The purpose of the comprehensive examinations is to test the candidate’s capacity to deepen and broaden their understanding of the theoretical and empirical debates in the scholarly fields of interest to the candidate. It is not the place to present their proposed research.
The exam questions may have different dimensions (theoretical, epistemological, methodological, empirical or field specific) depending on each candidate's particular contexts, research interests and the needs identified by the committee members. The comprehensive examinations require a) a response to the two questions formulated by the committee b) a synthesis of the relevant literature necessary to respond each of the questions c) an account of the development of the field of knowledge and the key debates that have structured it.
The format permits the exam to be tailored to the specific research context of individual candidates. It remains, however, an exam that assesses a candidate’s capacity to answer the comprehensive exam questions according to a relevant bibliography.
The objectives of the two exam options are essentially the same, i.e., to test the candidate’s capacity to produce answers that synthesize and map the fields of knowledge targeted by the committee’s questions. However, the relationship to the proposed bibliographies differ. In Option 1, where the writing is undertaken over a period of five and a-half months, the candidate draws heavily on the bibliography proposed by the committee but can amend as necessary. In option 2, written over a four-day period, following an equivalent reading period to Option 1, the candidate is limited to the works included in the bibliography proposed by the committee.