What is a comprehensive exam or comps?

Used in two ways, one for individual courses and one for degrees (especially graduate degrees).

  1. In an individual course, a comprehensive exam is usually the final exam/test for the course and covers all material from the entire course.
  2. In a degree, a comprehensive exam is part of finishing the degree. It draws on the student’s learning throughout the degree program and can be written, oral or both. For example, a comprehensive exam for a master’s degree in English might have a panel of faculty members asking the student questions about a range of literature and/or literary theory.