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Obtaining a Ph.D.

Preparing for Comprehensive/Qualifying Exams

The following sites cover preparing for comprehensive/qualifying exams in a very general sense.  Specific disciplines and departments will have their own approaches and policies: check with your program or department as well as others in your field to find out what form their examinations take.  Check through our collection of Promising Practices on General and Final Exams to see if your institution offers any innovative mentoring programs.  We rely on institutions' submissions to keep our collect of Promising Practices updated: if your institution has innovative mentoring practices but isn't represented here, they can be submitted at  


Ph.D. Comprehensive Exams Home Page (University of New Mexico)  Although this is in the Computer Science Department, the information about studying for and taking the exams is relevant to many fields.

Ph.D. Qualifying Exams: Making It to the Other Side (UC Irvine)  A doctoral student in English/Comparative Literature offers mental strategies for facing the exams.

Preparing for Comprehensive (or Qualifying) Exams (University of Texas, Austin)  A professor in Sociology suggests preparing for Comps in three stages: Gathering Information, Understanding Information, and Testing Knowledge.

Qualifying Examination Guide (Claremont Graduate University Writing Center)  Offers suggestions for working with the exam committee, developing reading lists, staying on track, and preparing for oral and written exams.

Qualifying Exam Study Guide (Texas Tech University)  A doctoral student in Rhetoric outlines a strategy for creating exam lists and reading schedules, annotating exam readings, reviewing, and preparing for writing the exams.

Tips for Taking (and Passing) a Comprehensive Examination (University of Central Florida)  Gives general advice for passing oral or written comprehensive examinations.


Promising Practices on General and Final Exams 


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