Comprehensive Exams

The purpose of the comprehensive examinations is to satisfy the committee that the candidate is familiar with the context of his/her dissertation, is adequately prepared to begin work on his/her dissertation, has developed one or more areas of professional competence, and is familiar with typical problems, including problems of method.

The areas of the candidate's comprehensive examinations are determined by the candidate's supervisory committee. Requirements shall be as uniform in difficulty and time demands as possible. The areas shall be reasonably broad. In normal circumstances the candidate is to be assumed to devote the equivalent of 6-8 months to preparation for the examinations.

The examinations comprise three written papers and an oral examination. The examination will be set and assessed by an examining committee normally consisting of the candidate's supervisory committee. With the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies, the examining committee may have additional members if the areas call for additional expertise.

The written papers are determined by the supervisory committee and based on a reading list composed by the student in consultation with the committee. The reading list will consist of primary sources and secondary material as appropriate for the areas. The candidate's areas and the format (the nature of the questions and the number of questions/choices) of the written papers must be approved by the ISAW regular faculty at least six months before the examination

The written papers will be written under examination conditions, with a duration of three hours each. (Specific exam questions should be circulated to all committee members prior to exam date).

Decisions will be communicated to the candidate in writing and not departed from without prior agreement of both candidate and committee. Following the examination, the candidate will be provided with copies of his/her written answers without delay. The written papers are assessed on a pass/fail basis.

If a candidate's written answers indicate the likelihood of a pass, the candidate will be asked to attend an oral examination. The function of the oral is to confirm or modify an opinion based on the candidate's written papers.

If the candidate fails either the written papers or the oral exam, one adjournment of each is permitted. The examining committee may rule, in voting for an adjournment, that part only of the written papers need be repeated, the candidate's answers to the other papers being allowed to stand over. Unsatisfactory performance in the oral exam will normally result in an adjournment.

The candidate's supervisor will create a written summary of the examining committee's evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses in the written and oral components of the examinations in consultation with the committee. Upon approval by the committee, the candidate's supervisor will send the student this summary, with copies to the committee, the Director of Graduate Studies, and the Associate Director for Academic Affairs.