Doctoral Comprehensive Examination Guidelines

What is the purpose of the Doctoral Comprehensive Examination?

The doctoral Comprehensive Examination (“Comps”) is used to confirm that the candidate demonstrates mastery of the essential academic knowledge and/or scholarship required to proceed to dissertation writing.  Students are not allowed to register for dissertation writing unless they have passed the doctoral Comprehensive Examination.

What is the structure of the Doctoral Comprehensive Examination and what is required?

The doctoral Comprehensive Examination is divided into six major areas for both the PreK-12 and the Higher Education concentrations.  For the PreK-12 concentration, these areas include:  Theories and Principles; Research; Planning for Educational Change; Decision Making; Legal Aspects; and Finance.  For the Higher Education concentration, these areas include:  Foundations of Higher Education; Organization and Administration; Research; Curriculum, Faculty, and Students; Legal Aspects; and Finance.  Students will be given several questions in each of these sections but will be expected to answer only one question from each area.  The questions contained on the Comprehensive Examination are in both a scenario-based format and a question-and-answer format. 

The doctoral Comprehensive Examination is six hours in length. Students must show proper identification (driver’s license or university photo identification) for admission into the exam. No technology (iPhone, tablets, iPad, etc.) can be brought into the room.  No additional resources (internet, USB drives, etc.) can be used during the exam.

How often is the Doctoral Comprehensive Examination offered in the Department of Educational Leadership?

The doctoral comprehensive examination is offered three times per year. The examination is administered on the second Saturday in October, February, and June.  The examination dates for the 2020/2021 academic year are as follows:   

  • Saturday,  September 9, 2023
  • Saturday, February 10, 2024
  • Saturday, June 8, 2024

How are examinations assessed?

The Comprehensive Examination is scored by two reviewers using a rubric developed internally. A copy of the rubric is available upon request from the department.  Students will receive a pass or fail score on the AM and PM sections.  If there is a discrepancy between the two reviewers, a third reviewer will be asked to score the examination.  The score of the third reviewer will determine the status of the student’s results. If a student fails either the AM or PM section of the examine, that section must be retaken.

A student may take the doctoral Comprehensive Examination a maximum of three (3) times.  Depending upon the student’s performance, remediation and certain programmatic modifications may be required.  Successful performance on all sections of the doctoral Comprehensive Examination entitles the student to advance to the dissertation writing stage.  A third failure of any portion of the examination will result in dismissal of the student from the doctoral program.

How should I prepare for the examination?

  • The student should review standards and knowledge, skills, and dispositions outlined in course syllabi;
  • The students should be aware of major theories and theorist covered during class lessons;
  • The student should have an understanding of research designs for both quantitative and qualitative research.
  • The student should use course lessons, textbooks, class notes, and relevant library and internet resources.

When are students eligible to register for the Doctoral Comprehensive Examination?

To be eligible to take the Comprehensive Examination, doctoral candidates must meet these requirements:

  • Achieve a “pass” score on the Qualifying Examination;
  • Complete at least seventy-five percent (75%) of courses in the major field and seventy-five percent (75%) of elective courses;
  • Complete all core requirements;
  • Maintain at least a 3.0 grade-point average (with no “Incomplete” grades or grades of “C”);
  • Complete and submit the Doctoral Comprehensive Examination Application one semester prior to the intended examination date. Written approval from the candidate’s committee chairperson must be obtained. (Please see the Graduate School Academic Calendar for application deadlines.
  • Candidates must forward their Comprehensive Examination Application to the department chair for approval.



Doctoral Comps 2024 PreK-12-STUDY GUIDE

Doctoral Comps 2024 Higher Ed-STUDY GUIDE

Comps 2024 Ed.S-STUDY GUIDE