Skip to content
x
  
  

Comprehensive Examination


The comprehensive exam is a four-hour exam (hereafter referred to as COMPS) designed to test the student’s knowledge and understanding of the field and discipline, and not simply mastery of the class material.

WHAT IS THE FORMAT OF THE TEST?

Generally, students are expected to answer three questions, including knowledge and history of the field, theory, and practical tools and skills.
The questions are designed to test the student’s ability to synthesize themes and issues, analyze complex ideas, and write clearly and logically. They also test the ability to apply the tools and skills in solving practical public problems. An acceptable response would be one that thoughtfully addresses all aspects of the questions, connects them logically, and accurately cites the relevant literature.
COMPS can be attempted only a second time whether failed completely or just a portion of the test. A student may retake the failed portion of the examination or the whole test only during the next scheduled administration of the examination. A student who fails a second time is dismissed from the program.

WHEN DO STUDENTS TAKE THE COMPREHENSIVE EXAMS?

Students must complete all core courses (except for project or internship) before being allowed to take the COMPS.

MPA COMPS are offered once in the fall and once in the spring semesters. This information can be found in the University calendar. Students must pass the comprehensive exams to be certified for graduation. The students who are ready to take the COMPS must apply to take the COMPS through this link: http://www.tamiu.edu/coas/dss/compexam.shtml

In order to be able to take the COMPS, you should do each of the following at the beginning of the semester you are planning to take the COMPS:

  • Do a degree audit at the Registrar's Office
  • Register for COMPS online at our Department's website (link provided above)
  • Bring the signed degree audit document to Dr. Haruna's office (CH 313J)
  • Plan on attending COMPS seminar

HOW SHOULD THE STUDENTS PREPARE FOR THE COMPREHENSIVE EXAMS?

First, students should carefully plan their course work and examination scheduling in consultation with their advisory committee. Then, it is important to note that COMPS should be taken after a suitable period of reading and preparation.

As part of the preparation, the MPA Program Director in consultation with the MPA Faculty will arrange a 2-3-hour COMPS seminar at a date and time to be mutually agreed upon where students will receive detailed guidance for and expectations of performance. During this seminar, candidates to COMPS can address issues, concerns, or doubts about the process. Candidates to the COMPS are required to attend the seminar. 

Preparation for the COMPs begins on your first class day. Please follow the following recommendations for a successful completion of the comprehensive exams.

Save all papers, exams, and notes, from all your classes

You should keep a copy of all the assignments, papers, and exams you have done in any course during your degree program. This will be of tremendous help during your preparation. It is also highly recommended to keep an annotated bibliography or source of references with major themes and key contributors. This should make it easy to review all the material and be able to comprehensively create cohesiveness with the knowledge gain without a panic attack.

Collect classic and contemporary articles

Start collecting articles that might be helpful later. The “Classics of Public Administration” by Shafritz and Hyde is a good source of significant articles. Take a look at the latest editions of PAR (Public Administration Review) to read current themes of interest. Photocopy articles, news clips and such items that you think can be helpful later.

Arrange your ideas according to major topics

During each semester break, go over your notes, papers, collected articles and arrange them in a way that makes sense to you. You could have all the articles, commentaries by Waldo in one file. Or you could have all the papers about reinventing government in one place. You should know how they are arranged and where they are. To keep up with the issues, your notes need to be at your fingertips as well.

Start preparing essays on major topics

You will have had to write papers for a lot of courses. Take a look at the papers, review them and identify missing information or important authors within the Public Administration’s canon. If you do this, you will have your own little summaries.

Work in groups

Different study styles are appropriate for different people. Even if group work is not suited for you, meet with your cohorts and discuss topics, preparation, and probable questions. You can exchange books and articles and find out about what you are missing from your colleagues. Discussing your own understanding of the topics and or writings with others in a different style of their own will result in a cohesive more clear understanding for all of you.

Utilize faculty

Pick the brains of your professors. Talk to them; ask them for suggestions, reading lists, and anything you can think of. Each and every one of the faculty has gone through the COMPS process and their insights might help you a great deal.


 

COMPS Results

Year
Number of Candidates
Percent Successful
Percent Re-taking
2001
5
100
0
2002
7
100
0
2003
7
86
14
2004
6
83
17
2005
12
75
25
2006
18
73
27
2007
10
70
30
2008
19
68
32
2009
10
100
0
2010
9
100
0
2011
13
92
8
2012
8
75
25
2013
4
100
0
Mean
10
86
14

COMPS are prepared and graded collectively by all MPA Faculty

Contact

Department of Social Sciences
5201 University Boulevard, 313J Canseco Hall, Laredo, TX 78041-1900
Phone: 956-326-2613 E-mail: pharuna@tamiu.edu