PhD Comprehensive Exams
Students in each field of study are required to complete a comprehensive exam.
- Public Budgeting and Finance
- Education Policy
- Program Evaluation
- Public and Nonprofit Management
- Science and Technology Policy
- Social Policy with Specialization in Gender, Poverty and Inequality, Race and Ethnicity, or Urban Policy
Public Budgeting and Finance
The field examination in Public Budgeting and Finance is administered as a take-home exam (open book, open note) over a 48-hour period. The examination consists of two parts. One part is made up of questions based on a list of general topics and readings provided by the faculty examiners which is common to all students taking the examination. These general topics will include material from PPPA 8105 and PPPA 8174 in addition to material from the field core and selected field electives. The second part is based on a list of individualized topics and readings developed by each student being examined, which is approved by the examiners. Examples of possible individual topics are fiscal decentralization/federalism; state and local tax policy; performance budgeting, public-private partnerships and uses of the tax system for social purposes.
Upon completion of coursework in the field, students take a comprehensive field exam involving two parts:
- Content from the core education policy field courses
- Content from field electives that typically focus on one of the following areas (area is chosen in consultation with your advisor and will be based loosely on topics covered in your field electives):
- Early childhood education
- Elementary and secondary education
- Higher education
- Education finance
- Education inequality
- Economics of education
The purpose of the field exam in the Program Evaluation field is for students to demonstrate proficiency in the major themes, methods, and debates in the field. It provides an opportunity for students to confirm the breadth and depth of their knowledge and their readiness to make an original contribution to the field.
The exam is a take-home, open-book, exam that entails writing five essays and takes three days to complete, e.g., 6 pm Thursday until midnight on Sunday. The questions are based on the field courses the student has completed. Two of the questions address topics covered in PPPA 8164, and the other three questions address the topics in the other three field courses the student completed. Typically, the student is presented with some choice.
The student should write about seven pages, double-spaced, for each essay. The essays should draw on the courses completed and do not require the student to go beyond those lists (though other materials are allowed).
Students may choose exam dates in consultation with the field advisors.
Public and Nonprofit Management
The purpose of the field examination is to assess student preparedness to undertake dissertation research in public and nonprofit management. Students are encouraged to seek faculty guidance and feedback on ways in which the field examination can advance their dissertation interests.
Students are expected to have a deep knowledge of material covered in core courses, field courses, and academic literature relevant to students’ dissertation research interests. Further, students are expected to stay current and be conversant with the scholarly peer-reviewed literature in their field of study.
Science and Technology Policy
Upon completion of coursework in the field, students will take a comprehensive field exam. The exam is offered once or twice in an academic year, following a petition from students. The examination relies on the content of the science and technology policy field core courses (cornerstone, capstone, and seminar) and the field electives. In addition, the exam will reflect the specific courses taken by the student and their individual areas of interest. We write an exam that reflects the courses taken by the student and their individual areas of interest. Expectations for students during the examination include:
- Staying current and being conversant with the scholarly peer-reviewed literature and important gray literature (i.e. literature produced by different governmental and non-governmental bodies such as relevant federal agencies, the World Bank, Brookings, Rand, EU, OECD, UN Agencies, etc.).
- Discussion should go beyond the readings covered in class.
- Mastery of course material, a demonstrated command of major concepts and literature in the field, and an ability to think beyond concepts directly covered in classes.
The format of the exam is as follows:
- Take home, open book, open notes exam.
- Two sections (select three of four questions in each section):
- One on Science and Technology policy theory
- One on specific areas of interest
- Time frame – three days
Two graders read each answer and confer on a final grade. One of the two graders is related to the specific area of interest of the student.
Social Policy with Specialization in Gender, Poverty and Inequality, Race and Ethnicity, or Urban Policy
The purpose of the field exam in Gender and Social Policy is for students to demonstrate proficiency in the major themes, methods, and debates in the field. It provides an opportunity for students to confirm the breadth and depth of their knowledge and their readiness to make an original contribution to the field.
In consultation with the field advisors, each student develops 3 reading lists as follows:
- One list includes readings related to WSTU 6221: Research Issues in Women's/Gender Studies (a required field course) plus selected readings from other field courses that have influenced the student’s intellectual trajectory but do not appear on the other lists.
- The other two lists cover two substantive areas related to gender policy that best fit the student’s research interests and academic work in the field. One of these lists could be closely related to the student's expected dissertation topic. Both lists should include classic texts and current journal articles. While students are encouraged to include relevant readings from field courses, they should also move beyond coursework in their selections.
The exam is a take-home, open-book, essay exam that usually takes three days to complete. The questions are based on the reading lists. Students answer a total of three essay questions. Typically, in Part A, the student is presented with two questions and must choose one to answer. In Part B, the student is presented with three or four questions and must choose two to answer.
The student should write seven to 10 pages, double-spaced, for each essay. The essays should draw on the reading lists and do not require the student to go beyond those lists (though other materials are allowed).
Students may choose exam dates in consultation with the field advisors.
The comprehensive exam is based on materials covered in the two required field courses and the one elective field course as well as associated scholarly literature. An initial reading list compiled by the student is reviewed and supplemented by the field advisors. The reading list should be submitted a minimum of 3 months prior to the date of the exam. Students are also asked to provide field advisors with a list of faculty from whom they have taken their field courses so questions can be solicited from those faculty. Field advisors then compile the exam. The format of the exam is a five-day, open-book take-home consisting of 3 or 4 questions, with some choice factored in. Students will be provided with the questions at noon on Wednesday and be required to submit their answers by noon the following Monday. Answers typically range from 10-15 pages per question. Two readers evaluate each question and submit a single grade for each question they grade. Field advisors then submit a single grade for the exam.
No less than three months in advance of the desired date of the field examination, students should notify the field advisors of their intent to take the exam, as well as the relevant courses the student has taken. Exams are written take-home exams, tailored to student interest.
No less than three months in advance of the desired date of the field examination, students should notify the field advisors of their intent to take the exam, as well as the relevant courses the student has taken. Exams are written take-home exams, tailored to student interests.