Skip to main content
Skip to navigation

Graduate Program Comprehensive Exam

Doctoral comprehensive examination

The comprehensive examination is the most advanced posed by MU. It 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.

The student must be enrolled to take this examination. It is to be administered only when MU is officially in session.

Written section

The written section of the examination may be conducted in one or both of the following ways:

  • The written section may be arranged and supervised by the major adviser, in which case questions are prepared and graded by the doctoral advisory committee;
  • The major adviser may delegate responsibility for arranging, preparing, supervising and grading the written section of the examination to one or more departmental or program committees appointed for this purpose.

Successful completion

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.

Continuous enrollment after the exam

Students must maintain continuous enrollment during their candidacy (the period after successful completion of the comprehensive examination).


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. The student and the committee members are encouraged to work together to identify steps the student might take to become fully prepared for the next examination.

Request for clarification

If at any time the student believes that the advice given by the committee is inadequate, the student may send a written request for clarification to the committee. A copy of this request should be sent to the Graduate School as well. The committee must respond to this request in writing within two weeks and a copy must be filed with the Graduate School.

Retaking the exam

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.

Continuous enrollment

Doctoral students must register on myZou every semester to maintain doctoral candidacy and retain access to campus resources.

More »