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Comprehensive Examinations

  • Objectives

    The objectives of the written and oral comprehensive examinations will be for the student to demonstrate:

    • An understanding of psychological research in educational systems.
    • A specialization in educational psychology that is designed to advance theory and research related to educational practice.
    • Proficiency with using qualitative and quantitative research methods.
    • Professional written and oral communication skills in the dissemination of research.
    • Proficiency with computer applications involving data processing.
    • An ability to design and conduct original research that contributes to understanding problems and issues in educational settings.
    • Practical knowledge of the Ethical Principles of the American Psychological Association and the American Educational Research Association.
  • Eligibility

    Eligibility for the Written Comprehensive Examination is based upon meeting the following criteria:

    1. Regular admission to the degree program.
    2. Completion of 36 semester hours (60 semester hours if baccalaureate-only student) of core course work.
    3. An approved statement of specialization.
    4. An approved plan of study.
    5. A grade point average of 3.0 in graduate course work.
    6. Satisfactory annual progress reports from the Educational Psychology Faculty.
    7. Appointment of an Oral Comprehensive Examination Committee.
    8. Approval of the program advisor.

    Upon meeting the eligibility criteria, students should submit the Permission to Take Written Comprehensive Examination form and the Comprehensive Exam Honor Code form to the graduate program administrative assistant in the School of Psychological Sciences office.

  • The Written Examination

    Each student is required to complete ONE major project that is an empirical, data-based project, either quantitative or qualitative research. The student will coordinate the process with his or her advisor. The project must be approved by the advisor prior to its inception. The project will be primarily the student’s own effort, under the supervision of the advisor and other committee members, when appropriate. Supervising faculty may be involved to the extent they would be in a dissertation. APA format is required. The project will be submitted to a professional conference or for publication upon completion. Submit one copy of each paper to the members of your committee who will be reading your papers and one copy of each to the School of Psychological Sciences Office for your file.

    Before beginning work on the data-based comprehensive project and after consultation with the advisor, the student will develop a brief project proposal that is between 750 and 1250 words for the Doctoral Committee to review.  The student will then schedule an oral defense of the proposal that should include at least two of the three regular committee members (exclusive of the Faculty Representative).  All three regular committee members (excluding the Faculty Representative) must approve the proposal for the student to be allowed to submit the Permission to Take Written Comprehensive Examination form. The Faculty Representative will be sent the proposal and has an option to attend the meeting, but will not be voting on approval.

  • Project Evaluation

    The comprehensive paper will be read by all members of the doctoral committee, with the exception of the Faculty Representative. A majority of this committee must pass the project for the student to move on to the Oral Examination. In the case of a tie, the Faculty Representative will read and evaluate the paper.

    The Comprehensive Written Examination is evaluated on a pass/fail basis with the results of the examination forwarded to the Graduate School. In the event of failure, one retake of the examination is permitted at the discretion of the student’s committee. The project will be evaluated according to the objectives of the comprehensive examination and the appropriate professional standards. The project will be evaluated as if it were submitted and reviewed in the appropriate professional journal. Specific standards will be determined by the advisor and student prior to the inception of the project. The committee will attend to the project's written form, theoretical rationale, literature review, methodological integrity, ethical implications, and contributions to theory and educational practice. Guidelines used by faculty to evaluate the project and provide written feedback can be viewed here:

    Documents comprising the comprehensive examination and written feedback from the committee concerning the student’s examination will be placed in the student’s file in the School of Psychological Sciences.

    You will be notified by a Written Comprehensive Exam Results form of your results. Allow two weeks for readers to evaluate your comps papers.

  • The Oral Examination

     The purpose of the Comprehensive Oral Examination is to assess the doctoral student’s ability to orally communicate with other professionals about their specialization, the results of their research, and the fulfillment of other objectives of the comprehensive examination and the appropriate professional standards. Consequently, the Comprehensive Oral Examination may not be restricted to the projects in the Written Comprehensive Examination.

    Upon satisfactory completion of the Written Comprehensive Examination, it is the responsibility of the student to schedule the Comprehensive Oral Examination with his or her doctoral research committee in accordance with the policies and procedures of the Graduate School. Be sure you do the following:

    • Check the Graduate School deadline for holding an oral defense.
    • Complete the Request to Schedule a Doctoral Examination form from the Graduate School website. It requires your advisor’s signature. Give a copy to the School of Psychological Sciences for your file and submit the form to the Graduate School.
    • Work with your advisor and the rest of your committee to find a two-hour meeting time and location (see the administrative assistant in the office to schedule this room). The time and location of your oral will be published by the Graduate School.
    • Send a copy of your written papers to each of your committee members, if they do not already have them.
    • Before the oral, meet with your advisor to review the expectations for this meeting.

    At the end of your meeting, you will be asked to step outside the room while your committee discusses your performance. Comprehensive Oral Examinations are evaluated as:

    • pass;
    • will pass if meets stated conditions;
    • unsatisfactory, retake permitted; or
    • unsatisfactory, retake not permitted, program terminated with the results of the examinations forwarded to the Graduate School.

    One retake of the oral examination is permitted. (See the Graduate School policies regarding comps in the UNC Bulletin.)