Department of Psychology

Department of

Psychology

Department of

Psychology

site header

GRADUATE STUDIES

Social-Personality Psychology: Comprehensive Exam Guidelines

The social-personality program requires successful completion of the area comprehensive examination to get a Ph.D. The comprehensive examination will cover such topics as research methods, attitudes and persuasion, cross-cultural psychology, judgment and decision-making, social cognition, relationships, the self, and personality. The material that students are responsible for knowing is specified by the comprehensive reading list. The full comprehensive reading list for that year's comprehensive examination will be emailed to all student and faculty members of the social-personality program no later than February 1. Students will respond to a subset of broad questions. Generally, only 2 broad questions will be answered. The remainder of the examination will consist of relatively brief responses (no more than a long paragraph each) to several smaller questions that will permit the exam to address a wider spectrum of issues in social psychology..

Social-Personality Comprehensive Examination: Policy

Purposes:
The purposes of the social-personality comprehensive examination are:

  • to prepare students to be comfortable and competent to teach the broad range of topics in the area at the level of a second-year undergraduate course
  • to prepare students to be able to converse and answer questions about social-personality psychology and research methods at conferences and during job interviews
  • to evaluate the students' thoroughness of preparation.

Reading list:
The reading list for the comprehensive examination in any year is emailed to all student and faculty members of the social-personality program no later than February 1 of the same year as the exam.

Timing:
The social-personality comprehensive examination normally is written in the summer at the end of PhD1. Typically, the exam will be held no later than July 31 (or the last Friday if the 31st is on a weekend). The exam date may be changed at the unanimous request of all students writing the exam in a given year but only if the comprehensive committee consents.

Written format:
The written portion of the social-personality comprehensive examination is a 4-hour, sit-down exam written at a computer terminal in a location determined by the comprehensive committee. The exam consists of two parts: A and B. In Part A, students need to answer 2 of 3 possible questions. The questions in Part A are broader questions that require integration of information from a variety of sources. Part B is counted as one question, but it consists of several smaller items or subsections, each requiring more specific knowledge. Students will have a choice of 2 from among 3 questions for Part A, but normally they will be required to answer all the shorter items/sections that make up the Part B question. Thus students write 3 questions: 2 questions are from Part A, and then all the components of Part B are counted as 1 question. Examples of previous comprehensive examinations are available through the Psychology Department Graduate Office.

Evaluation of the written exam:
Each of the 3 questions is marked by all 3 members of the comprehensive committee. Each marker assigns an evaluation to each question using the following scale: excellent, acceptable, or fail. When possible, each question is evaluated using a 2/3 criterion.  For example, for Part B, students must correctly answer at least two-thirds of the components to achieve an evaluation of at least acceptable. Overall a question is deemed a pass if 2 of the 3 markers assign an evaluation of excellent or acceptable. A response to a question is deemed a failure if 2 of the 3 markers assign an evaluation of fail. All other combinations of evaluations are deemed to be ambiguous, and the final evaluation of the students' performance on the question is deferred until after the oral examination. To pass the comprehensive examination, the student must pass 2 of the 3 exam questions (i.e., both questions in Part A or 1 Part A question and the Part B question).

Oral exam:
An oral exam follows the written exam generally with no more than a 2-week delay. The students will be aware of the evaluation of the written exam at least one week before the oral exam. The content of the oral examination is not restricted to the questions used on the written exam. Any written exam questions that do not result in a pass will be addressed in the oral exam

Evaluation of the oral exam:
Each marker assigns an evaluation to the entire oral examination performance using the following scale: excellent, acceptable, or fail. The exam performance is deemed a pass if two of the three markers assign an evaluation of excellent or acceptable. The exam performance is deemed a failure if two of the three markers assign an evaluation of fail. A student who has passed the written comprehensive examination cannot subsequently fail the comprehensive exam requirement as a result of the oral examination. A student who fails the written comprehensive examination can pass the comprehensive requirement by passing the oral exam.

Consequences of failure:
The primary purpose of the comprehensive examination is not to screen weak students from the program; however, inability to successfully complete the comprehensive requirement is not acceptable performance. A student who fails the comprehensive examination (both the written and oral exams) must write and pass the comprehensive examination the following year or the student will be required to withdraw from the program (subject only to Departmental and School of Graduate Studies appeal procedures).