What information does the OL comprehensive exam cover?

The comprehensive exam asks you to demonstrate your knowledge across the entire curriculum of the OL program. Unlike an assignment you complete in a single course, the comprehensive exam requires you to integrate the knowledge acquired throughout your course of study in the organizational leadership program. The exam will present you with four broad questions from the following general areas: 

  • Interdisciplinary Approaches to Learning – Discuss the role of interdisciplinarity when leading
  • Research Methods – Examine your understanding of best practices in organizational research
  • Core Study Area – Explore knowledge about your specific track in the OL program (organizational leadership, nonprofit/volunteer or government/military)
  • Critical Analysis of Readings – Analyze the strengths and limitations of prior leadership literature

When can I take the comprehensive exam?

The college will provide you with two or more exam dates once you become eligible for the comprehensive exam. You may choose one of the dates provided to start your exam.

How long do I have to complete the exam?

You will have two weeks after the date you select to return your exam responses. We do not accept exams after the due date and missing the deadline results in automatic failure.

Do I have to be enrolled in a class to take the exam?

Yes. OU’s Graduate College requires you to enroll in at least two credit hours during the semester that you take your comprehensive exam. If you do not pass your exam the first time and need to retake it, this policy also applies at that time. In other words, you would need to enroll in at least two hours in the semester that you retake the exam.

What grading criteria will the Comprehensive Exam Committee use to determine if I pass the exam?

When students receive their exam questions, they also receive a copy of the comprehensive exam grading rubric. We strongly recommend that you invest time to study the comprehensive grading rubric thoroughly. If you do, you will discover

  1. how your work will be evaluated, and
  2. what you need to do to succeed.

Your committee will evaluate your responses for each of the four areas on a 10-point scale. To pass, you must receive a minimum of a 7.0 score (averaged across your three committee members for each of your four exam areas). In other words, you must achieve an average minimum score of 7.0 on each of your four responses to pass your comprehensive exam. For more information, see the Comprehensive Exam Tutorial Video described below.

Who will be on my Comprehensive Exam Committee?

Your Comprehensive Exam Committee consists of a committee chair and two additional faculty members.

What score is required to pass the exam?

Your committee will evaluate your responses to each of the four areas on a 10-point scale. To pass, you must receive a minimum of a 7.0 score (averaged across your three committee members for each of your four areas). In other words, you must achieve an average minimum score of 7.0 on each of your four responses to pass your comprehensive exam. For more information, see the Comprehensive Exam Tutorial Video described below.

What if I don’t pass my exam?

OL students have two opportunities to take the exam. If you attend to the grading criteria provided in the rubric, and you invest time in studying the Comprehensive Exam Tutorial Video (see below), you will likely do well. However, if you do not pass the exam on your first attempt, you may receive a second opportunity to take the comprehensive at the discretion of your exam committee. If you do not achieve a minimum 7.0 score on one or two questions, you only need to retake the exam in those areas in a subsequent semester. However, if you do not achieve a 7.0 in three or four content areas, you will need to retake the entire exam. You will receive new questions for any necessary retakes. As with the initial exam, you will have two weeks to respond. Your Comp Exam Coordinator ( will assist you with this process. Please note that you cannot retake your exam in the same semester.

What can I do to prepare BEFORE the exam?

  • Visit the Comprehensive Exam FAQ page: These FAQs will answer many, if not all, of your questions related to the exam. Please carefully review the FAQ page before contacting the college with any questions. However, if you do not find answers to your questions on the FAQ page, please email the Comp Exam Coordinator (  
  • Watch the Comprehensive Exam Tutorial Video - This detailed tutorial provides vital information about the exam process, as well as how your Comprehensive Exam Committee will evaluate your exam responses.  
  • Review all the other resources and tutorials provided in the Comprehensive Exam Canvas course (you will receive access a few weeks before the start of the semester). In addition to the Comprehensive Exam Tutorial Video, we will provide you with several other resources related to writing and APA style. You will also receive important information about plagiarism, as well as a self-directed quiz to help you evaluate your readiness for the exam. 

What is the correct format, and what writing guidelines should I follow?

You should submit one (1) Microsoft Word document that contains all four of your responses. The Comprehensive Exam Canvas course (see the Writing and APA tab of the Home page) provides you with an APA-formatted template to help you organize your response. For more information about how to use the template, watch the Comprehensive Exam Tutorial Video

Important – You should prepare four separate reference lists corresponding to each question. Place each of these four reference lists immediately following your response to each of the four questions. Said another way, your response to each question should present a separate set of references. Do NOT compile one reference list for all of your responses. Also, make sure that you adhere strictly to the APA guidelines outlined in the PACS APA Guide, based on the 7th edition of the APA manual.

What are the consequences of plagiarism?

Plagiarism is a matter that OU takes very seriously and will quickly disqualify your exam from grading consideration. Put simply, if you plagiarize, you will not pass your exam, and you risk being expelled from the university. Because a number of different types of plagiarism exist, some students unintentionally engage in this practice, and as a result, they suffer the unfortunate consequences. We do not want these consequences to happen to you. To avoid these severe problems, we strongly urge you to:

  • Familiarize yourself with the university’s plagiarism policies - You will find information about these policies on the Avoid Plagiarism tab of the Comprehensive Exam Canvas course. Pay particular attention to the information about self-plagiarism.
  • Watch the Plagiarism and TurnItIn Tutorial – The video (which is on the Avoid Plagiarism tab of the Comprehensive Exam Canvas course) provides detailed information about how to 
  1. avoid plagiarism, and
  2. interpret TurnItIn reports. 
  • Use the Check the Originality of Your Writing assignment (which is on the Avoid Plagiarism tab) to generate TurnItIn reports for each of your responses BEFORE submitting your exam for evaluation – Just follow the step-by-step instructions in Canvas. 

Whether or not you take the time to review and understand the plagiarism policies, it is your responsibility to adhere to the requirements, and we will hold you accountable for them.

How do I submit my responses to the exam?

After completing your exam:

  • Post your file in Canvas - Follow the instructions on the Submit Your Exam tab on the Home page of the Comprehensive Exam Canvas course.
  • Email the Comp Exam Coordinator ( to indicate your exam has been submitted in Canvas. Do NOT attach a copy of your comprehensive exam to the email.