Comprehensive Exam

Data Centre
Students enroled in the PhD in HIS program are required to pass a comprehensive written and oral exam prior to beginning work on their dissertation. The purpose of comprehensive exams is to ensure that the student has the requisite knowledge foundation to proceed and be successful in the program.

Information concerning comprehensive exams


The comprehensive examination usually takes place during the fourth or fifth terms of registration. 

Examination Process

The student works with the Mentor to strike the Comprehensive Examination Committee which is composed of three or four faculty members (including the student’s supervisor(s) and one to two additional faculty members). The Examination Committee members contribute to the student’s methodological or substantive areas of interest. It is the supervisor’s responsibility to organize the committee (i.e., invite members, distribute the guidelines, organize meetings including the oral defence). Ideally, the examination committee could also be composed of the same individuals on the student’s thesis advisory committee.

The comprehensive exam in the HIS doctoral program consists of the preparation and development of written essays(s). The student may select, in consultation with their comprehensive examination committee, either of the following two options:
  1. a complete first draft of their research proposal (30-40 pages),

  2. two scholarly papers, 15-20 pages each, inclusive of (a) a review of literature with relevance to the proposed dissertation topic and (b) a grant/scholarship application.

The comprehensive exam consists of an assessment of the written paper(s) and an oral defence of the submitted work.


Both the written and oral examinations are graded as Pass/Fail, according to the majority of examiners. The student must pass the written examination in order to proceed to the oral examination. The student must pass both components of the comprehensive exam in order to progress in the program.