Psychology Comprehensive Examination Guidelines

The Comprehensive Examination Committee

The Comprehensive exam committee shall comprise the following:

Comprehensive examination chair

  • Moderates and facilitates the written and oral exam, but does not participate in writing or asking questions
  • Ensures that the student and committee follow SGS regulations
  • Holds a Ph.D.
  • Is a member of SGS
  • Votes only in the event of a tie
  • Approved by supervisor and supervisory committee

The supervisory committee, including the supervisor(s)

The Comprehensive Examination Format

Examination Component:


Written Component

The comprehensive examination will assess the student’s competence beyond the focus of their research topic. The comprehensive examination committee shall choose one of the following options for the written exam.  Regardless of format, the written component must go beyond the focus of the student’s thesis, and include multiple research topics. The student is to complete all work independently.

  1. Four written answers to questions. Thirty days before the start of the written exam, the committee presents the student with eight questions. At each of four closed book, no internet, proctored, two-hour writing sessions, the student is presented with two of these questions, and chooses one to answer. All four questions shall be completed within 30 calendar days.
  2. One or more review paper(s) based on theme(s) provided by the exam committee. The committee may require or recommend a reading list. The paper(s) shall be due no more than three months after they are assigned.
  3. Design a new course that could be taught at the U of L. The course shall be designed for the 4000 or 5000-level. It shall not rely on a textbook, and at least 75% of the course material shall be beyond the scope of the student’s thesis topic. The student will submit the syllabus and all curriculum (slides if they’re being used, lesson plans, etc.) and assessment instruments (quizzes, tests, etc.).

The committee shall determine any parameters that are not specified in this document (e.g., length of essay, time available to write).

Oral Component

During the oral exam, committee members will ask the student questions that address (but are not limited to) the written component. The entire oral exam is limited to two hours.


The comprehensive exam committee shall determine whether the student passes or fails each component of the exam. If there is no consensus decision, there shall be a vote determined by simple majority. In the event of a tie vote, the examination committee chair shall cast the deciding vote.

The student must pass the written exam before beginning the oral exam.

In the event of a failed exam, the comprehensive examination committee shall set the date to re-take the failed component of the exam (neither sooner than 2-weeks nor longer than 4-months after the failed exam).

The comprehensive exam committee will determine the content of the second exam(s), in accordance with instructions pertaining to the written exam outlined above. The second exam(s) may include material that was not included in the first exam(s). If new material is introduced, the student shall be given sufficient time to prepare.

In the event that a student fails the second exam, the comprehensive examination committee shall consult with the student and decide (1) whether to recommend withdrawal from the Ph.D. program, and (2) whether to recommend that the student be allowed to complete a master’s degree.

Approved by Graduate Council on February 4, 2021.