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A doctoral student must successfully complete the comprehensive examination within a period of five years beginning with the first semester of enrollment as a PhD student. Individual departments or area programs may stipulate a shorter time period.

The comprehensive examination consists of written and oral sections. It must be completed at least seven months before the final defense of the dissertation. The two sections of the examination must be completed within one month.  For the comprehensive examination to be completed successfully, the doctoral advisory committee must vote to pass the student on the entire examination, both written and oral sections, with no more than one dissenting or abstaining vote.

A report of this decision, the Doctoral Comprehensive Examination Results form (D3), with the signatures of all committee members, must be sent to the Graduate School and the student no later than two weeks after the comprehensive examination is completed.

A failure of either the written or oral section of the exam constitutes failure of the comprehensive exam. If a failure is reported, the committee also must include in the report an outline of the general weaknesses or deficiencies of the student’s work. This report should be sent to the Graduate School as well.
A student who fails may not take a second comprehensive examination for at least 12 weeks. Failure to pass two comprehensive examinations automatically prevents candidacy.

Official university recesses, university holidays, and periods of intersession that fall between the two sections of the examination (for example, Thanksgiving Recess, Winter Break) will not count against the student’s timeline. Students are encouraged to communicate and work with committee members to achieve a mutually workable timeline.