Comprehensive Exam

Doctorate in School Psychology > Comprehensive Exam

Trainees must pass the doctoral program's comprehensive examination as part of their graduation requirements. Trainees will not receive approval to seek a doctoral-level internship or to defend their dissertation until they have passed the comprehensive examination. The School Psychology Coordinating Committee (SPCC) develops the questions and scores the exam.

Trainees are evaluated on their ability to integrate and apply their knowledge of the various areas of Discipline Specific Knowledge (DSK) and of Professional Wide Competencies (PWC) to exam questions.  Successful completion of the comprehensive examination requires the student to demonstrate the ability to integrate, at an advanced level, research and theory from multiple areas of psychology including the DSK of history and systems of psychology and school psychology; affective, biological, cognitive, developmental, and social aspects of behavior; and advanced knowledge of research methods, statistics, and psychometrics. The exam also requires the trainee to demonstrate the PWCs of assessment, intervention, consultation, prevention, clinical and administrative supervision, professional ethics and standards, and individual and cultural diversity.

Trainees should take the exam before the start of their fourth year in the doctoral program. If admitted with a master’s degree or a specialist degree in school psychology, trainees may take the exam before the start of their third year in the doctoral program. Trainees. Trainees must have completed their research apprenticeships or defended their theses, completed six credits each of the PSY 436A04 psychoeducational and PSY 436A05 psychosocial practica, and must have an approved Doctoral Degree Audit Worksheet on file in the Graduate Programs Office prior to taking the exam. If a trainee plans to sit for the comprehensive exam they should meet with their program advisor at the end of spring semester prior to the exam to be sure a current Doctoral Degree Audit Worksheet has been completed and approved. 


Preparing for the Exam

Doctoral trainees should consult with School Psychology faculty members about the scope of the questions and suggested methods for preparing for the exam.

Consistent with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, reasonable accommodations are provided through the Student Access and Accommodation Services for trainees with documented disabilities. Trainees should contact the Student Access and Accommodation Services by the end of the spring semester in order to request services. Trainees must comply with established procedures to determine eligibility for reasonable accommodations. Student Access and Accommodation Services will determine what qualifies as reasonable accommodations and will develop appropriate plans for providing such accommodations.


Members of the SPCC 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. A student passes an individual question by earning a passing score from at least two raters on that question. Passing the comprehensive exam requires a passing outcome 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 October, 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 SPCC.

If a trainee's performance on an oral examination is not satisfactory, the SPCC 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.

The second comprehensive examination will be administered during the spring semester, after the Doctoral Applicant Interviews, or during the fall semester. The date for a second examination will be determined by the SPCC. Trainees may request feedback from the SPCC that includes mean scores across faculty evaluators for each question from the prior administration, as well as a justification for these scores.

Degree Extension Requires a Second Examination

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 a portion of the comprehensive examination determined by the SPCC and communicated to the trainee. See the Doctoral Program's Policies and Procedures on the Doctoral Forms website for more information.