Comprehensive Exams


When you are in good standing and have completed all course requirements, including the  Residency and Scholarly Research Project, you take the comprehensive exam, written and oral, to progress in your program. The doctoral comprehensive examination assesses your mastery of the IDT body of knowledge requisite for the discipline and your ability to synthesize and apply IDT knowledge to issues and problems. Dingfelder (2004) describes some great tips for student’s preparing for their exam, in the article entitled, Preparing for Your Comprehensive Exams.

The written portion of the exam will consist of two questions, which require essays that you will write over approximately a week period.

You will write one essay of about a problem and related literature within the area of Instructional Design and Technology. This can be the foundation for chapters 1 and 2 of your dissertation.

You will also write a second essay proposing a research study or program evaluation related to the Instructional Design and Technology problem discussed in essay one. This can be the foundation for chapter 3 of your dissertation.

Your program advisers/ or IDT faculty will determine the specific content of these essays, based upon current literature in the discipline, the content of your coursework, and your research interest for dissertation. The essays questions will broad in nature. Your responses should be grammatically correct, have good paragraph and sentence structure reflective of doctoral level writing, formatted in APA, reflect an adequate knowledge base of the discipline, and include seminal and current support from the literature (e.g. references and citations). You need to use APA headers and styles in Microsoft Word or Google docs; failure to do this may result in your need to redo the exam.

Your work on the exam is not collaborative in nature; therefore, you should not seek feedback of any kind or discuss them from your adviser, peers, other faculty members or any other individual. If questions arise during the exam, contact your course instructor for 8600 (not your program adviser).

The exam is however open source. A reading list is vital to your success on the exam. As the exam is designed to assess your knowledge of instructional design and technology as well as educational research, it is important to review course materials, including the books and articles you read. However, your reading list should not be confined to only course resources. You should take responsibility to survey the literature of the field and include in your list at least 50-60 seminal and current major discipline specific articles or works.

As you then prepare to write your essays for the exam, you should draw from your reading list. Also, here are some things to consider while preparing your essay answers:

  • Read the questions carefully.  Be sure to answer all parts of the questions.
  • Construct an outline of your potential answer. If you do not have enough knowledge to construct a solid outline, go back to review your study materials and the literature.
  • From the outline, begin writing your answer.  Take time to make sure the answer flows from point to point in the outline. Use your outline to construct your “topical headings”.
  • Write with clarity and precision. Write about the topical heading and it only.  Using topical headings keeps you on task.  DO NOT WANDER FROM THE TOPICAL HEADING.


The oral portion of the exam will take place following the submission of the written portion. You will schedule the oral exam via Doodle. During the sixty to ninety minute oral exam, you will be expected to discuss the written portion of the exam. It is likely to will be asked to explain and clarify what you wrote, make corrections on errors, and asked further questions about your knowledge of instructional design and technology as well as research. During the exam, you will also receive critical feedback from your committee and/or IDT faculty. Plan to take notes, and even record, the feedback received.

To prepare for the oral portion of your comprehensive exam:

  1. Read through the submitted written portion of your exam at least twice.
  2. Take notes on areas you believe could be improved. Be ready to discuss these needed areas of improvement and rationale for these changes.

When you pass the comprehensive exam, you will be designated as a Late Doctoral Candidate. You may not enroll in dissertation hours until they have attained Late Doctoral status.

Important Dates (For Spring/Summer 2017)

  • April 26, 2017, 11:59 pm CST, – sign up via Doodle for your oral exam
  • April 26, 2017- receive your comprehensive exam questions via your university e-mail.
  • May 3, 2017, 11:59 pm CST -submit the complete written comprehensive exam
  • May 9 or 10, 2017, scheduled time – participate in an oral exam

**The dates noted will change for each cohort. The current dates reflect the information for the cohort who will take the exam in Spring/Summer 2017 (this will be updated each year for each cohort).

Important Documents for Comprehensive Exam Preparation

Important Submission & Sign-Up Information

  • Receive the written portion of your exam via your university email on the specified date.
  • Submit the written portion of the exam and the completed  Comprehensive Examination Form via this Dropbox link. As a backup, you can also create a drive folder with the name (e.g. Lastname_Firstname) and a subfolder with the exam (e.g. IDT_comprehensive exam). The personalized folder and its subfolder(s) should be shared with Your file names for all submissions need to be as follows: 2017_Summer_IDTcomprensiveexam _written(orCE form)_Lastname_FirstName.
  • Schedule the oral portion of the exam via Dr. Rockinson-Szapkiw’s Doodle page ( You can chose the following time slots (all are CST) and indicate the location (on campus in the IDT studio or video via Google Hangout) you will be taking the exam: (For Summer 2017)
      • May 9
        • 10- 11:00 am
        • 11:15am- 12:15 pm
        • 12:30-1:30 pm
        • 1:45-2:45 pm
        • 3:00 -4:00pm
      • May 10
        • 10- 11:00 am
        • 11:15am- 12:15 pm
        • 12:30-1:30 pm
        • 1:45-2:45 pm
        • 3:00 -4:00pm
  • Participate oral part of the exam on campus or Google Hangout
  • Submit the Doctoral Degree Candidacy Form to the Graduate School. The course instructor will submit the completed Comprehensive Examination Form to the Director of Graduate Studies upon successful completion of the comprehensive exam.

Looking Ahead: Steps After the Comprehensive Exam

In the next semester terms, you will enroll in IDT 8600 and 9000.  You will work with an instructor on your dissertation proposal.


File Format. The written portion of the exam should be submitted as a Microsoft Word documents (.doc or .docx) or  Google doc.

Safeguards. Back up work!!!!! If work is ‘electronically lost,’ candidates are responsible for resubmitting the assignment, and if applicable, accepting the associated penalty

COE Professional Disposition Expectations. The College of Education (COE) has approved a list of professional dispositions expected of all students while enrolled in undergraduate or graduate courses at the University of Memphis. You are expected to familiarize yourself with the College of Education’s Professional Dispositions Failure to demonstrate the College’s dispositions in the exam situation can affect your continuance in a program of study.

Writing Standards. The UM Graduate School recognizes and expects exemplary writing. All work ion the exam, should be original, demonstrate doctoral level writing, and comply with the format requirements of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA), 6th Edition. Careful attention should be given to spelling, punctuation, source citations, references, and the presentation of tables and figures. Most resources should be peer-reviewed and reliable.

Attendance Policy. Attendance and participation in all exams activities are expected. The written exam is expected to be turned in by the due date and time. Failure to attend and participate in exam activities and submissions at scheduled times and by specified dates will result in failure of the exam.

Americans with Disabilities Act. It is the policy of the University of Memphis to accommodate students with disabilities pursuant to federal law, state law, and the University’s commitment to equal educational opportunities. Any student who anticipates physical or academic barriers based on the impact of a disability is encouraged to contact the instructor of this course privately. Students with disabilities should also contact Disability Resources for Students (DRS) at 110 Wilder Tower, (901) 678-2880. DRS coordinates access and accommodations for students with disabilities.

Academic Misconduct. Plagiarism, cheating, and other forms of academic dishonesty are prohibited. Students guilty of academic misconduct, either directly or indirectly, through participation or assistance, are immediately responsible to the instructor in addition to other possible disciplinary sanctions which may be imposed through the regular institutional disciplinary procedures. Plagiarism – the adoption or reproduction of ideas, words, statements, images, or works of another person as one’s own without proper attribution. This included word for word and structural plagiarism. Cheating – using or attempting to use unauthorized materials, information, or aids in any academic exercise or test/examination. The term academic exercise includes all forms of work submitted for credit or hours. Fabrication – unauthorized falsification or invention of any information or citation in an academic exercise.

Plagiarism will not be tolerated. Plagiarism includes, but is not limited to, the use, by paraphrase or direct quotation, of the published or unpublished work of another person without full or clear acknowledgment. It also includes the unacknowledged use of materials prepared by another person or agency in the selling of term papers or other academic materials. It is the learner’s responsibility to know all relevant university policies concerning plagiarism. Any documented cases of plagiarism can and will result in a no pass on the exam, and may result in other more serious sanctions by the College of Education. The University of Memphis uses as a means of verifying authenticity and origin of students’ submitted assignments: “Your written work may be submitted to, or a similar electronic detection method, for an evaluation of the originality of your ideas and proper use and attribution of sources. As part of this process, you may be required to submit electronic as well as hard copies of your written work, or be given other instructions to follow. By taking this exam, you agree that all assignments may undergo this review process and that the assignment may be included as a source document in’s restricted access database solely for the purpose of detecting plagiarism in such documents. Any assignment not submitted according to the procedures given by the instructor may be penalized or may not be accepted at all.”  (UM Office of Legal Counsel, October 17, 2005). If you have questions in these regards, please see:

Office of Student Conduct. Expectations for academic integrity and student conduct are described in detail on the website of the Office of Student Conduct ( Please take a look, in particular, at the sections about “Academic Dishonesty,” “Student Code of Conduct and Responsibilities,” and “Disruptive Behaviors.” I will expect students to be aware of these guidelines and to conduct themselves accordingly.