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 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 Ph.D. students is 80.
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?
Ph.D. students have two opportunities to pass the 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?
MS/CS students who enrolled before Fall 2010 may switch subjects as long as they pass one exam in each required area.
MS/CS students who enrolled Fall 2010 or later may take a different selection of subjects on each of their three attempts but must take a minimum of three subjects from the five permitted.
What if I don't want to take the comprehensive exam?
Ph.D. students are required to take the comprehensive examination (as well as a depth exam administered by their committee).
Where can I find more information about the exam?
Study guides are available, and each examination area has a coordinator.. Also, there is an orientation meeting with students and faculty about one month before each exam. Past exams are available on-line. See also the Graduate School Policy Manual especially the section 'Final Program Examination'.
What are the rules for taking the exam?
- As a general rule, 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 Science from Florida Tech and passed 4 tests as partial fulfillment of my degree requirements, and I am now seeking the Ph.D. in Computer Science -- how many tests to I need to take?
If you obtained a Ph.D. pass (which is higher than an M.S. pass) in each of your four tests, you only need to take four more tests; however, they must be in subjects areas where you have not been tested. Also, all Ph.D. passes need to be achieved within 7 years.
For Ph.D. students, after passing the eight tests, is it true that I have more exams to take to officially complete my comprehensive exams?
Correct, for Ph.D. students, exams on the eight areas constitute only the breadth part of the CS comprehensive exams. The breadth part is administered by the CS Program and ensures competency in a broad range of Computer Science subjects expected of a Ph.D. You are still require to pass the depth part, which is administered by your doctoral committee. The depth part focuses on proficiency in the state-of-the-art of the candidate's chosen dissertation research area and related areas.
If I still have questions, who should I contact?