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Advisor Tip: The Comprehensive Exam

Advisees will seek guidance if they desire to complete their program with the Comprehensive Exam. Advisors often have questions about the purpose and procedures of the exam themselves. Guidelines have been developed to help the advisor understand the exam and respond to students.

In preparation for the exam, the advisor may share the following with his/her students.


    1. The advisor reminds the student of the purpose of the exam.

            The exam purpose is to have the student demonstrate a level of knowledge, understanding, and application of that knowledge within his/her area of emphasis and within his/her educational setting that appreciably exceeds that of someone who has achieved a bachelor’s degree.


        2.  The advisor may share specifics about the exam procedure.

    • The exam consists of seven (7) questions, of which the student must answer five (5).
    • One question is from EDU5005 Foundations of Educational Research and is mandatory.
    • The other exam questions come from the courses of the four committee members – two from each course.
    • The student may choose which one of the two questions from each course (except EDU5005) to answer.
    • The exam is read and scored by the faculty members according to the rubric available on the MLC Graduate Studies website. Each faculty member evaluates the answer to the question he or she supplied. If a second reading is desired, the director of graduate studies or a person appointed by him will review the question.
    • In preparation for the exam, the student should review the major ideas represented from the courses that will appear on the exam. The student may consult with the committee members for further direction on how to focus their preparation. It is up to the instructor how much direction will be given.
    • The student must pass each of the five questions to pass the exam.

    • Additional information on the Comprehensive Exam is available on page 29 of the Graduate Studies Bulletin.

NOTE TO THE ADVISOR: According to a recent change in policy enacted by the Graduate Faculty Council, each committee member only reads and evaluates the answer to the question that he or she supplied. Previously, each committee member read and evaluated all of the questions. The exam committee consists of five graduate faculty members. One member is automatically the advisor, unless the student has not taken a course from the advisor. A second member is an instructor of EDU5005, the required question. The other three members of the committee are chosen by the student in consultation with the advisor. In the event that the student has not taken a course from his/her advisor, the advisor does not sit on the committee. Instead the student, in consultation with the advisor, selects three committee members from courses he has taken.

Guidelines for advising the student’s committee member selections (Comprehensive Exam)

The advisor encourages student reflection and meaningful selection of committee members by suggesting his/her consider the following questions:

    • Which courses did the student complete within the area of emphasis?
    • Which of the courses the student completed has been of special help to the student in his/her ministry or his current employment? Note: Not all students are WELS teachers.
    • Which of the courses does the student have a special interest in?

    • Which of the instructors was especially helpful to the student?