III. Comprehensive Exams
- In addition to the 2.0 regular course requirements, all students must complete two Comprehensive Exams. Students enroll in two Comprehensive Examination courses (CDNS 6905 and 6907 at Carleton, or CAST 6070H and 6080H at Trent) during the first year, concurrent with registration in their regular courses, although the comprehensive examinations are written during the second year of the student’s program. The grades for CDNS 6905 and 6907 or CAST 6070H and 6080H are reported as “in progress” until the comprehensive examinations are completed.
- Comprehensive examinations provide an opportunity for students to demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of the relevant literature within two of the following fields: Culture, Literature and the Arts; Environment and Heritage; Policy, Economy and Society; Identities; and Women’s and Feminist Studies. These fields are meant to be broad-ranging, exposing students to significant works related to Canadian Studies.
- Comprehensive field examinations prepare students for their thesis research and future employment -- whether it is in the field of teaching or other pursuits -- by developing their analytical and critical skills. For each of the two comprehensive examinations, the following procedures must be followed. The student, in consultation with Director of the Frost Centre, will select a field supervisor for each comprehensive examination. The field supervisor and the Director, in consultation with the student, can then suggest the two remaining members of the comprehensive committee. Normally these three faculty members are from the student’s home university, but faculty members from the partner institution can be included. Each comprehensive committee should be distinct with three different faculty members involved in each one. Each committee must receive final approval from the Director of the Frost Centre.
- Comprehensive examination reading lists should contain 40 to 60 book titles, with about 4 articles considered equivalent to a book. The Field Supervisor and the student will compile the initial reading list in consultation with the entire comprehensive committee. Following agreement by the comprehensive examining committee, a final reading list will be forwarded to the Director of the Frost Centre for approval.
- It is understood that the comprehensive exam process is in large measure to be an independent learning process. It is the student’s responsibility to consult with their comprehensive supervisor and committee members to develop a strategy to discuss and analyze the material and prepare for the exam. This process will vary from one committee to another but should be agreed upon by the full committee early in the comp process. Documenting this process is the responsibility of the student. Any written work submitted as part of the comprehensive preparatory process, while not graded, is subject to each institution’s policies on academic integrity.
- Students must complete a request for comprehensive written examination form, available from the graduate program administrator of the Frost Centre. All members of the examining committee sign this form, and by so doing agree to examine the student during the designated examination period. Students requiring special accommodations (e.g. accommodations for documented learning disabilities) or requiring use of a computer must indicate their needs on the form. The time, date and place of the exam will be announced at least two weeks in advance.
- The comprehensive supervisor, in consultation with the committee will set the examination questions. For the both field examinations, students will answer three of six questions in either a four-hour time period or in a take-home examination. Students may bring a copy of their comprehensive reading list into the exam for the four-hour exam. No cell phones or other electronic devices may be brought to the examination room. In the case of the take-home examination, students will be given seven days to answer three questions out of six. Answers for the four-hour exam are expected to be at least 800 -1000 words each; for the take-home each answer is to expected to be between 2,500 to 3,000 words. Answers for the take-home examinations are expected to be more comprehensive and polished than those written for the four-hour examination.
The written component of the examination will be read by the comprehensive committee, normally within one week of the written examination. The committee must advise the comprehensive supervisor and the Director of the Frost Centre and Graduate Administrator within 7 days as to whether they agree that this written exam may proceed to an oral exam.
If the written examination is considered a “pass,” the comprehensive supervisor will recommend that an oral examination proceed and may request that the Director of the Frost Centre appoint a chair of the oral examination. (At least two of the three-committee members must agree that the written exam should proceed to an oral). The Director of the Frost Centre will inform the student that the oral exam will proceed. The oral examination will normally take place in between one and two weeks of the written examination.
If the student fails the written exam, they may re-take the examination at a later date. If a student fails the oral, they will be deemed to have failed the comprehensive exam, and may re-take both the oral and written at a later date. In any re-take, the comprehensive examining committee will remain the same, but the content of the written and thus the oral examination will be changed.
- Students will receive a copy of their answers on the written examination a full day before the oral examination so that they may review their exam. Questions in the oral examination will be asked only by members of the comprehensive committee. When a member of the comprehensive committee is from the other university, the oral component of the examination will be conducted through a conference call or video conference.
- The oral examination will focus on the three questions answered by the student in the written component, but may also include questions related to the questions not answered. Upon completion of the questioning, the comprehensive committee will deliberate and arrive at a grade for the combined written and oral examination. This decision will be conveyed at once to the student, by either the chair of the exam or the comprehensive supervisor, who will also report the grade to the Director of the Frost Centre. Possible grades for the combined assessment of the written and oral components of the examination are “unsatisfactory,” “satisfactory,” and “pass with distinction.”
- The Chair will also ensure that the questions have been filed with the Frost Centre and if the decision is “unsatisfactory” the supervisor should make a report to the Director of the Frost Centre.
Any appeals, by the student or examining committee members must be made in writing to the Dean of Graduate Studies within four weeks of the announcement of the results. The results of comprehensive examinations may only be appealed on procedural grounds.
- A student who fails a comprehensive examination will be permitted one re-examination. Any student who fails a second comprehensive examination (either the initial examination and its re-examination, or the initial examination in two fields) will be withdrawn from the program.
- To remain in the program, full-time students must complete their comprehensive examinations within 24 months of their initial registration in the Ph.D. program. The first field examination will be held by the end of January of the students’ second year in the program (17 months of initial registration) and the second field examination will be held at the end of August of their second year (24 months of initial registration.) Part-time Ph.D. students should finish their comprehensive examinations within 48 months of completing course work, and before defending their dissertation proposal.
- Unless there are extenuating circumstances, approved by both the Director and the Graduate Dean, students who fail to meet the requirements in 3.12 will be withdrawn from the program.
updated October 2017