Ph.D. Comprehensive Exam Policy

The purpose of the Comprehensive Exam is to assess each student’s understanding of the many aspects of nutrition.

At what point during the degree program is the Comprehensive Exam given?

A Comprehensive Exam is administered to a student when he/she has essentially completed all course work and begun investigation into the doctoral research. A student must have completed the communication requirement prior to taking the exam.

When is the Comprehensive Exam Scheduled?

The exam is officially scheduled and announced by the Senior Associate Dean of the Graduate School upon recommendation of the professor-in-charge of the GPN and must be scheduled at least three weeks in advance. The student is responsible for completing the necessary paperwork to schedule the Comprehensive Exam.

Comprehensive Exam Form

The Exam Request Form for the Comprehensive Examination may be obtained from and must be submitted to the Administrative Assistant to the GPN. The Graduate School requires two weeks advance notice for the preparation of the Comprehensive Exam paperwork.

What is the nature of the Comprehensive Exam?

The Comprehensive Exam will have two components, one written and the other oral.

  • The structure of the written component is established by the Comprehensive Exam Committee and may include preparation of a research proposal on a topic that is not the topic of the student’s dissertation proposal, preparation of a review article, a closed book written exam or variations on these options.
  • The oral component will be scheduled to be held within one to two weeks of the written exam. The oral component is not restricted to the topics addressed in the written component.
  • The exam format is agreed upon by all members of the Committee and is not chosen solely by the primary mentor. If the student’s committee feels that the student’s performance has been adequately assessed, they may truncate the process before the completion of the three hour period.
  • If the exam is passed, the student continues in the program; if the exam is failed, the student’s program is terminated. A two-thirds favorable vote by the members of the committee is required to pass. Results of the exam are reported to the Office of Graduate Student Programs and will be entered onto the student’s official record.
  • The student is responsible for having the appropriate form completed by the Candidacy Examination Committee. This form may be obtained from and must be submitted to the Administrative Assistant to the GPN.
  • At least three members of the Comprehensive Examination Committee, including the student’s advisor/research mentor, must be physically present at the oral exam [thus, for a five-person committee, two could participate via distance]. No more than one member may participate via telephone; a second member could participate via Pic-Tel. The student must also be physically present at the Comprehensive Exam.

Composition of the Comprehensive Exam Committee Members

The minimum number of members is four. Two members must be from the major field; one member must be from outside of the major field; the fourth member can be inside or outside the major field.