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  School of Public Affairs and Administration 2013–2015 Degree Programs Ph.D. Program Comprehensive Examinations  

Comprehensive Examinations

Doctoral students become formal candidates for the degree only after successful completion of the comprehensive examination and defense of the dissertation prospectus. The application for admission to candidacy for the degree is available under "Forms/Documents" and should be submitted to the director of the Ph.D. program at the time of completion of exams and the prospectus. The completed form should be filed with the Graduate School office.

The comprehensive examinations in public administration are in three parts (theoretical core, field, research design), each of which may be taken only upon completion of all required coursework in the relevant area of examination. Comprehensive examination I is given in January and June of each year. Comprehensive examination II may be taken at any time after successful completion of comprehensive examination I and successful completion of all field courses. Comprehensive examination III may be taken at any time after successful completion of comprehensive examinations I and II. The program recommends that students who complete all of their coursework on a full-time basis sit for part(s) of the examination at the conclusion of the spring semester of their second year, and complete all parts of the examination as early as possible in the fall semester of their third year; all students (including those who have enrolled on a part-time basis for some semesters) should plan to complete the examination process by the end of their third year.

  1. Theoretical Core. A one-day, in-class, closed-book, written examination consisting of two three-hour answers. Each option will be based upon courses in the sequence. 
  2. Field.  A 48-hour take-home examination based upon courses in a specified field.
  3. Research Design. The student will have one week to complete this part of the examination, which is development of a research design on a particular subtopic. This examination may be taken at any time subsequent to successful completion of comprehensive examinations I and II.

Comprehensive examinations I and II will be graded on an anonymous basis (i.e., a student will be identified by a code number, not by name) by faculty members who taught core courses and by a faculty member assigned by the director of the Ph.D. program. If one faculty member evaluates the exam as a pass, and the other as a failure, a third faculty member will be assigned to grade that exam and the majority opinion shall prevail. If both faculty members evaluate the exam as a failure, the student must repeat the exam for that question at the next regularly scheduled date. In preparation for the examination, sample questions will be available. Students should provide notice of intent to take examinations as early as possible.

Each question will be graded as high pass, pass, or fail. A passing grade on the comprehensive examination requires a passing grade in all sections: high pass or pass. Students shall be informed of the outcome of each part of the examination within four weeks of completing that part. Each student who takes the examination is counseled by the Ph.D. program director once the grading process is complete for each section. A student may retake a section once subsequent to a failure. If a student fails a section two times, the student will be asked to leave the program, but may appeal that decision to the program's executive committee.
For additional information, contact RU-info at 732-445-info (4636) or
Comments and corrections to: Campus Information Services.

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