The Written Comprehensive Examination

The Maternal & Child Health Department fulfills the Graduate School’s written exam requirement by having students take the MCH Doctoral Written Comprehensive Exam.

Purpose

The purposes of the MCH Doctoral Written Comprehensive Exam are:

  • To document candidates’ mastery of the MCH knowledge base and current MCH practice (as covered in the core master’s and doctoral course sequence MHCH 701-702); and
  • To document candidates’ knowledge and use of theory, review of the literature, research design, and analytic approaches in addressing a MCH question (as covered in MHCH 801 and MHCH 859).

Eligibility to Take the Exam

Students are eligible to take the exam after they have successfully passed all of the required MCH core and analytic coursework, and the students’ Curriculum Committee members agree the students are ready to take the exam. Student may take the exam if they still have additional coursework for their minor or substantive areas with approval from their committee. In exceptional circumstances, students may take the exam before they have completed required MCH and analytic coursework, with approval from the Curriculum Committee and the Students may complete one of their two required internships after the exam with the approval of their curriculum committee.

Exam Format

The exam is taken over 3 days; typically days are consecutive. Allowance for a “break day” is possible with approval of the Director of Graduate Studies and Director of the Doctoral Program. Students have access to one question per day via email or Sakai, and will have 6 hours (plus an hour for breaks) to complete each question. Students access a question beginning at 9:00 AM and are required to email their answer by 4:00 PM of that same day, or may receive the question at 8:00 AM and email their answer by 3:00 PM. Student preferences regarding times will be accommodated by the Student Services Manager, and student preferences will be solicited by the Student Services Manager one week before the exam. The exam format is that of a take-home, open-book exam.

If a student perceives ambiguity in a question or has some other problem regarding the question, the student should state their interpretation of the question and answer accordingly. Students may not ask questions to the faculty about the meaning or interpretation of questions.

Students must answer three questions, or one question per day. These questions will be the same for all students:

  • two questions from the core master’s/doctoral course sequence ; and
  • one question on theory/literature review/research/analytic methods..

Exam Coordination and Development

The Associate Chair for Graduate Studies and the Director of the Doctoral Program coordinate the exam process. Students who plan to take comprehensive exams should notify the Department’s Student Services Manager at the beginning of the semester in which they hope to take the exam. The Student Services Manager provides the Director of Graduate Studies and the Director of the Doctoral Program with a list of these students and the names of faculty who serve as academic advisors for these students.

The two exam questions that document candidates’ knowledge of core MCH content and practice are written by the instructors of MHCH 701-702 and faculty with expertise in these areas.

The exam questions that document candidates’ knowledge of theory/literature review/research/analytic methods are written by the instructors of MHCH 801, MHCH 859 and faculty with expertise in these areas.

Exam Timing

The Director of Graduate Studies determines the timing of the exam. Typically the exam is offered once a year in late spring, when most students are eligible to take the exam. The comprehensive exam must take place before the end of the spring academic semester. All doctoral students taking the exam must take it on the same dates. Doctoral cohorts are responsible for sending their preference for timing of the exam to the student services manager and the Director of the Doctoral Program their availability and preference for exam timing by March 31st. It is preferable that cohorts consult with each other and send a single email with the preferences and availability of the group. If this coordination is not possible, or if there are scheduling challenges within a cohort, students should alert the Student Services Manager, who will help facilitate scheduling. During some years, the exam may be offered at a different time of the year, with this timing determined by the Director of Graduate Studies after reviewing the needs of students and faculty availability for exam preparation/grading.

Grading

Two faculty members, including one who participated in writing the question, anonymously grade answers to each exam question. All examination answers are individually graded either pass (P) or fail (F). In addition to assigning a grade, each examiner is expected to provide the student with a narrative evaluation. Examination committee members have at least one week to read their assigned questions and submit their grades and narrative evaluations to the Director of Graduate Studies. If, after consulting with each other, the two faculty graders disagree on the grade for a given answer, another faculty member other than the student’s academic advisor will be asked by the Director of Graduate Studies to read the answer to determine which grade will prevail. Students are notified of their grades via email and a sealed letter from the Director of Graduate Studies, usually within two weeks of exam completion.

Inadequate Exam Performance Procedures

Failing one question at the first exam attempt

Failing one question on the first exam attempt is considered a “conditional pass.” Students who fail one question on the first attempt must rewrite their answer to that one question. Failing the re-written question constitutes failing the exam, and is reported to the Graduate School. When the first exam is failed, the student must take an entirely new exam (a second test of three new questions) after waiting at least three months. . If the student fails one or more questions on the second exam, the entire exam will be considered a failure and is reported to the Graduate School. With two exam failures a student is ineligible for further graduate work in the MCH department.

Failing two or more questions on the first exam attempt

Failing two or more questions on the first exam attempt is considered as a failure of the exam, and is reported to the Graduate School. Students who fail two or more questions on the first exam attempt must take an entirely new, three-question make-up exam after waiting at least three months. . If students fail one or more questions on the second exam, the entire exam is considered a failure and is reported to the Graduate School. With two exam failures a student is ineligible for further graduate work in the MCH department.

The timing of second exams will be set by the Director of Graduate Studies in consultation with student advisors and will depend on the needs of other students in the department and faculty resources. Students must be registered in the semester in which they take the initial exam, rewrite an individual question, or take a re-test of the entire examination.

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Have specific questions about our programs or would like to schedule a visit? Please contact our Student Services Manager, Carrie Aldrich, (919) 966-2018.

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