FAQs on the Comprehensive Examinations
What are the purposes of the comprehensive examination?
The comprehensive examination is to verify that the student has attained a minimal level of competence, and to aid the student in reflection on what they have learned.
What kinds of questions can be expected on the exam?
The examination is general in scope. The scope is not limited to the material in a particular textbook or to the material covered by a particular instructor in a particular course. Questions vary by topic. Some topics lend themselves to problems that can be solved, other topics lend themselves to expository explanations of concepts.
How many individual tests must I take?
- Master's of Science in Computer Science students admitted prior to the 2010-2011 academic year must take four separate tests:
- One exam in applied software: Artificial Intelligence, Database Systems, Computer Graphics
- One exam in foundations: Algorithms, Formal Language, Discrete Mathematics
- One exam in software: Compilers, Programming Languages, Software Engineering
- One exam in systems: Computer Architecture, Operating Systems, or Computer Networks
- Master's of Science in Computer Science students admitted as of the 2010-2011 academic year must take three of the five possible tests:
- Formal Languages
- Computer Networks
- Artificial Intelligence
- Master's of Science in Software Engineering students must take four separate tests:
- One exam in Software Engineering
- Two comprehensive examinations selection from the elective areas of Requirements Engineering, Software Metrics and Modeling, or Software Testing and Quality Assurance
- One comprehensive examination selected from the elective areas of Analysis of Algorithms, Formal Languages and Automata, Artificial Intelligence, Compilers, or Computer Networks
Do I have to take courses in all of the listed areas?
No, Master's students are only expected to take one course in each area.
How long is the exam?
Each test is designed to be completed in one hour.
Where is the exam given.
The room assignment varies from term-to-term. See the information and registration page for the latest information. School of Extended Graduate Studies (SEGS) students may take the exam at their site, and should contact their site director for scheduling information.
What is a passing score on each test?
A passing score for Master's students is 70.
Must I pass all tests to pass the exam?
Yes. The exams grades will not be averaged. You must pass all the exams in each area.
How will the exam be graded?
The exams are graded anonymously. You will not sign your name, instead you will use a code assigned to you.
What happens if I fail the exam?
Master's students have three (3) chances to pass the exam. If a third attempt is required, the student must write a letter to the Computer Science program chair petitioning to take the exam. On this third attempt, the student may request either a written or oral examination.
If I pass one (or more) tests, but not all of them, do I need to take all tests again?
Yes, but we reserve the right to make exceptions to this rule. However, you should not expect that we will make an exception; they will be made based on how well you did on the tests you passed and how poorly you did on the tests you failed.
Can I switch subjects if I fail one exam topic?
Unfortunately not. Florida Tech. Graduate Policy 1.6.5 requires that "As a minimum, the second exam must cover all areas failed in the first attempt". Thus, once an exam topic has been failed University regulations require that the topic be retaken.
What if I don't want to take the comprehensive exam?
Master's of Computer Science are encouraged to consider writing a thesis.
Where can I find more information about the exam?
There is an orientation meeting with students and faculty about one month before each exam. There are study guides available, and each examination area has a coordinator. See also the Graduate School Policy Manual especially the Final Program Examination section.
What are the rules for taking the exam?
- Students must be take the comprehensive exam no earlier than the next to last full semester in which they are registered for courses.
- In certain instances, a student may petition the academic unit to take the examination in the next to last full semester (not including summer terms) in which the student is registered for courses, subject to the following constraints:
- The student must have completed prior to, or is currently completing in the semester in which the examination is taken, all core/required courses as specified in the student's program plan.
- The student must be within 9 credits of graduation by the end of the semester in which the examination is taken.
- Approval to take the examination must be granted by the Academic Unit Head.
- The student must have completed at least two academic terms (excluding summer).
- You must have a GPA of 3.0. This is a graduate school requirement.
- Neither books, notes, nor calculators are allowed in the exam. A foreign language dictionary is permitted.
- You must bring a picture ID.
Do I need to be enrolled in classes to take the exam?
You must be enrolled in classes to take the exam the first time. If you have finished all courses without taking the exam you will be charged $150.00 to take the exam (per the 1998 University Catalog, check in the Fees section for current rate). If you should fail the exam on your first attempt, you will not be required to be enrolled for successive (second or third) exams.
What if I've earned the MS in Computer Information Systems and am now seeking the MS in Computer Science -- how many exams do I need to take?
You can complete the comprehensive exam by taking only two exams; however, they must be in subjects areas where you have not been tested. This implies that the exams you choose are from the area of foundations or applications.