VIII. Non-Thesis Requirements

1. Comprehensive Examination

The Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice requires students taking the non-thesis option to pass a written comprehensive exam. The exam cannot be taken until after the completion of 18 hours of graduate coursework, and is typically taken during the semester in which the student expects to complete the requirements for the Master’s degree. Students need to have already completed the corresponding course for each question they answer. The exam will be given twice a year: in the Spring and Fall semesters.
For those students who plan to graduate in August, comprehensive examinations should be taken in the Spring semester prior to August graduation.


      1. The date, time and place of the exam will be set and announced by the Graduate Director, but will take place in a campus computer lab with internet access disabled, unless otherwise announced.


      1. In advance of the exam, students will be provided with a study guide, a suggested reading list, and the evaluation criteria for how exam answers will be graded.


      1. At minimum, the study guide will contain 16 potential exam questions: 2 questions per course for criminological theory, research methods, statistics, and five electives recently offered by the department. The exam itself will contain at least 8 questions from the study guide: 1 question per course for criminological theory, research methods, statistics, and five electives recently offered by the department.


      1. In general, answers to comprehensive exam questions will be graded based on the following PRIMARY criteria:

    1. Quality of response (how well do you answer the question?)

    2. Clarity of response (is your answer coherent and intelligible?)

    3.  Application of existing scholarship and readings (do you cite the relevant literature?)

    4. Demonstration of classroom learning (do you demonstrate in-depth knowledge of the topic area?)

Some SECONDARY criteria relate to the student’s ability to:

      1. Think creatively and apply the theories and concepts you learned in appropriate or novel ways
      2. Apply statistical tools to evaluate social problems, policies and/or programs
      3. Use critical thinking skills for analysis

Students will be encouraged to pay attention to spelling, grammar, sentence structure, and organization as they write. The Graduate Director may also provide guidelines for the minimum required length of students’ answers to exam questions.


      1. On the day of the exam, students will not be allowed to bring notes, study guides, or books into the room. Students may bring blank paper and pen or pencil to the examination in order to draft answers, if desired, but they will type their answers to exam questions. Students may not use their cell phones or any other electronic devices to obtain any information about exam questions during the testing period.


      1. Each student’s exam will be assigned a code name or number by that student, ensuring anonymity for grading purposes.
      2. Each exam question will be graded by at least 2 members of the graduate faculty.


Whenever possible, one of these graders will be the same faculty member who taught the course that corresponds with that question. He or she will be designated the PRIMARY GRADER. The other grader(s) may be any graduate faculty member(s). They will be selected by the Graduate Director and designated the SECONDARY GRADER and/or TERTIARY GRADER, respectively.


Each answer will be graded on a “Pass”/”Fail” basis.


      • If the PRIMARY GRADER scores the answer as “Pass,” the student will pass that question regardless of the score from the SECONDARY GRADER.


      • If the PRIMARY GRADER scores the answer as “Fail” and the SECONDARY GRADER scores the answer as “Fail,” the student will fail that question.
      • If the PRIMARY GRADER scores the answer as “Fail” and the SECONDARY GRADER scores the answer as “Pass,” a third graduate faculty member (TERTIARY GRADER) will be asked to score the answer and break the tie.


      1. Students will receive the results of the score provide by each grader, along with any supplementary feedback the graders would like to provide (be it laudatory or critical).


      1. Students must pass all questions to successfully pass the comprehensive exam.
      2. If a student fails any question, the PRIMARY GRADER provides written feedback to the student about what was wrong with the submitted answer, and then the student gets a chance to re-take the same exam question during the same semester, with a time limit of 100 minutes per question. Students who fail for a second time will have to re-take the entire comprehensive exam in a subsequent semester. Students who fail for a third time will be dropped from the program altogether.


Retaking the Comprehensive Examination

If a student fails one or more comprehensive exam questions on the first try, the second exam will be taken four (4) weeks from the original exam date. Students must set aside both dates in advance.

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