Jump to main content

Comprehensive Exams

The purposes of comprehensive examinations for students in the master's program of Educational Psychology are

  1. to fulfill the requirement of the Graduate School for the administration of a comprehensive examination for master’s students, and
  2. to evaluate the ability of master’s students to synthesize research and theory in Educational Psychology and to present this information in an effective written format.

The student’s paper that comprises the comprehensive examination may have one of several origins:

  • It may be related to one of the required courses in the Educational Psychology;
  • it may be the student’s revision of a paper prepared for a graduate class; or
  • it may be a new paper prepared by the student specifically for the purposes of this comprehensive examination.

Additional information on requirements is contained in the remainder of this webpage.

Format, Criteria, and Evaluation of Comprehensive Exams

The comprehensive examination will follow the format of a capstone paper or literature review. The paper will focus on a topic related to Educational Psychology and will be approved as a topic by the student’s advisor. The paper may be an extension of the student’s work in a graduate class at UNC, but at least 75% of the content must be new and not previously submitted as a course assignment. 

In addition, the student should be aware that the criteria for evaluation for the comprehensive examination will differ from criteria for evaluation used by an instructor for a particular assignment in a course (these criteria are outlined below). Students may receive feedback from the advisor prior to formal submission of the paper as the comprehensive examination. However, the paper should be predominantly the work of the student, not the advisor, another instructor, or some other person.

Should the student wish to seek other advice (e.g., from a statistical consultant or an editor), the student needs to discuss this matter ahead of time with the advisor. The advisor will consult with the student and ensure that any such guidance is limited and does not detract from the attribution that the paper is primarily an accomplishment of the student. Students will be asked to sign an affirmation that confirms that the work is primarily their own work and does not reflect an act of plagiarism.

Formatting of Capstone Paper

The paper should be formatted according to the latest style manual of the American Psychological Association (6th edition or later). Length should be approximately 30 pages and more specifically between 25 and 35 pages (title page, reference list and any tables or figures are above and beyond the 25 - 35 page range). Paper should be double spaced, with one-inch margins, and with a legible 12-point Times Roman font.

Capstone Paper Review and Results

The examination paper will be read by the advisor and one other faculty member in the School of Psychological Sciences with concentrated expertise in the area. If the two faculty members disagree in their recommendations (pass or fail), a third member will read the paper. It generally takes two weeks for students to receive the results of the examination.

According to UNC Graduate School policy, a student who fails the comprehensive examination is permitted one retake of the examination that must be scheduled in a subsequent semester from the original examination. The student will submit a rewrite/revision of the paper to be submitted the following semester and to be reevaluated according to the criteria described above. Per the Graduate School policy, failure of a retake of an examination will result in the student’s termination from the master’s program.

Resources for Completion of Examination

Students may use resources (e.g., dictionary, journal articles, books, internet) as they compose the paper. Citations of the work of theorists and researchers need to be included.

Rubric for Evaluation of Comprehensive Examination
M.A. Educational Psychology Comprehensive Examination Policy