For Current Students
For Prospective Students
Research Labs




Comprehensive Requirements

Instead of the traditional written exam, the Cognitive Area Comprehensive Exam is based on three specific activities that represent a sample of primary responsibilities associated with an academic career: 

1.  Journal article critique:  Write a short (one-to-three page, single-spaced) review of a recent journal article (published or unpublished).  Assess its strengths and weaknesses, and make detailed recommendations for its revision.  Typically, advisors give students a manuscript that has been sent to them for publication consideration.

Must be approved by student's advisor.

 2.  Review paper (after Psychological Bulletin or Annual Review of Psychology format):  Write a comprehensive review of a particular topic or issue which demonstrates breadth of knowledge in psychology as well as a critique and thorough understanding of a particular topic.

Should be completed by the end of August of the studentís third year and be approved by student's comprehensive exam committee members.

 3.  Teaching preparation: There is a choice between preparing course materials or writing a teaching portfolio.

3a.  Course design:(a one-semester course at either the undergraduate or graduate level):  prepare a detailed syllabus (statement of goals, course outline, and readings), brief outlines for each class period, the instructor's course notes for two full lectures, as well as the questions and answers for a midterm exam and the final exam.

Must be approved by student's comprehensive exam committee members.

3b.  Teaching Portfolio:  The Teaching Resource Center, TRC, offers a yearly workshop on writing a teaching portfolio.  Attending this workshop and completing the portfolio will satisfy the teaching component of the comprehensive exam.


            Students are expected to do the work required for the Comprehensive Exam after the requirements for the Master's are completed, but before the dissertation is defended.

            Students should choose a Comprehensive Exam advisor by the end of the second year of graduate study. In consultation with this adviser, students must also choose two other faculty members to serve on their Comprehensive Exam Committee. These committee members must be faculty in the Psychology Department, but do not necessarily have to be faculty within the cognitive area.  Typically, students select an exam committee with the anticipation that these faculty members will also be on their dissertation committee.

            Students cannot fail the Comprehensive Exam, but the committee may return any part of the work for revision.  If any part of the work is severely flawed, the committee may inform the student that a single revision is unlikely to be acceptable.