Graduate Student Resources

Master's Comprehensive Exam

Once a master's student has completed the majority of their program's coursework, they must pass a final Comprehensive Examination covering the subject matter in their Major. The Comprehensive Examination (often referred to as "comps") at the master's level is designed to assess a student's general knowledge, understanding and skills in the domain of study, and their ability to synthesize and apply critical components of this domain. The format used to satisfy the comprehensive exam requirement may vary by department or program. Some master's programs utilize non-traditional exam options such as creating a portfolio of previously completed assignments or completing a teaching internship or practicum. Other programs have students complete a traditional written exam graded by program faculty. Master's students typically take the Comprehensive Exam in their last semester of study and a passing exam score is needed to certify students for graduation.

Arrangements and deadlines for taking the Comprehensive Exam are made at the department level. Please check with your program advisor for the current semester's exam deadlines and to learn more about the comprehensive exam format in your chosen degree program.

Registration Requirements

Students must be in active degree-seeking status and enrolled for a minimum of two (2) hours of graduate credit during the semester in which the Comprehensive Examination is taken. If the exam is taken between semesters, the student must be enrolled for a minimum of two (2) hours of graduate credit in the semester before or following the exam.

  • In programs where students must complete an internship or practicum to fulfill the comprehensive exam requirement, students will typically register for an internship or practicum course listed within their major.
  • If students have completed most of their program’s coursework and need to take a course to fulfill the minimum enrollment requirement, they may elect to register for Independent Study hours in the semester they take the comprehensive exam.

Please note that students must also be registered for at least two (2) credit hours in the semester they apply to graduate. If you have completed all coursework but still need to take the comprehensive exam, you will need to register for credit hours in the semester you take the exam or you will not be eligible to graduate.

Application and Clearance to take the Comprehensive Examination

Each graduate program has their own application requirements and exam clearance process for the Comprehensive Examination. The student's department and program will determine the format of the exam, the dates on which the exam will take place, and the minimum eligibility requirements needed to register for the exam. As a general rule, master's students should have completed the majority of their coursework before registering for the exam and must be in good academic standing (GPA of 3.0 or higher) with no incomplete or missing grades on their transcript. Students should check with their program advisor for more details regarding their eligibility and timeline for taking the comprehensive exam.

Submission of Comprehensive Examination Results

Once students have completed and passed the Comprehensive Examination, the faculty members who administered the exam will need to sign and date the Verification of Comprehensive Exam Results Form and return the form to their program advisors. The student's advisors or department Academic Program Specialist must submit the Verification of Exam Results to the Graduate Support Office no later than the deadline for submission of term grades in order for the student to meet graduation requirements for that semester. All master’s students applying for graduation need to have formal verification of their comprehensive exam results on file regardless of the exam format (traditional written exam, portfolio submission, successful thesis defense, etc.). 

Verification of Comprehensive Examination Results Form