Comprehensive Exam Requirement


As the final exit requirement, students will complete a written comprehensive exam. A student may instead choose to write a thesis, although this option primarily is used for the student immediately entering a doctoral program. 

Comprehensive Examination

The examination is comprehensive, covering seven of the core courses (not including PADM 5035 Professional Practice for Public Managers) as well as general theories, concepts, and techniques of public management. Preparation for the examination should begin with the first course the student takes. Notes taken in class and on textual material will be invaluable in preparing for the examination. Students should review the texts and articles assigned for each class as they prepare for the examination. Total reliance on notes taken several semesters ago is not recommended. Additionally, students should develop their own bibliography for the different areas of the examination. While many of the entries may be the same as those originally assigned for a particular class, useful new sources may be discovered. The inclusion of material not covered originally in class is necessary in order for the student to remain current in terms of public management knowledge and practice. Moreover, essay answers will be strengthened by bibliographic references.

To assist students preparing for the comprehensive exam, copies of recent syllabi for all public administration courses will be available for review in the department office. The department typically schedules a preparatory session a few weeks before the exam to discuss the logistics and format of the exam. A packet of sample questions, some of which have been used on recent exams, will also be made available to those scheduled to take the exam.

General Format of Comprehensive Exam

The morning portion of the exam requires answering two questions from the following sets:

  1. One pair of questions on public administration and society
  2. One pair of questions on administrative research methods

The afternoon portion of the exam requires choosing one question from each of the following sets:

  1. One pair of questions on leading and managing public organizations;
  2. One pair of questions on human resources management;
  3. One pair of questions on managing financial resources and revenue policy/management.

In all areas of the exam, students are expected to display an understanding of ethics appropriate to public service.

Comprehensive Exam Guidelines

The general guidelines for the examination and its associated procedures are provided here:

  1. In order to qualify to take the comprehensive examination, students must have successfully completed a minimum of 30 hours of course work, exclusive of the internship, and must have completed all core courses except PADM 5035
  2. The examination will be administered over an eight-hour period on a Saturday. Unless notified differently, students should plan on the exam being given on the last Saturday in September and January, as well as a Saturday in June near the start of the summer term. The examinations will be scheduled and graded to allow those students who have completed all other requirements to graduate the same semester the examination is successfully completed.
  3. The examination will be administered on the University of North Texas campus at a location to be announced.
  4. Students must inform the departmental secretary of their intention to take the examination by September 1 for the fall examination, January 5 for the spring examination, and April 26 for the summer exam.
  5. Grades for the examination are Pass with Distinction, Pass, or Fail. No course credit will be earned as a result of passing the examination.
  6. Students who fail may retake the examination during a subsequent, regularly scheduled examination period. Examinations will only be given at the three scheduled times. Failure to pass the exam on the second attempt will result in dismissal from the program.
  7. On a rotating basis, one public administration faculty member will serve as coordinator for the examination. The faculty as a whole will prepare the exam. The coordinator will administer the exam and grading process. Other public administration faculty will grade the exams. Each student taking the exam will be assigned a number by the coordinator and only the assigned number, not names, will appear on test packets.
  8. Examinations will begin at 9:00 a.m. and end at 5:00 p.m. on examination days. No one will be admitted to the examination after it begins. Students will be offered a 45 minute break at 12:00 noon.
  9. The examination must be taken on the computer using a word processing program available on the College of Public Affairs and Community Service network and a local printer.
  10. Requests for exceptions to any policy must be made in writing to the MPA program coordinator at least two weeks prior to the examination date.