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Additional Qualifications Online Application System

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Comprehensive Exams
Higher Education Program

Effective September 2011:

There are important changes in the Higher Education Program. One of these changes pertains to the general comprehensive exam.

Students entering the Higher Education Programs in September 2011 and beyond will follow a new set of program requirements. Students who entered the Higher Education programs prior to September 2011 will have the option to either opt into the approved changes or continue their program as originally structured.

Master’s Students

The general comprehensive examination requirement for all Higher Education MEd and MA degree programs was eliminated, converting this from an Option I – Coursework and Comprehensive Requirement to Option IV – Coursework only. Option II – Research Projects will still be available to some in Health Professional MEd Program.

Doctoral Students

The Doctoral Comprehensive Examination replaces the old general comprehensive exam and the doctoral specialization exam.

For general inquiries regarding Higher Education program and the other changes in the program, please contact the Program Liaison, Karolina Szymanski or Program Coordinator Professor Creso Sa. For specific inquiries regarding Higher Education subprograms, please contact the program coordinators of those subprograms:

Health Professions: Professor Linda Muzzin


The objective of the doctoral comprehensive examinations is to ensure that all students master at least one substantive research field in higher education and have the capacity to develop their own written analysis of selected issues within this field. The examination is designed to ensure that students are familiar with the literature and concepts associated with their special area of study within the field of higher education.


Doctoral Comprehensive Examinations

Students should finish all coursework before they take the doctoral specialization exam. Doctoral Comprehensive Examinations may be taken at any time throughout the year provided that the student gives six weeks notice to the coordinator and Liaison officer. Doctoral students must complete their Comprehensive Requirement before they can register their thesis topic and committee.   

Doctoral students preparing for the Doctoral Comprehensive Examinations should review the main authors, readings and course materials in their substantive area.

Examination Formats

1. Three hour sit-down
2. Ten day take-home. Students choosing this option should work with their supervisor or other Higher Education faculty members to construct a 2-3 page list of relevant readings to be prepared for the examination, to be approved by the HEG.

Doctoral Specialization Examinations

1. Doctoral students may elect to take either a Doctoral Comprehensive Examination in one of the existing substantive areas:

i.     Policy Analysis and Evaluation
ii.    Administration
iii.   Governance
iv.   The Community College
v.    Comparative and International Higher Education
vi.   Professions and Professional Education
vii.  Teaching and Learning
viii. Student Development and Services
ix.   Access and Equity
x.   Organizational studies
xi.   Aboriginal Education
xii.  The Academic Research System  
xiii.  Knowledge Production

Or a unique, individual topic based on a core area above plus a student’s particular interests and course program which is described and submitted in writing (approximately 300 to 500 words) for review by the Higher Education faculty. Students choosing the unique individual topic option should work with their supervisor or other Higher Education faculty members to construct a 2-3 page list of relevant readings to be prepared for the examination, to be approved by the HEG.

In the case of unique individual topics, proposal must be submitted six weeks prior to the desired date of examination. The proposal should identify at least one member of the HEG faculty whom the student believes is sufficiently familiar with the topic to oversee the examination. The HEG may accept the proposal as is or may specify revisions, for example, to expand the breadth of the topic.

2.  Doctoral Comprehensive Examinations will comprise of six or more questions, from which students must select three. In all cases students may combine questions as long as they indicate that they are doing so and explain the connections between them.

3.  All types of doctoral examinations may be taken as:
i.  A three hour written examination.
ii. A written “take home” examination due within ten days on which students will later be examined orally for one hour by at least one member of the HEG faculty, but two in total, one of whom will be in the area of each student’s specialization. The oral examination will take place within one month of the submission of the written examination. Academic expectations for the written “take home” examination will reflect the additional time available, for example, synthesis and integration among questions, and the citation of references.

Writing the Examinations

In the sit down examination, students may choose either to write the examination at a time to be agreed on or write the examination on a laptop computer in a room in HEG. Questions will be emailed and answers should be emailed to the Graduate Liaison Officer and the committee. The three hour exam is closed book and students are prohibited from consulting any resources.

Evaluating the Examination

All written examinations are read by at least two Higher Education Group faculty members. This includes the Supervisor and the second reader (approved by the Higher Education group if not a HEG faculty member) and may include Associate Instructors or other OISE professors. The assessment of the examination will be on a “pass/fail” basis. In any case, in which the first two readers do not concur over a decision , the examination will be read by a third Higher Education faculty member. A satisfactory student response to a question is one that is thoughtful and informative, well written, well organized, and logical. It will demonstrate the ability to assemble and apply detailed information to respond to a question, to define and illuminate concepts, and to synthesize disparate sources of information. It will demonstrate the student’s capacity for critical and analytical thinking.

Rewriting the Examinations

Students who do not pass an examination on the first attempt will be allowed to write the examination again. The examination may only be taken twice. Student who fail twice will have their registration terminated.