First Year Comprehensive Exam

Successful completion of the First Year Comprehensive Exam is the first academic milestone for the PhD degree in Social Welfare. At the end of their first year in the program, all PhD students and Combined MSW/PhD students are required to demonstrate mastery of a broad base of knowledge in social welfare. Specifically, students are required to complete a comprehensive exam based upon knowledge gained in SOC WEL 279 and SOC WEL 289A.

Exam Scheduling and Procedures

A member of the Doctoral Curriculum Committee will schedule and administer the exam. The exact dates of the exam are announced during the spring semester. The exam is likely to be scheduled during finals week (see Final Exam Guide and Schedules for specific finals week dates each term.)

The written exam has two parts (SOC WEL 279 and SOC WEL 289A), which will be administered on two different days.

  1. On each day, at 9:00 a.m. (Pacific Time) we will post examination questions in bCourses.
  2. The exam is intended to take 4 hours, so we expect that you will submit your responses by 1:00 p.m. You will be able to submit responses until 3:00 p.m., in case your unusual circumstances deem that necessary (e.g., computer malfunction). It is expected, however, that students without extraordinary circumstances will submit their responses by 1:00 p.m.
  3. Students seeking disability accommodations should do so through the Disabled Student’s Program well in advance of the scheduled exam.

Approximately one week before the exam, you will receive email invitations from bCourses to join each exam site. After these emails have been sent, you will also see an invite prompt to join the exam site when you log into bCourses. You can use this method to access the sites in the unlikely event that you do not receive the email invite. We recommend that you accept the invitation promptly in order to avoid or troubleshoot any problems with accessing the exam sites.

The exam prompts will be posted to the Assignments section of each site when the exam begins. The instructions on each site will provide some guidance as to the expected length of responses to the questions for that course, although there is no explicit word minimum or maximum for either exam. Please prepare exam responses in a document that you can save frequently, and upload your responses in a .doc, .docx, or .pdf file format.

You may complete your exam from any location of your choosing. However, you may not discuss the specific examination prompts or your responses with anyone and will be asked to affirm a statement indicating that you have adhered to this prohibition upon submission of your exam. While you are not permitted to discuss the specific examination itself or your responses, please feel free to prepare for the examination with your peers.

Exam Grading and Outcomes

Each part of the exam will be graded by two members of the doctoral faculty who are chosen by the Doctoral Curriculum Committee. The same faculty will grade responses submitted by all students. Efforts will be made to keep graders naive to the student’s identity (i.e., the documents will not be associated with your name, but something you write or how you write it could reveal your identity to the reader).

Within one month, you will be notified of having received one of the following three grades:

  • Superior: A synthesis and critical evaluation of the social welfare field demonstrating exceptional grasp of the issues and literature (this distinction is rare).
  • Satisfactory: A competent synthesis and critical evaluation of the social welfare field demonstrating adequate knowledge of the issues and literature (this assessment is typical).
  • Unsatisfactory: A failure to develop a coherent synthesis or reasoned critical evaluation of the social welfare field demonstrating inadequate knowledge of key issues and/or literature.

Performance on the Comprehensive Examination will be included as part of students’ first year program review. Students with Unsatisfactory grades will have an opportunity for remediation and to retake the exam in late September/early October. Students who do not pass the second exam will be subject to dismissal from the program.