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Journalism and Mass Communications

Comprehensive Exams

Doctoral Comps

The comprehensive examination is required by The Graduate School but is administered by the School of Journalism and Mass Communications.  Students will take written and oral exams to demonstrate a mastery of their field and will select a committee of four graduate faculty members to serve as their comprehensive exam committee (three SJMC graduate faculty and a graduate faculty member from the student’s outside area of course work) who will each submit a question for the exam.

The written exam covers the four areas of research methods, communication theory, the student’s area of interest in mass communications, and his/her outside area of course work.  This exam is four hours in length per day on four out of five consecutive business days, and the dates/times are scheduled with the student’s committee and the Graduate Student Services Office.  The oral exam explores the subjects covered in the written exam; this exam is scheduled upon successful completion of the written exams as determined by, and in conjunction with, his/her comprehensive exam committee.

Master's Comps

If you are planning to take comprehensive exams this semester, sign up in the Graduate Office as soon as possible (800 Sumter Street, Room 314, 803-777-5166).

Comprehensive Examinations (comps for short) are a two-day process for M.M.C. students and a one-day process for M.A. students. Students are allowed five hours to complete each day's exam. The last half-hour is usually used to print out your answers, so you can figure one hour per question.

M.A. students take exams in five areas: history, law, research, literature of journalism and theory. There is no second-day comp because of the thesis and its oral defense.

M.M.C. students also take first-day exams in five (different) areas: law, research, media management, media economics and integrated communication. Second-day comps are area specific. Once you have passed the second-day exam, you must schedule an oral defense of your answers through the Graduate Student Services Office.

Students are only eligible to take comps if they have completed all five of the graduate core courses. A student may petition the Graduate Council to take the first-day exam if he/she is currently enrolled in one of the final core courses. If a student is enrolled in more than one, he/she must wait until the next time comps are administered to take the exam.

Students must make a valid attempt at answering questions in all five areas of the first-day exam. Please refer to the information on Grading of Master's Comprehensive Examinations (pdf) for a discussion of the grading procedures.

The second-day comprehensive examination for M.M.C. Students is administered one week after the day-one exam. Questions focus on the student's area of emphasis (e.g., integrated communication) and are graded separately from the day-one exam.

You will be working in one of the Mac Labs, so it would be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the machines if you're a PC person. You should bring a flash drive in order to keep copies of your answers (or you can e-mail your answers to yourself as an attachment). This will help in case you fail a section and have to do remedial work or, for M.M.C. students, it will help you in preparing for the oral exam required for the second-day comps. You will be asked to e-mail your answers to the Graduate Student Services Manager.

Tips for the wise:
• You may bring a lunch but you do not get an official "lunch break"
• If you're not used to working in an environment with a lot of people, all typing at the same time, it''s a good idea to bring a pair of earplugs.
• Samples of recent comp questions are available in the Graduate Student Services Office. You are free to look at the last exam given in order to better understand the types of questions you may be asked.
• Faculty don't plan formal review sessions because, in the past, students haven't come to them. If you want a review session, talk to your colleagues and then the faculty member. Faculty usually are willing to meet with you if you organize a group.