Comprehensive examination

Background. Every master’s degree candidate is required to demonstrate mastery of his or her field — hence the name of the degree — either through a comprehensive exam (oral, written, or both) or through an alternative departmental or curricular assessment procedure by the Administrative Board of the Graduate School. This requirement of demonstrated mastery is a longstanding and universal tradition of graduate education, as well as a formal requirement of the Graduate School. Finally, accrediting bodies like the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) also require that our graduates have demonstrated their mastery of the core concepts of public health.

The Health Care and Prevention MPH concentration chooses to satisfy the comprehensive examination requirement by administering a one-day written, open-book comprehensive examination through which students can show that they have mastered the competencies taught in the Health Care and Prevention core courses. A student’s demonstration of her or his command of the field is something to be celebrated, and the comprehensive exam is one of the last opportunities to show such command of the subject matter of public health.

Content and expectations. The examination includes five questions addressing the program’s core competency areas. Students are required to answer three of the five questions.

Passing answers will demonstrate a thorough grasp of the concepts, background, and tools necessary to answer the questions. Students are welcome to consult references as they compose their answers, and should provide citations to any references they use.
 
What is the minimum required to pass the comprehensive exam? You must take the comprehensive exam seriously (as you would one of your medical school Board Exams). Along with your Master’s Paper, the comprehensive exam is your final chance to demonstrate to the School of Public Health that you have acquired the knowledge, skills, and level of expertise required of a public health professional. Therefore, in order to receive a passing grade, your written answers to the questions you choose must demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of the particular subject area of public health and reflect mastery-level thinking. Your answers should reflect strong comprehension of many of the concepts applicable to the particular public health subject area. A passing answer must include a minimum of 70% (in our judgment) of the relevant concepts and/or analysis necessary to address the question but, of course, we often find that HC&P students exceed the minimum!

Administration procedures. Students will notify the Registrar of their intent to take the examination no later than three weeks prior to its scheduled date of administration. Note that students must be registered in the semester in which they take the exam.

The HC&P comprehensive exam will be available electronically on a PHLP Comprehensive Exam Sakai site. Students who have registered for each date will have access to the exam questions for that date only, beginning at 8:00 a.m. and ending at 5:00 p.m. Please look for an email before the exam date to confirm your access to the exam Sakai site.

The Director and Associate Director of the program will grade the examinations. Students will be notified of their grades (pass or fail) within three weeks of the date of the examination. Each student must pass the comprehensive examination to receive the MPH degree.
 
For further information, please see page 65 of the 2013-14 Public Health Leadership Program Student Handbook.
 
NOTE: Spring and Summer 2014 dates for administration of the comprehensive exam are April 25 (register by April 4) and May 16 (register by April 25). Because the exam will be administered electronically, these dates are firm. Please plan accordingly and do not ask for exceptions.