The comprehensive exam is a major step in completing the Master's degree and students need to have the best information possible. All students who choose the coursework/comprehensive exam option are required to complete a tutorial on the exam in the semester prior to the semester they take their comprehensive exam. The University of Oklahoma, College of Professional and Continuing Studies delivers Master's level degree programs to students around the world. Just like all accredited university graduate programs, the PACS graduate degree programs include completion requirements such as a thesis or non-thesis completion such as research project. We have developed an additional non-thesis degree completion option for our students to provide increased flexibility for our on-line students. This is the coursework/comprehensive exam option. Students who choose this option will take 6 hours of subject area elective coursework and write a comprehensive exam. The coursework/comprehensive exam option does not differ from the other options in terms of degree of difficulty or expectations.
Students who choose the thesis or research project option are required to enroll in six hours of thesis or project credit if allowed by the degree program in which you are enrolled. Students who choose the coursework/comprehensive exam option will enroll in six hours of subject area elective coursework (additional elective courses in your degree program area). These six hours will form the basis for the fourth question on the comprehensive exam (see below). The credit hours for each completion option are the same, and all students are required to complete 33 hours to earn their degree.
The comprehensive exam assesses a student's knowledge of a field of study. For the Master's Degree, that level of knowledge is expected to be advanced. The comprehensive exam is not based on specific course(s), but it is meant to test students' comprehension and familiarity with their discipline and their ability to synthesize concepts and ideas that they have learned over their entire course of graduate study. Many Master's students perform quite well in the individual classes and expect to pass the comprehensive exam easily. Sometimes students presume that if they received good grades, they will need little or no preparation for their comprehensive exam. It is important to remember, however, that the comprehensive exam requires students to go beyond what they have done in individual courses. Earning good grades throughout the coursework phase of the degree does not automatically translate into passing the comprehensive exam on the first try. While a student may have mastered the concepts, theories and ideas in individual courses, the comprehensive exams requires students to demonstrate that they can bring these ideas and concepts together and provide a coherent analysis for each of the exam questions. In some ways, the comprehensive exam can be compared to the bar exam. Law students may complete all of their coursework, but they must still pass the bar exam in order to practice law. Likewise, Master's students may complete all of their coursework, but they must still pass the comprehensive exam in order to earn their degree. Like the bar exam, not all students who take the comprehensive exam the first time pass. For example, in the summer of 2002, an average of 72.5% of all law students who took the bar exam passed. Those failing the exam the first time are required to take the exam again and pass it in order to practice law. This is the same with the comprehensive exam.
The Graduate College has specific requirements that the College of Professional and Continuing Studies must adhere to in administering the comprehensive exam.
All written academic work, including comprehensive exams, must be composed entirely of words generated (not simply found) by the student, except where words written by someone else are specifically marked as such with proper citation. When students misrepresent the origin of ideas or writing, this is plagiarism. Plagiarism is grounds for failure of assignment, failure of a course, or even removal from the university.
Plagiarism is any of the following:
If you have questions about what constitutes plagiarism, review OU's
Students must be enrolled in at least two hours during the semester that they take their comprehensive exam. This policy, established by the Graduate College, also applies to the semester that any re-take of the comprehensive exam is attempted. So if you have taken and failed the comprehensive exam in one semester, you will be required to re-enroll for at least two hours in the next or subsequent semester to re-take the comprehensive exam. Students will not be eligible for financial aid during the semester that they retake their exam. Financial aid rules require students to be enrolled for at least five hours and that all of those hours are required to earn their degree.
Each exam is developed for each individual student by the exam committee. There are no standard exams. The Comp Exam is emailed (between 8:30 and 9:30 am on the start date) to each student's OU email account and they have two weeks to answer all areas and return the exam by email and submit it to Canvas under the Assignments drop box in this tutorial (by 5 p.m. on the exam return date). The exam will be reviewed by the plagiarism program TurnItIn. The start dates for the exams are established each term and students will be given a date range during the term in which they can start the exam. Exams cannot be started on weekends or holidays. If the exam is not returned by the deadline (5 p.m. on the exam return date), it is considered a failure.
The Committee consists of three members. The committee will be selected from faculty who work for the College of Professional and Continuing Studies. Normally you will have at least one faculty member you have had during the course of your degree program. All three members will grade your papers on a scale of one to ten and the average for each area will be your score for the area. A score of seven on each area is the minimum passing score.
The comprehensive exam is a two-week, take-home examination consisting of four questions (areas) approved by the College for the student which is emailed to the student. The student will return the exam by email within the time limit to all committee members and the College of Professional and Continuing Studies. The exam consists of the following:
While the exam questions are not based on a particular course, they are generally based on areas of study within your degree program that were covered in courses.
Below are three sample questions. These questions do not necessarily pertain to any specific course but are examples of what the questions will look like on the exam.