Qualifying Exams

All doctoral students must pass a qualifying examination (sometimes called a comprehensive examination) after completing all coursework with a grade of B or higher. The qualifying exams include a written portion and an oral defense of the written answers to questions in the following areas:

  • mass communication theories
  • research methods
  • the student’s major area
  • the student’s cognate area
Each doctoral student will form his or her qualifying examination committee with the approval of the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies. Each committee will comprise a chair, two members of the graduate faculty in Media & Communication, and one member from the student’s cognate area.

The committee chair must be approved to direct doctoral dissertations. No faculty member is obligated to serve on any particular committee.

Scheduling Qualifying Exam

In order for a qualified student to take the qualifying examination, he or she must notify the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies in writing of his or her intent to take the examination by the last class day of the semester preceding the date the examination is to be taken.

Students may not take the exam until the student has received passing grades in all courses on the degree plan.

No student may schedule the qualifying examination (comprehensive exam) until after she or he has successfully completed the research competency examination.

No student may take the research competency examination and the qualifying examination in the same term.

Each question area is scheduled for four hours. Students must complete all sections of the exam within a seven-day period.

All four questions will be created and graded by the student’s examining committee.

Oral Defense

An oral defense is mandatory for qualifying exams. No more than 30 days after the written portion of the doctoral comprehensive examination is completed, the committee and student will meet for an oral defense. The examining committee chair is responsible for inviting all members of the graduate faculty in Media & Communication to attend the meeting. This defense will begin by giving the student an opportunity to clarify, correct or expand on answers originally written. The committee may then ask questions of the student designed to confirm the student’s understanding of the examination material. The questions in the oral examination should not go beyond the scope of the written comprehensive examination questions unless such expansion is needed to confirm the student’s understanding of concepts addressed in the written examination.

Following the oral defense, each question will be graded by all members of the committee.  A student will pass the question only if a majority of the examining committee votes to pass the student for the question.  

Students whose answers are “in need of additional clarification” may be given an opportunity to write explanations or expansions of their answers following the oral defense.  This option is entirely at the discretion of the examining committee.

Following the oral defense, the committee will meet privately and will assign the student one of the following grades per each of the four sections of the exam:
  • Pass with distinction
  • Pass
  • Fail
A student must pass all four sections of the exam to receive an overall passing score.

Students who pass the exam (all sections) may then form a dissertation committee and present a dissertation proposal.

Students who do not pass any question or questions will be required to re-take only the question or questions they did not pass in a subsequent qualifying examination.

If a student fails any portion of the exam he or she must retake that portion. A second examination may not be taken less than four months or more than 12 months after the initial failure. Students who fail the doctoral comprehensive examination twice will not be continued in the doctoral program.

After passing the qualifying examination a student is admitted to candidacy and will, with the advice and consent of the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies, select a dissertation committee.

All doctoral students in the College of Media & Communication must pass the qualifying examination and be admitted to candidacy before selecting a dissertation chair, forming a dissertation committee or submitting a dissertation proposal.

During the academic term in which a student takes the qualifying examination for admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. for the first time, he or she may enroll in COMC 8000 (dissertation hours).  

A student may not form dissertation committee or present a prospectus until he or she has passed the qualifying examination. 

For those students who have passed the examination, the student’s examination committee will report to the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies who will file the Report of Final Defense with the Texas Tech University Graduate School.