Last Updated on July 21, 2020 by Ayla Myrick

Our capstone, thesis, and dissertation consultants help graduate students prepare for their preliminary or comprehensive examinations–written and oral.

Comprehensive exams vary by institution as to length and difficulty. The student who expects to pass the comprehensive examinations should spend many hours studying course notes and notes from graduate-level lectures that were recommended by the department, paying special attention to material directly related to the student’s field of research.

The well-prepared student takes plenty of notes during all courses that are required for a degree. The comprehensive exams do not cover every topic in every class; instead, the student who passes comprehensive exams demonstrates a synthesis of knowledge obtained throughout the years of study. The student may be asked to construct a brief research proposal that includes possible research questions, related theories, and research methods that would constitute a research proposal. The student should memorize important citations by name and year, particularly those that are germinal to the area of study. Doctoral learners must pass their comps in order to proceed to the dissertation writing phase.

Know the mission statement of the department. Mission statements contain keywords that should be used in the answers to comprehensive questions, where appropriate. They represent the core knowledge and values their student should represent upon graduation.

Most universities allow a student to retake the prelims/comps a second time if the first was failed. A failure usually means a long delay in graduation. You may need to wait 6-12 months to retake the complete exam or the portion you failed. The student is not granted a degree if a second attempt results in a second failure.

The comprehensive exam is considered the bridge between your coursework and your dissertation, thesis, or capstone. Your committee members will give you an idea of the questions that will constitute the full exam. Our consultants can then pose questions for practice and review your answers.

Ayla Myrick