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Appendix F – Doctoral Comprehensive Exam Checklist

For students “on schedule,” preparing for the comprehensive exam should start in the spring of second year.  Time frames below are based on that schedule but should be adjusted for students who are operating on a different time frame.  The university requires that candidates for the Ph.D. degree must take comprehensive examinations within five years of enrollment; all requirements must be completed within eight years from the time of the student’s first enrollment in a doctoral degree program.

During Spring Semester of Second Year

_____ Finalize program committee (minimum of three faculty members from the College of Communication and Information and one from a unit that is outside of CCI but at the University of Tennessee).

_____ Obtain signatures from all members of the program committee on the finalized program plan form.  This indicates their approval of coursework.

_____ Submit the program plan to the associate dean’s office for final approval.

_____ Program committee chair works with other committee members to identify what areas will be covered by each member during examination. 

_____ Student meets with all committee members to discuss examination areas and get tips for how to study/prepare for the exam.  

_____ Student assembles dissertation committee (if different from program committee).

During Summer of Second Year

_____ Student studies for the comprehensive exam.

_____ Student prepares a brief (about 3 pages) overview of the dissertation topic.

_____ Student schedules exam through the associate dean’s office.

_____ Committee chair submits questions to associate dean two weeks before the exam begins.1 

_____ Student takes the comprehensive exam (typically at end of summer or start of fall).

Fall Semester of Third Year

_____ An oral defense of exam is scheduled (Note: This defense may be scheduled during the summer if all the committee members are available). All members of the comps committee must be present. Faculty members should have a minimum of two weeks to read written responses before the oral defense is scheduled.  Final pass/fail decisions will occur only after the completion of the written exam and its oral defense. 

_____ After successful completion of the comprehensive exam, file Admission to Candidacy form and Doctoral Committee Appointment form with the Graduate School.  Copies must also be filed with the associate dean’s office. Must be done at least one semester before intended graduation (e.g., for a spring graduation, the forms must be filed no later than the previous fall).

_____ Students who successfully complete and defend the comprehensive exam write a formal dissertation proposal.  Meet with dissertation committee to defend dissertation proposal and ideally start data collection by end of fall semester.


[1] Many faculty members may not be available during the summer to submit exam questions.  If students plan to take the exam in the summer, they should work with the committee chair to get questions submitted before faculty leave for the summer.  Alternatively, students can study for the exam over the summer, but plan to actually take it in early fall after the faculty have returned and are available to finalize their questions.