Policy and Guidelines
Department of Counselor Education
The Teachers College
Students have the option to take comprehensive exams in lieu of writing a thesis to complete requirements for a masters degree in our department. Students must sign up for comprehensives during the student's last semester of enrollment. Students are required to sign up for the exam in the department office, at least two weeks before the examination date. Students may either write or use a computer to complete the comprehensive exam. For specific details and instructions, students should consult with their advisor.
The purpose of the comprehensive exam is to assess the knowledge and skills a student has attained during the course of his/her graduate study in the department. As such, the comprehensive exam will require that students integrate the principles, concepts, methodologies, and understand the interplay between them as they may be applied in a real work situation. Comprehensive exam questions are developed jointly by program faculty; they are designed to allow students to demonstrate how well they have integrated the knowledge gathered throughout their studies in their masters program. While the questions come from content/outcomes areas identified in program accreditation standards and certification/licensure standards for school counselors, responses to them should generally reflect the application of information learned in individual classes from a student's program of study.
Graduating students are expected to provide broad-based responses to several issues related to the required courses in the student's program. The comprehensive examination is intended to be a stimulating learning experience that empowers students to expand the level of their intellectual and professional development.
School counseling candidates are expected to demonstrate knowledge of content in the areas that follow: (1) counseling theory (including techniques used in individual counseling), (2) small group counseling, (3) career counseling, (4) multicultural counseling, (5) management of counseling programs, (6) individual and group appraisal, (7) ethical and legal issues, and (8) topics and issues related to working as a counselor at the elementary/middle/secondary levels.
It is strongly suggested that students consult with their academic advisor for exam preparation. At the graduate level, students will distill information from various sources (which they should already have done during their program), and then synthesize and analyze the issues to provide a cogent, organized, well-written response that covers all aspects of each question.
The comprehensive examination will be administered during a single testing period. Students are encouraged to spend some time organizing thoughts before writing a response. Students are expected to write coherent and grammatically correct answers to comprehensive examination questions.
The exam is generally administered in two sections; each section provides approximately 1 1/2 hours for responses. Students are usually given the option to respond to 3 of 4 possible questions during each section. The monitor for each examination date will vary. Any questions regarding the exam process can be directed to your advisor or to the Chair of the department.
Evaluation of Responses
Examinations will be evaluated "anonymously" so students' identities will be unknown to the evaluators. Completed examinations are the property of the Department of Counselor Education and will not be returned to students for any reason. Faculty members attempt to evaluate comprehensive examinations within two weeks of the date on which the examinations are attempted.
If the performance of students is not satisfactory they will be informed by their academic advisor of the options for rewriting all or part of the comprehensives. The assessment of responses is based on the professional judgment of a minimum of two faculty members. Three members may review responses when conflicts occur which negate the evaluation by one faculty member. Responses for each question are rated Target, Acceptable, or Not Acceptable (re-write). Students are informed in writing whether all questions were acceptable or which questions were not acceptable. Students may be given specific "homework" requirements to complete with deadlines, etc. before they will be permitted to write new responses to questions where previous responses were not satisfactory. STUDENTS ARE PROVIDED ONE OPPORTUNITY TO RESPOND A SECOND TIME TO QUESTIONS EVALUATED AS NOT ACCEPTABLE IN A GIVEN SEMESTER. Alternative questions may be provided; expectations are explained by the academic advisor. Students may choose to respond in writing or via oral comments to faculty.
Students who are unable to satisfactorily complete comprehensive requirements on the second attempt will discuss options with their faculty advisor concerning a new attempt to pass comprehensives during a future enrollment period (semester). Students will be expected to complete a candidate improvement plan developed by the faculty. This plan is monitored by the student's faculty advisor. Students may be required to re-enroll or enroll in additional course work before writing the comprehensive exam again. In this situation a student may be required to re-write responses to all questions on the comprehensive exam.
Registration for the Comprehensive Examination
Students wishing to attempt the comprehensive examination must notify the department secretary at least two weeks prior to the exam date. If a student has applied to attempt the examination, but for circumstances beyond his/her control is unable to take the exam, the student may request an alternative date to complete the examination; approval must be obtained from the academic advisor and Chair of the department. Students completing internships out of state may request an alternative site to complete the comprehensives. Arrangements must be confirmed by the faculty advisor at least two weeks prior to the scheduled date for administration.
Students must be enrolled in at least one credit hour to take or re-take any part of the comprehensive examination. Enrollment options will be explained by the student's faculty advisor.
Preparing for Comprehensive Exams: Some Advice
Following are some simple suggestions from the faculty to students preparing for the comprehensive examinations. While these are, for the most part, things students already know, it may be useful to be reminded of them.
- Cooperate with fellow students in developing topic outlines, reviews, study groups, etc.
- Practice by answering the questions from prior comps.
- Develop a general outline of your thoughts so that your essay is logical and well organized.
- After you have spent some time reviewing your course material, get together with other students scheduled to write comprehensives and give yourselves a mock comp in the same environment in which you are going to take the real comps.
- Talk to faculty members whose opinions you value. Ask them for advice.
- Don't try to cram the night before the exam. Relax with a book, movie, TV and get plenty of sleep.
- The half-day format for comprehensives will allow students to respond to several questions. You will be asked to relate knowledge and experiences gained to situations in which you might encounter in your professional work. Such questions would ask you to integrate knowledge from various areas.