What is a comprehensive exam?
“[A] test that covers a broad base of material. It assesses the student’s knowledge and capacities to earn a given graduate degree. The exact content varies by graduate program and by degree: Master’s and doctoral comprehensive exams have similarities but differ in detail, depth, and expectations. Depending on the graduate program and degree, comps could test course knowledge, knowledge of your proposed research area and general knowledge in the field” (Kuther, 2017, para. 1).

Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comprehensive_examination) has a good quick-and-dirty explanation as well.

In the LIS Program at the iSchool, when you take your comprehensive exams — known as comps — you will have nine days to write four essays. All eight of the Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) (https://education.missouri.edu/information-science-learning-technologies/degrees-programs/library-information-science-lis/#outcomes) are covered in the four questions you will address — two SLOs per question. Each essay will address a question posed by one of the faculty members, and will demonstrate your mastery of two of the SLOs.

Am I eligible to take comps?
If you were *accepted* into the LIS Program prior to fall 2016, you may opt to take comps as your required Graduate Examination.
Where do I take comps?
The short answer is: Canvas. After you’ve declared your intention to take comps, you’ll be added to the course shell. The shell will be live no later than the end of the first week of the semester.

Please note: You must be enrolled in coursework in order to take the comprehensive exam. If you do not have any courses left to take, please enroll in Graduate Exam credit. It can be found in the MyZou schedule of courses as Miscellaneous 8999.

How do I prepare for Comps using the hints and the Canvas site?
The Exam “Hints” and suggested readings will be posted to the Canvas site by the members of the Comps Committee by the second week of classes. Comps are comprised of four questions for which you will write four essays — each question will have a hint and/or suggested readings.
When will I see the questions and take the exam?
You will write the answers to the questions during the seventh week of the semester. The questions will go “live” on Friday of Week 6 at 5:00 pm (the end of business) and you will need to submit your essays by Monday of Week 8 at 8:00 am Central.
Where do I take my exams?
There is no designated place to take the exam. Take it from home or the library — wherever you have a quiet place to write with an internet connection.
How do I submit my responses to the questions?
You will be using Canvas to send your responses using the Assignments function. Please write your responses using Word (.doc or .docx). All students have access to Word. It can be downloaded by logging into your university email account. Go to Settings>Office 365 Settings>Software.

Upload your responses in the Assignments function, labeled “Submit Comps Questions.” Do NOT put your name anywhere on your paper. To enable a fair and unbiased assessment of the responses, any responses with names will be returned to the author for revisions.

Will I be contacted after posting my Comps questions to verify that the submission was successful?
Short answer: There’s generally no need. Faculty will begin the two-week grading period after the due date has passed. Initially, you will only be contacted if we cannot find your submission. Generally, Canvas is quite reliable in this regard, but if there is a technical glitch you will not be penalized. Your grades will be visible in the Grades section of Canvas — a score of 80% or more is passing for a question.
How are questions developed?
Four faculty are responsible for devising one question each, to which you will respond by writing a short essay. Hints and suggested readings will be provided by the same faculty member.
How are questions assessed?
The faculty member who wrote the question will be primarily responsible for assessing your response, and will use a rubric to evaluate the essay’s content (i.e., does your essay answer the question and does it address each of the SLOs adequately), writing style (e.g., organization, grammar, spelling, etc.), and bibliography/use of style guide (e.g., adequate citations of the relevant scholarly literature, proper implementation of the required style guide, adherence to other instructions, etc.).
How will I be notified about the final results?
The Comps Committee aims to complete the grading of the responses according to the posted schedule (2 weeks). Students who pass will be notified when their names are put forward to the SISLT Student Services office for submission to the Graduate College. If rewrites are required along the way, the faculty members on the committee will contact the student.
How long does an answer to a specific section (question) need to be?
Between 1200 and 1500 words, each, not including references. Of that, most must be your original writing, not citations. A few well-chosen quotes are fine to include, but do NOT cite excessively to fill the pages. We recommend writing more than that initially, then editing the paper to cut out any fluff.
How many citations is enough?
Please expect to cite at least three peer reviewed articles for each question. You can cite any texts or papers you have used in the program, any that we recommend in the hints, or others that you find on your own. Feel free to include extra material, such as additional scholarly articles, newspaper articles, staff newsletters, or anything else that is relevant to support your points, but ensure that an adequate number of sources you use are scholarly, peer reviewed articles.
What if I have special needs?
Please contact either Amy Adam, SISLT Student Services Coordinator (adamae@missouri.edu) or Dr. Bossaller (BossallerJ@missouri.edu) if you have special circumstances. We will do our best within the guidelines of the University to make arrangements to meet your needs.

 

If you have additional questions or concerns about the Comprehensive examinations content or process, please contact Dr. Jenny Bossaller (BossallerJ@missouri.edu), Chair of the LIS Program Graduate Examinations Committee.

 

If you have questions about eligibility, registration and related matters, please contact Amy Adam (adamae@missouri.edu), SISLT Student Services Coordinator.

 

References
Kuther, T. (2017, August 31). A note about Masters and doctoral comprehensive exams: Passing comps is a major milestone [blog post]. Thoughtco.com. Retrieved August 1, 2018 https://www.thoughtco.com/masters-and-doctoral-students-comprehensive-examinations-1686465 (Links to an external site.)

 

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