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Beginning August 2015, students will have the Comprehensive Exam Option for their exit requirement.

                Requirement  |  Purpose  | Process | Grading and Remediation

Comprehensive Exam Exit Requirement

The Comp Exam option exists for those students who: 1) Would like a terminal degree; 2) Would like the degree for a job that does not require research/program development or evaluation; 3) Or cannot do the thesis option for some reason.

Requirement Summary

Students who choose the comp. option will be required to take additional 6-hours of sociology graduate seminar electives and successfully complete comprehensive exams in three areas:  theory, methods and a subject area chosen by the student.   For the Comprehensive Exam option, students choose a three-person committee to grade both a written and oral exam.   The student will be given a reading list in the areas of theory and methods by the department.  Students will then choose, with their committee, a reading list in a subject area of the student's choice.   The student will be given two weeks to complete the written exam after the reading is complete and then, within thirty days, the student will be given an oral exam of the material with her/his committee.


The purpose of the comp exam is to demonstrate thorough knowledge of main sociological concepts, theories and ideas.  To illustrate such demonstration, the student will not simply summarize readings and articles.   Rather, students will piece together information in a sophisticated way to show their mastery in three broad sociological areas -- such sophistication should allow the student to teach, consult, write grants or develop research upon graduation.  Committees will thus expect students to:

1)   Make sense of and apply sociological terms

2)   Identify main theories and thinkers who have helped define the sociological field.

3)   Show knowledge of major theoretical/methodological ideas in the subject area.

4)    Integrate concepts, theories and methods in a thoughtful and provocative manner.

We do not want students to simply “answer” the questions.  Rather, our goal here is to see that the student has integrated knowledge from previous classes and combined them with further readings to showcase original thinking with regards to the material.


Students who are in good standing and have completed all their courses may sign up for the Comprehensive Exam exit requirement. If students wish to take classes at the same time as completing the comprehensive exams, they must seek written permission from the graduate program director and the Chair of their Committee

The Comprehensive Exam will cover three areas:  1) Sociological Theory; 2) Sociological Methods and 3) A subject area of the student’s choosing (in consultation with the student’s comp. exam committee).

Reading lists for the theory and methods exams are available on the website, but may be gently modified by the committee depending on the student’s employment/subject area goals.  The student and the Committee will determine the subject-area reading list.

In order for students to access the library and other University resources, they must enroll for University 500.

Students will choose a three-person Committee related to the student’s subject area.  The Committee will help develop the reading lists with the student.  The Committee will have a Chair from the sociology program, chosen by the student.  The Committee must also have at least two other graduate faculty, one of whom must be from the Sociology program.

We require that students get written approval by their Committee for all reading lists at least two months prior to taking the written exams.  Upon receiving approval of the reading lists, the student and Committee members will agree in writing upon an exam begin date.  Once again, the exam begin date must be at least two months from the time the student and Committee agree upon reading lists in all test areas.

Once students feel ready to take the written comp. exam, the student contacts the Committee Chair.  The Committee Chair will then provide students the questions developed by the Committee. 

Students will have 2 weeks to complete the exams.  

Minimum Requirements:
There will be one question (with multiple parts) for each subject area and each question must be at least 2500 words (with a total exam of at least 7500 words). 
*There will be no quoting allowed. 
*Students who plagiarize will automatically fail the exam and have their name submitted to the Dean of Students.
*Students must use at least 30 citations in all, with 10 citations from each of the three reading lists.  Thus, the theory question will have at least 10 citations from the theory reading list; the methods question will have at least 10 citations from the methods reading list and the substantive area will have at least 10 citations from its reading list.
*A bibliography of all sources cited will be included at the end of each question.
*Students cannot use coursework from any other classes for answering any of the questions.
*Students must address each part of the question.

Students will submit their essay responses to Turnitn on Blackboard and all three professors will grade the exams.  The Committee will meet together to determine the grades to be given to the students.  There will be three assessment possibilities for all three questions:  Passing, Conditional Acceptance or Failing (please see remediation description below).   

Students must receive a passing grade in all three subject-areas before moving onto the oral exams. 

Upon receiving a passing grade in all three subject areas, students will determine a date for an oral exam with the Committee.

Grading and Remediation

The Comprehensive Examination option for completion of the Master’s Degree Program in Sociology at SIUE requires eligible students to satisfactorily complete written and oral examinations within one testing period.

Written examinations will be organized in three parts: Theory, Methods, and Subject Area.  Each part will be graded independently by the given student’s three-person committee according to the mutually exclusive categories of “Pass,” “Conditional Pass,” and “Fail,” with “Pass” representing satisfactory completion.

Students who fail any of the test areas will be required to begin the exam process over.  Students will have one opportunity to remediate grades of “Fail” received on any part of written examinations by re-forming committees (which may be composed of the same three members) and once again obtaining approval of readings lists.  Repeated written examinations will be graded according to the process outlined above with the exception that a second grade of “Fail” on any part of the written examination will not be open to further remediation.

A grade of “Conditional Pass” on any part of the written examination will require the student to revise the given part of the examination according to specific written critique provided by the committee within a two-week period.  Revisions deemed satisfactory by the committee will then be awarded a grade of “Pass.”  Revisions deemed unsatisfactory by the committee will be awarded a grade of “Fail.” If this represents a first failing grade on any part of the written examination, remediation may be pursued as provided above.  If it represents a second failing grade on any part of the written examination, however, no further opportunity for remediation will be offered.

The satisfactory completion by the student of all three parts of the written examination will be a prerequisite for that student’s scheduling of their oral examination.  The student’s oral examination must take place within 30 days of that student’s receipt of satisfactory grades on all three parts of the written examination.  Any student who does not schedule and complete their oral examination within 30 days must restart the comprehensive examination process by reforming a committee and obtaining approval of reading lists for each part of the written examination.

Oral examinations will be graded as an integrated whole by students’ committees according to the categories “Pass,” “Conditional Pass,” and “Fail.”  Students earning a grade of “Pass” will have completed the program and qualified for the receipt of their Master’s Degree.  Students earning a grade of “Fail” on the oral exam will be given one opportunity for remediation by starting the process over, reforming committees, obtaining approval for reading lists, and preparing to take new written examinations.    Students who receive a grade of “Conditional Pass” will be provided with specific written critique by their committee and reschedule a second oral exam which must be taken within 30 days of this receipt and which will be graded as either “Pass” or “Fail.”  A grade of “Pass” on the second exam will mark program completion and qualification for the Master’s Degree.  A student receiving a “Fail” as on their second attempted oral examination after receiving a “Conditional Pass” on their first attempt will be given one opportunity for remediation by returning to the beginning of the process.  A student receiving a second grade of “Fail” on an oral examination will be offered no further remediation. 





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