and content in your specific area of graduate study. The exam requires you to write for two hours on each area for a total of six hours.
    2. When Should I Take Comps? Because the exam is comprehensive, it should be taken toward the end of your coursework in the degree program. Specifically, you should take the content area portion of the exam after completing 24 hours of coursework towards your degree, and you can take the theory and research exams after completing 18 hours of credit (including the required 6000-level theory and research courses).
    3. Who Asks the Questions? For the content area of the exam, you and your advisor will select a faculty member who best represents your content area to write that exam question/s. You need to obtain permission from faculty to write questions one month prior to the exam date. You will indicate who will write the content area question on a form that you obtain from the departmental office or in the forms area of our website. The form must be submitted to the department office by the deadline date listed on the form. The instructor who writes the content area question will also evaluate your answer to that question. The theory and research methods exam question options and study guides are given to you during your COMMGRAD 6001 (48C:201) Introduction to Graduate Study & Research course, and are included in our guidebook. A departmental graduate faculty committee will evaluate the answers to these exam questions.  
    4. How Much Guidance Will I Receive in Preparing? The nature of the individual questions on the comprehensive examinations is a matter determined solely by the professor writing the question, though s/he may wish to consult with the student or other faculty members to arrive at an appropriate question. It is your responsibility to contact each faculty member to determine how you should prepare for the exam. Faculty members have the right to make questions open or closed book and open or closed notes. Be sure to ask about the professors’ choices. Professors decide how much guidance to provide prior to the exams. Make sure you have a clear understanding of what will be expected of you. No take-home exams are allowed. You will be given a list of possible theory and method exam questions, along with a study guide, upon entering the program and taking the COMMGRAD 6001 (48C:201) Introduction to Graduate Study & Research course.
    5. What Are the Logistics Involved? You will write your comprehensive exam in a computer lab assigned by the department. The computer platform used for writing comprehensive exams is a PC. The departmental office will provide you with a computer disk to save your work. You will indicate your assigned computer’s IP address on your exam so that it may be verified you did not use the internet or email during your writing sessions. You will be asked to present materials to be used during the exam to the department office staff before you begin writing.
    6. When are Comps Offered?In the fall and spring semesters, you may write your comprehensive exam anytime within the specified dates (11th & 12th weeks of the semester. (See dates & deadlines for this on the Comprehensive Exam Form.  You will be asked to self-identify to the department office coordinator at the beginning of the fall and spring semesters about your intention of writing comps that semester. The comprehensive exam form indicates the faculty who will write your comprehensive exam content question, the dates and times you plan to write, and the deadline for submitting this information.You must indicate your choice of a summer exam by the same deadline as the spring semester sign-up process. Realize that a choice of a summer exam means that your answers may not be evaluated until the fall semester is in session. Summer exams will be offered the last two (2) weeks of May only.
    7. How Will I Be Notified of the Results? After you complete the exam, the responses are forwarded to the faculty writers for review. You will be notified of the results within two weeks of the last day comprehensive exams can be completed for the semester. Therefore, you can expect results back approximately two weeks after you write the exam.
    8. How are Comprehensive Exams Evaluated?

      Each of the three exam areas is scored independently. Categories used for evaluation of the answers are “pass” and “no pass.”  A “pass” means you successfully met the requirements and expectations associated with a question. A “no pass” indicates that you must correct, supplement, reconstruct, or in some other way rewrite your answer, because you did not fully meet the writer’s expectations. Rewrites of any failed exam must be done within three academic weeks of notification of not passing (academic weeks = weeks that school is in session). For the content area exam, you will work with the faculty member writing the original question to determine what you need to rewrite. For the theory and method exams, you will contact the Graduate Program Director to determine what you need to rewrite. After determining what you need to rewrite, you will need to work with the Office Coordinator to determine when you can rewrite your question/s. If you do not receive a pass on the rewritten question, you fail the exam and will not be eligible to obtain a graduate degree in Communication Studies. A question may only be rewritten once. Once an area on the exam is passed, it does not need to be retaken. You must pass all three areas to pass the exam and to be degree eligible.