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.
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 the Health Professional Education degree.
The Doctoral Comprehensive Examination replaces the old general comprehensive exam and the specialization comprehensive exam.
For general inquiries regarding Higher Education program and the other changes in the program, please contact the Program Liaison, Sezen Atacan-Mert or Program Coordinator Professor Glen A. Jones. For specific inquiries regarding Higher Education subprograms, please contact the program coordinators of those subprograms:
Health Professions: Professor Linda Muzzin
M.Ed. Leadership Cohort: Professor Katharine Janzen
Community College Leadership Cohort: Professor Peter Dietsche
Prior to 2011:
All graduate degree students at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto are required to fulfill a comprehensive requirement as part of their program of studies. For students in the Higher Education Group, this comprehensive requirement consists of one or two examinations. All M.Ed./M.A. students are required to write a general comprehensive examination. All Ed.D./Ph.D. students are required to write a general comprehensive examination and a specialization examination in their special area of doctoral study. Students who take an HEG general comprehensive examination at the master’s level do not have to take a general comprehensive examination at the doctoral level.
The objective of the comprehensive examinations is to ensure that all students are familiar with the issues and literature on higher education and have the capacity to develop their own written analysis of selected issues. In the case of the specialist paper for doctoral students, the examination is designed to ensure that students are familiar with the literature and concepts associated with a special area of study within the field of higher education. These examinations are often the only time when students are asked to demonstrate their writing and analytical abilities in a controlled environment during their academic program.
General Comprehensive Examinations are offered twice each year: the last Friday of October and the last Friday of March (except when those days fall on holidays, in which case the examination is offered on the immediately following Friday). Students are responsible for signing up for the examination at least three weeks before the examination date. A notice and sign up sheet is posted in the department office in February and September of each year. Students write the general comprehensive examination from 9:00 a.m.to 12:00 noon. Examinations can also be arranged for locations outside Toronto on the same dates and times as the on-campus examinations.
Doctoral Specialization Examinations do not have to be taken on the same day as the General Comprehensive Examinations. Doctoral Specialization Examinations may be taken at any time provided that the student gives six weeks notice to the department. Doctoral students must complete their General Comprehensive Requirement before they can register their thesis topic and committee.
Preparing for the examination
Students may elect to sit for the examinations on any of the usual dates. Students, however, should consider not writing the General Comprehensive Examination until they have completed the majority of their courses, including TPS1803: Recurring Issues in Post-secondary Education.
The General Comprehensive Examination covers general issues in higher education. Working with other students to share information, review readings, and compare practice answers to the questions on old exam papers can be a useful but not necessary means of preparing for the examination. Copies of previous examinations are available in the department office and students are encouraged to review old examinations in order to obtain a clearer understanding of the nature and format of the general comprehensive and doctoral specialist examinations.
Doctoral students preparing for the Doctoral Specialization Examinations should review the main authors, readings and course materials associated with courses in their special area.
General Comprehensive Examinations
Each examination will be three hours long. General Comprehensive Examinations normally include from eight to ten questions. Students are required to answer three questions of their choice.
Doctoral Specialization Examinations
1. Doctoral students may elect to take either a Doctoral Specialization Examination in one of the existing specializations:
- Administration, Planning, and Governance
- Comparative and International Higher Education
Teaching, Learning, and Evaluation
or a specialization individually declared from any three of the following:
- Comparative Higher Education
- International Higher Education
- Professional Education
or a unique, individual topic based on 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.
In the case of individually declared specializations, students must indicate their three selections one month prior to the examination. Any combination of three selections will be accepted by the HEG.
In the case of unique individual topics, proposals 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 Specialization Examinations will comprise six to ten questions, from which students may select any three. In all cases students may combine questions as long as they indicate that they are doing so and explain the connections between them. Doctoral examinations in individually declared specializations will comprise at least twelve questions, four for each of the three selections. Students must answer one question from each of the selections.
3. All types of doctoral examinations may be taken in one of two ways:
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 two members of the HEG faculty, 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
Students may choose either to write the examination by hand (pencil/pen and paper) or write the examination on a laptop computer. If they choose the latter, they are responsible for bringing a computer with them to the examination room and must provide the examiners with a computer disk that identifies them by either name or student number and contains their answers at the conclusion of the examination. Students should indicate their intention to use a computer for the examination well in advance so that arrangements can be made to provide students with a place to plug in their computers. It is also wise to provide the examiners with advance information on the type of word-processing software that will be used since special arrangements may have to be made in order to print the examination files. Students should not bring books or other resource materials with them to the examination. The examiners reserve the right to examine files stored on the hard-drive of any computer that will be used in the examination room. Students should bring their own writing instruments (pens, pencils, etc.). Examination booklets will be provided by the department.
Evaluating the Examination
All written examinations are read by at least two Higher Education Group faculty members. 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 or where they agree that a fail should be recommended, the examination will be read by a third 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 on the next regularly scheduled examination day. The examination may only be taken twice.
A FEW COMMON SENSE SUGGESTIONS FOR WRITING
THE HIGHER EDUCATION GROUP GENERAL/COMPREHENSIVE EXAMINATION
Read the examination from beginning to end. Make sure that you understand the instructions for the examination.
Budget your time. Since you will be asked to answer three questions, make sure that you allocate your time appropriately among them (remember to bring a watch or clock with you so that you can easily determine how much time is left).
Begin with the question that seems easiest or most relevant to you. Questions do not have to be answered in the order in which they are presented. Your levels of confidence and comfort may be greater if you begin with a question that does not seem too difficult.
Read the question again. Since your answer must address the question, make sure that you understand the question you are about to address. Almost all of your questions will ask you to “compare”, “analyze”, “comment”, or “discuss” in addition to describing or explaining some phenomenon, issue, or concept. If the question has more than one part, be sure to address all parts.
Combine questions if you wish. You may see logical connections between some questions. If you do, and wish to respond to them in a single, combined answer, you may do so. In that case, however, it is essential that you indicate that you are answering two questions at once, and indicate which questions they are.
Give some thought to the outline of your answer. It is a good idea to spend a few minutes thinking about what you are going to write before you actually commit yourself on paper.
Be sure to pace yourself. How much time is left for this question? Do not try to cram too many points into the “middle” of your answer. Be selective and limit your answer to the prime points you wish to make. Save a few minutes at the end of each question to read and revise your answer. Check for missing words and phrases. Did you answer the question?
Show us what you know! Reference relevant books or articles -- for example, “Flexner argues that…” may help to demonstrate your ability to critically analyze an issue or topic.
Number each page as you go. This will be helpful in ensuring that the pages will be stapled in the correct order, and that you can make quick references to what you will have already written.
Consider your answer to an exam question as a short essay. It should have a beginning, a middle and a conclusion. It should directly address the question itself and should read logically from the introduction, through the middle, to the conclusion. Do not forget the conclusion (students sometimes let their answers just trail off in mid....)
Do not be afraid to be emphatic. Your opinion, after all, has been asked for, but you should also demonstrate that you understand and are aware of different viewpoints. Give different views a fair showing. For example, in a question that asks for a comparison of two authors (or theories) give each of them equal treatment with specific references (so that we will know that you are familiar with these works and ideas). If you choose, end by showing one to be superior or more appropriate. There is no need to pretend that different views have equal value, but you must be able to defend your reply by doing justice to both parties (or theories, or explanations).
Be sure to put your name or student number on your examination or computer diskette.