MA Comprehensive Examinations

All Master of Arts degree candidates must successfully complete a written comprehensive examination. The responsibility for initiating the process rests with the student in consultation with his/her supervisory committee.

This exam is normally taken late in the student’s final semester. Students shall receive evaluation of their performance approximately two weeks after the examination. Passing performance requires agreement among a majority of the committee. The committee will give an overall grade of pass with honors, pass, or fail.

A second examination is permitted if a candidate fails all or a portion of a master's examination. The second exam cannot take place fewer than two months or more than fifteen months after the failed examination unless an extension is granted by the Dean of the Graduate School. No third examination will be allowed.

Contents of Comprehensive Examinations: The comprehensive examination is typically structured as follows.

  • One section [question(s)] is designed to evaluate the student's ability to integrate materials in the major area of concentration -- presumably based in large      part upon the field seminar.
  • One section [question(s)] deals specifically with other course work in the major area of concentration.
  • One section [question(s)] is designed to evaluate the student's ability to synthesize materials from several fields of political science -- presumably based upon the four field seminars.

Supervisory Committee Meeting: Early in the semester during which the candidate plans to take the examination, the candidate should convene a meeting with his/her supervisory committee. This is a critical step in the process as the purpose of this meeting is to make procedures and expectations clear to the candidate.   Following the meeting the candidate should communicate his/her understanding of the issues addressed at the meeting in written form to all supervisory committee members. Typically the student will follow-up individually with each member of the committee as regards substantive preparation for the examination.

Approval to Schedule Final Examination Form: In order to schedule the examination, an “Approval to Schedule Final Examination” form must be obtained from and returned to the Graduate School. The form [see appendix A] is available on the Graduate School’s web site []. All members of the supervisory committee must sign this form. The Graduate School will then prepare notices and a ballot for the examination.

The Graduate School views both the written examination and the oral defense of a thesis or report as part of the same examination process. Hence, if you are pursuing the non-thesis/report option, the date on the approval form is the date of the written exam. If, however, you are writing a thesis or report, the date on the approval form is the date of the oral defense of the thesis or report.

Examination Preparation: All exam questions will be prepared by the student’s supervisory committee. Where necessary, committee members will consult with professors from whom the student has taken course work.

Administration: Each semester the MA Director announces the comprehensive examination date. This date is typically late in the semester. Normally the duration of the exam is a maximum of six hours. In unusual situations, the candidate in consultation with their supervisory committee may request an alternative to the established exam date. The MA Director is responsible for exam logistics.  

Reading/Grading of Exams: All questions will be read by each member of the student's supervisory committee. Occasionally, a non-committee faculty member from whom the student had classes is asked to contribute question(s) for the exam. In such situations, that faculty member will also read the student's exam, but will not be a voting member of the committee. Under certain circumstances, and at the discretion of the student's advisory committee, an oral exam may be administered as a follow-up to the written comprehensive exam.

Oral Defense of Thesis or Report: Candidates choosing either the thesis or the report option are required to pass an oral defense of the research. At the discretion of the student’s supervisory committee, the oral defense may also include questions of a general nature pertaining to the field of political science. The oral examination is taken when the student's committee certifies that a satisfactory copy of the report or thesis has been presented. Passing performance requires agreement among a majority of the committee.

Non-Thesis/Report Requirements: Students taking the non-thesis, non-report option are reminded that they must complete their internships, reports, and related course requirements before they are eligible to receive their degrees.

Student Responsibility: According to the Kansas State University Graduate School, graduate students are held responsible for knowing the academic policies and degree requirements set forth in the Bulletin (General Catalog). They are likewise held responsible for knowing the regulations concerning the degree they plan to take and any special requirements within the department or academic unit. In addition, it is the student's responsibility to be informed regarding the University's policies as to the standard of work required for continued enrollment in the Graduate School. The Graduate Office should be consulted if additional information is needed.