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Graduate Comprehensive Examinations
All graduate students who seek a Master of Science degree in Criminal Justice and who have opted for the 36 hour program (non-thesis option) must take comprehensive examinations. Examinations are often scheduled during the last semester in which the student in enrolled. Students who choose to write a thesis must complete an oral defense of their thesis.
Application to Take Comprehensive Exams
In order to take comprehensive examinations, students must obtain, complete, and return a Comprehensive Examination Form no later than the date in which the university application for graduation is due (usually by the third or fourth week of the semester) and in the semester in which they intend to take the examination. Forms are available from the Graduate Director or by visiting http://www.marshall.edu/criminal-justice/grad/Comps%20Application.pdf. The Comprehensive Examination Form must be signed by all committee members and will remain valid only for the semester in which it is signed. Students should keep in touch with their committee chair and members to insure that the dates for comprehensive written and oral examinations and defenses remain the same.
Comprehensive Assessment Committee
The student, along with his/her Committee Chair or Graduate Director, will determine the appropriate committee members. The committee is comprised of three full-time members from the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology. The committee chair must be a faculty member with graduate faculty status. The two additional committee members must have at a minimum, associate faculty status. This committee will be responsible for writing and/or selecting the examination questions and evaluating the adequacy of the student’s responses.
Typically, comprehensive exams are administered during the second week of November and the first week of April. Summer examination dates are rare and subject to faculty availability. Upon obtaining an official comprehensive committee, the Graduate Director will email the student about the designated “theme” for the exams no later than one month prior to the exam date. For example, questions in the past have been written around a subject area such as terrorism, child abuse, cyber crimes, shoplifting, etc. Students are expected to familiarize themselves with the theme in order to better prepare themselves for the exam. Students must pass both the written and oral comprehensive examinations in order to be eligible for graduation from the program
A. Written Exams
On exam day, students will meet with the Graduate Director in a designated computer lab on Marshall’s campus. As for the time frame, students will have an hour and fifteen minutes per question. The fifteen minutes can be used for preparing and outlining the question and the remaining hour for typing each answer. Within the five hour block each student will have two and a half hours in the morning and two and a half hours in the afternoon to write their answers with a one hour lunch break in between.
The exam is comprised of four questions, that is, one question each in the areas of Advanced Criminal Law and Procedure, Criminal Justice Planning, Advanced Theory in Criminal Justice, and Research Methods/Statistics related in some way to the selected theme. Each of the four areas corresponds to one or more of the core classes in the master’s program (i.e., Advanced Criminal Law and Procedure- CJ 621, Advanced Theory in Criminal Justice- CJ 604, Criminal Justice Planning- CJ 603, Research Methods in Criminal Justice- CJ 655, and Applied Statistics in Criminal Justice- CJ 656). Students receive two questions in the morning and will then receive the remaining two questions in the afternoon. However, students are not informed about the order of the questions until the exam has begun. Students are prohibited from conversing during the examination and must silence all electronic devices. Students are advised to answer each question thoroughly and are expected to demonstrate a mastery of the criminal justice discipline.
B. Committee Review of Written Responses
After completion of the written exams, the Graduate Director will disseminate the student responses to the appropriate committee members. The committee will review and score the student’s answers using a rubric that has been developed for that question. Next, each committee member will determine whether the overall response for each area was “superior,” “above average,” “average,” or “weak.” Passing the written comprehensive exams is achieved by receiving average or higher in at least three or more subject areas. However, if the committee deems two or more subject areas are weak on the written exams, then the student may be subject to repeating that portion(s) of the exam or the entire exam the next time/semester in which exams are offered. In essence, the student’s designated committee will inform the Graduate Director about whether or not the student’s answers are sufficient in order to proceed to the oral defense. In the case of exceptional performance on the written comprehensive examinations, the oral comprehensive examinations may be waived by the committee
Within two weeks of completing the written exam, the Graduate Director will notify the student about the committee’s decision. If the student has passed the written exams, the Graduate Director will confirm the scheduled oral defense date. This is a time period in which the student is encouraged to continue reviewing their notes and course materials in order to prepare for the oral defense.