Plan your exams

Many graduate degrees require comprehensive exams, either as the capstone (some master’s programs) or as the preliminary exam to the dissertation (Ph.D.). An exam includes both a written and an oral component.

Written exam

Your written exam could follow one of two formats, to be determined by your faculty advisory committee. Your program of study should indicate your exam format.

This exam format takes place four hours per day, typically with one topic area covered each day. Your committee will determine the level of access to information (e.g., notes, internet) you will be permitted, although the default is no notes or internet access.

This exam is taken on a school-provided computer.

This exam format takes place over the course of two weeks (14 days). You will have access to anything you need to complete the answers.

The standard of quality (citations, etc.) is higher for this form of exam than for the in-camera exam.

Oral exam

Within 30 days of the completion of the written exam, you will defend your answers for your committee in an oral examination.

At the conclusion of this oral exam, your committee will determine whether you passed the exam. The committee may defer judgment until the completion of additional work.

If you fail an exam, you may take it a second time. If you fail the second exam, you will not be allowed to continue in the program.

You will be required to bring an evaluation form to your oral exam. Download and print the appropriate form below.

Schedule your exam

To schedule your exam, download and print the appropriate application below. Submit the completed form to the graduate studies administrative associate.


Contact Stephanie DeBoer, director of graduate studies.