You are here

Comprehensive Exam

The intent of the comprehensive exam is to challenge the student to develop a sound research plan that is based on his/her PhD educational experience at UL Lafayette. This approach provides a quality check on the content and quality of the educational program along with the skills obtained by the student to apply this education to address a pressing research need within the field. But, the intent is also to pick a topic that is clearly outside that the dissertation topic and that the student develops the proposal without direct benefit of faculty input. Passing of the Comprehensive Exam is a requirement for the PhD program – no exceptions.

Comprehensive Exam Topic

Student must submit a topic proposal in the form of a white paper detailing (concisely) the topic and why it is not directly tied to their dissertation topic. The major professor and student sign this document as evidence that they both agree the topical area is not directly related to the dissertation topic and that the major professor supports this topical area. The white paper cannot exceed 2,000 words. The proposal must have a majority vote of acceptance by the graduate committee indicating that they accept the topic and that by accepting it is an appropriate topic. The Program coordinator must also approve the topic and indicates acceptance.

Sitting for Comprehensive Exam

The Comprehensive Exam is intended to challenge the student’s ability to use their formal education to set up a method to address a problem. This exam is a test of the student’s ability, as such, the student must work independently and not discuss nor consult with anyone (including the major professor). The exam cannot be taken until all courses within the student’s accepted program of study are completed.

The Comprehensive Exam is made up of two components: written and presentation. The student must pass both components to continue his/her education within the PhD program. Note that the student has two attempts to pass each component. Retesting can be done only after a minimum of two weeks have passed since receiving component scores.

The comprehensive exam will proceed as follows:

  • Student has one semester to complete the exam which is made up of two components: a written proposal and a PowerPoint presentation formally given to the graduate committee.
  • The student and the major professor declares to the program coordinator two weeks (14 calendar days) prior to the start of the testing semester of the exam.
  • The written proposal must exactly follow current NSF proposal guidelines and will be reviewed to ensure that these rules are followed.
  • The student must use PowerPoint for verbal component of the exam. The presentation cannot exceed 35 slides.
  • The first attempt on the written component must be submitted and graded by the graduate committee, prior to the grading of the verbal component. The grades are simply pass/fail votes given by each committee member. A simple majority of the votes provides the grade. Note that a student can pass the verbal component and not pass the first attempt of the written component.
  • The two exam components are graded by the graduate committee. They grading of these two components is considered two independent grades. For each component, a student has only two attempts to pass or he/she is removed from the program.
  • The grading period for both components are during the final three weeks of the semester (21 days) with one week (7 days) after the last semester exam day marking the beginning of the final week.