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Comprehensive Exams

The comprehensive examination (comps) is an assessment of the student's ability to integrate knowledge in communication disorders, with specialty in either speech-language pathology or audiology.  The examination will allow the student to demonstrate his or her abilities in critical and independent thinking, as well as high-level writing skills characterized by organization, critical analysis, and accurate documentation.  The purpose of the comprehensive examination is to encourage students who are nearing graduation to engage in the systematic integration of the theoretical and practical knowledge they have gained in their masters degree program.  Comps also allow faculty to identifying students who need additional course work or other forms of study before they are granted the master's degree.

Registration for Comps:

Students opting for comps must register for 3 credits of "SPHR 501 Research: Comprehensive Examination" during the term in which they write the exam.   The grading format for SPHR 501 will be "pass/no pass".

The written examination:

Students will be presented with questions from material covered in their graduate and undergraduate courses in Speech and Hearing Sciences, and will be expected to integrate information covered in these classes.  Questions or parts of questions can be related to any course offered through the Speech and Hearing Sciences program at PSU.  The written examination will be scheduled for two 4-hour blocks of time, during Winter term.  The exam will be closed book, with essay-type questions.

Evaluation of Comprehensive Examinations:

Each student's responses in the written examination will be coded to ensure anonymity.  Typically, two readers will evaluate each answer.  Each faculty member will grade the question between 0 and 5 (0 being the lowest score, and 5 being the highest score).  The mean of the two grades will determine the student's final score.  3.0 or higher will be considered a passing grade for each question.  A grade of below 3.0 will be considered a failing grade.  The criteria that the faculty will use to evaluate the candidate responses are:

  • the extent to which the response correctly answers the question
  • conciseness and clarity of expression
  • organization and coherence of the response
  • evidence of the ability to apply concepts and methodologies taught across the graduate course sequence
  • the extent to which multiple vantage points from the literature (theories, methods, and research findings) are cited and integrated into the response

Students will be given a written report of their performance, typically within two to three weeks of their completion of their exams.  As per university policy, if the student fails the entire examination or any section thereof, the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences will permit the student to repeat the sections that were failed, after a minimum period of three months.  The result of the second examination is final (see "General Requirements for Master's Degrees" in the PSU Bulletin.

Details of the comprehensive examinations outlined here are subject to change depending on program needs and requirements.