Department of Psychology at Illinois State University


Comprehensive Examination

Doctoral trainees must pass a comprehensive examination as part of their graduation requirements. Trainees are evaluated on their ability to integrate and apply their doctoral studies to the exam questions and their responses to professional issues. The exam is designed to determines their ability to function as school psychologists. Trainees will not receive approval to seek a doctoral-level internship or to defend their dissertation until they have passed the comprehensive examination.

The comprehensive examination covers the core areas of psychology including history and systems, biological, cognitive, social, and individual bases of behavior, measurement, statistics, research design and program evaluation, research and professional issues, scientific and professional issues, scientific and professional ethics and standards, diagnosis and assessment, evidence-based interventions, and consultation/program evaluation and supervision. The exam will include at least two questions addressing trainees' knowledge of the core areas of psychology: (a) biological bases of behavior, (b) learning and cognition, (c) personality psychology, (d) developmental psychology, (e) social psychology, and (f) measurement, statistics, and experimental design. A subcommittee of the School Psychology Coordinating Committee will develop the questions for the exam.

Registration Deadline

May 1 is the deadline for registering for the fall examination. Before registering for the exam, trainees must have an approved Doctoral Degree Audit Worksheet on file in the Graduate Programs Office. Doctoral trainees should complete the Comprehensive Examination Registration Form.

The Registration Form is an interactive Microsoft Word document that should be completed on the computer and saved as a MS Word file. The saved Form should be submitted to the Graduate Programs Office as an e-mail attachment. Receipt of the Registration Form will be confirmed by return e-mail, which completes the registration process.

Preparing for the Exam

Doctoral trainees should consult with School Psychology faculty members about the scope of the questions and the most appropriate method for studying.

FALL 2015 Examination

  • August 16 and 17, 2016, which is the Tuesday and Wednesday before the fall semester begins
  • 17 DeGarmo Hall (PRC)
  • 1:00-5:00 p.m. each day


The Comprehensive Examination Committee will score the exam questions on a variety of factors, including but not limited to the integration of theory and practice, providing direct (i.e., clear writing style) and complete responses, and sufficient and appropriate references to current research and literature. At least two Committee members will score each question, with the final score being the average score of two or more reviewers. Passing the comprehensive examination requires a passing score on each question.

Notification of Results

The Comprehensive Examination Committee Chair will report the exam scores to the program coordinator. Trainees will be notified of their examination results by their program advisor and, in writing, by the program coordinator by the first week of November, if not sooner. The Graduate School will be formally notified of the comprehensive examination results for each trainee.

Exam Retest, if Applicable

The School Psychology Coordinating Committee has the discretion to require trainees who fail the comprehensive examination to retake the entire or a portion of the comprehensive examination. The retest may be administered orally or in writing, which is at the discretion of the Coordinating Committee.

If a trainee's performance on an oral examination is not satisfactory, the Coordinating Committee may require the trainee to retake some or all of the retest as a written examination. Trainees who fail to pass a second comprehensive examination will be dismissed from the doctoral program.

Registration for Second Examination

December 15 is the deadline for registering for a second comprehensive examination, which will be administered during the spring semester. The date for a second examination will be determined by the Comprehensive Examination Committee Chair on an as-needed basis.

Extension for Time to Degree Triggers Another Comprehensive Exam

Trainees who apply for and are granted an extension beyond the University's 8-year limit for completing their doctoral degree will be required to retake and pass the first day's portion of the comprehensive examination (Professional Issues and Case Study questions). See the Doctoral Policies and Procedures for more information.