Graduate Program Comprehensive Exams


The graduate comprehensive exam assesses mastery of core theoretical concepts, research methodologies, scholarly traditions, and key literature common to the field of communication studies. Held over three class meetings, the exam consists of one question on communication theory, one question on research methods, and one question on the student’s elected course work in an area of specialization. Exam questions will ask students to do the following:

1.      Identify, explain, and critique the major paradigms and theories that have shaped the field of communication, including their historical development and current trends;

2.      Demonstrate an awareness of the ethical implications of any given theory or practice of communication;

3.      Interpret and critique research methods used in published communication research studies;

4.      Explain how to design and conduct scholarly research using one or more methods of inquiry;

5.      Demonstrate knowledge of the ethical considerations inherent in conducting research in communication;

6.      Identify, engage, and critique key literature in an elected area of specialization;

7.      Demonstrate knowledge of how to relate and apply that literature to the study of communicative practices.

Exam Details

Students can enroll in COMM 297 to take the exam as early as the second semester in the program. Theory and method questions cover core curriculum and refer to common readings (see our exam reading list available on our Canvas site). The content for questions on elected course work will be based primarily on course syllabi. Exams will evaluated by the COMM 297 instructor and two other members of the graduate faculty. Students should coordinate with the instructor to determine who will write and assess the question for the student's chosen area of specialization.

This is a closed book exam. Exam responses must be typed. The department will provide students with computers on which to work. The department will also provide any accommodations needed due to a disability. Presidential Directive 97-03 requires that students with disabilities requesting accommodations must register with the DRC (Disability Resource Center) to establish a record of their disability.

Grading Policy

Students must pass all three sections of the exam. A committee consisting of the COMM 297 instructor and one other member of the graduate faculty will evaluate the theory and method portions of the exam. The faculty member responsible for writing a student's elective question will evaluate that portion of the exam. Students who fail one or more areas of the exam must make arrangements to re-take those portions of the exam the following semester. Students may re-take the exam one time. In other words, students have two opportunities to get passing marks on all three parts of the exam.  For students who wish to undertake a project or thesis, they can begin the process prior to taking the exam but must first complete the exam before enrolling in project or thesis hours. 

Exam Preparation

A list of recommended core readings on communication theories and research methods is available on our dedicated Canvas site. We encourage students to make use of this list when preparing for the exam. 

Looking for the old exam?

Information about the old exam format (Plan B1) is available on our forms page.