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Department of Political Science

MPA Comprehensive Examinations

All Master of Public Administration degree candidates must successfully complete a written comprehensive examination. The responsibility for initiating the process rests with the student in consultation with his/her advisory committee. This exam is normally taken late in the student’s final semester. 


Each semester the director of graduate studies will post dates associated with the examination process. The first of these will require students taking the exam to state their intention in writing to the director of graduate studies.


  • Meeting with the MPA Faculty: At about the mid-point in the semester, students taking the exam will meet with the entire MPA faculty to discuss the process and the expectations. To ensure that the committee and the candidate are on the same page at the completion of this meeting the candidate should communicate his/her understanding of the issues addressed at the meeting in written form to the director of graduate studies. 

  • Approval to Schedule Final Examination Form: In order to schedule the examination with the Graduate School, an “Approval to Schedule Final Examination” form must be obtained from and returned to the Graduate School All members of the student’s graduate supervisory committee must sign this form. 

  • Review Questions: Three weeks before the exam review questions will be distributed. The core course review questions will be divided into five sections reflecting our core areas of public administration -- research methods, policy analysis, public personnel management, organization and public administration theory, public budgeting and finance. Each section will contain two or three review questions. They will be prepared by the MPA faculty member responsible for each core course.

  • Review Questions and Exam Questions: The questions appearing on the actual exams will be taken directly from these review questions.

  • Consultation with Individual Faculty: Typically the student will follow-up individually and in detail with each member of the MPA faculty who is responsible for any of the core course questions.


The comprehensive examination is typically divided into five sections corresponding to the core public administration areas addressed in our program. A response will be required to one question, taken directly from the review questions, in each of the sections for a total of five questions.

Students will have 48 hours to complete the exam and to submit it electronically.  Students will be required to sign an affidavit attesting to the fact that the work on the actual exam is theirs only. 

  • Organization and public administration theory/issues: The question in this section will deal with material covered in Public Administration and Society [POLSC 702] and Public Organization Theory [POLSC 735].

  • Research Methods: The questions in this section will deal with material covered in Research Methods [POLSC 700].
  • Policy Analysis: The question in this section will deal with material covered in Policy Analysis and Evaluation [POLSC 710].

  • Public Personnel Management: The question in this section will deal with material covered in Public Personnel Administration [POLSC 708].

  • Public Budgeting and Finance: The question in this section will deal with material covered in Public Budgeting [POLSC 737] and in Public Finance [POLSC 738].


A blind evaluation of the comprehensive exam will be conducted by the entire MPA faculty.  Each question will be graded as “fail”, “pass” or “pass with distinction”.  If a student fails one question, an immediate retake of the question area failed is allowed. This retake can involve either another take home exercise or an oral examination.  If the student fails more than one question, the student fails the entire exam, must retake the exam, and the Graduate School’s rules for retakes come into play. Specifically, the Graduate School allows only one retake. The student must wait at least two months but no more than fifteen months to take the retake.  According to the rules established by the Graduate School, a third examination is not permitted.


Students shall receive evaluation of their performance via email with a letter to follow within two weeks after the examination.