Comprehensive Exams

The intent of the comprehensive written and oral examination is to provide a more comprehensive evaluation of the student’s knowledge of Counselor Education and Supervision than can be completed in an individual course. The comprehensive written and oral examination is centered on the 5 core areas of CES. The comprehensive written and oral examination is to be taken at the completion of the student’s course work (CES 88292 Internship in CES may be incomplete at the time of the comprehensive examination); that is, all course work listed as part of the Prospectus & Residency Plan must be completed before the student is eligible to take the comprehensive written and oral examination EXCEPT ELECTIVES. CES Doctoral students will be given a one-year time limit from the end of the semester in which they successfully complete doctoral internship to initiate the written comprehension examination. Application and clearance for the comprehensive written and oral examination occurs through the EHHS Graduate Student Services Office (418 White Hall) and the packet must be completed one month prior to the student taking comprehensive exams (

There are five core areas of the CES Doctoral Comprehensive Examinations which include:

  • Counseling
  • Teaching
  • Supervision
  • Leadership and Advocacy
  • Research and Scholarship

The written comprehensive examination will be offered SIX times during the academic year (Fall semester: September 1, October 1, November 1 and Spring semester: February 1, March 1 and April 1). The Doctoral Coordinator will announce via email the exact dates on the CES Doctoral Listserve of when the completed questions are due to the program coordinator and advisors.

In the CES Ph.D. program, students complete the written portion of the comprehensive examination in five weeks. It is recommended that students take one week to write their response to one of the CES core area questions. At the student’s request, the two CES faculty advisors help prepare the student for the five areas to be covered on the written portion of the examination; note that it is the student’s responsibility to schedule a meeting(s) with advisors to assist with preparation.

Once the written portion of the examination has been completed, the Advisory Committee (CES co-advisors) may determine that the student 1) has successfully passed the written examination and is ready for the oral examination, or 2) determine that there is a deficiency, and that re-writing is necessary. A deficiency is thought to exist when one or more of the five answers to the five core area questions are evaluated as unsatisfactory. Students with deficiencies that need to re-write must wait until the next comprehensive exam administration (at minimum) to utilize their second opportunity to pass written comprehensive exams. The maximum amount of time a student can wait to rewrite a question(s) for their written comprehensive exam is three administrations-based on the six administrations offered each academic year. The Advisory Committee (CES co-advisors) must indicate a satisfactory performance on the “written portion” of the examination before the student can schedule the “oral portion” of the examination.

Below are some general guidelines to help prepare for the written portion of the examination:

  • These are comprehensive examinations – students need to demonstrate a culmination of their learning in the CES doctoral program.
  • Plagiarism will not be tolerated, and your answers will be run through plagiarism software. This should be your original work. If plagiarism is found, it will be considered an immediate fail and possible dismissal from the program.
  • Grading will be based on content (e.g., accuracy and thoroughness of information) AND form (e.g., written clearly, good grammar and spelling, APA Style – 7th Edition).
  • Make sure responses are thorough and are “deep.” Shallow or surface level responses are not appropriate.
  • References from general textbooks (e.g., Corey; Sue & Sue, Bernard & Goodyear, Northouse) will not be acceptable references for exams.
  • Begin preparing at least six months before the examination. Dedicate considerable time for preparation/studying. This is NOT a time for cramming.
  • When studying and preparing, please refer to the 2016 CACREP doctoral standards. The examinations in CES have been developed around the 2016 CACREP doctoral standards.

Once a doctoral student receives the five questions for the CES written comprehensive exam, this is considered the first administration. Students have TWO opportunities to pass the written comprehensive exam per the EHHS Graduate Student Handbook. If there is an emergency during the first administration, the Doctoral Program Coordinator, and the Advisory Committee (co-advisors) must be contacted immediately.

For further information on guidance to the comprehensive exams, refer to the CES Doctoral Handbook.