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Northwest Missouri State University

Comprehensive Exams

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Dates For Comprehensive Exams

Spring 2014 Saturday,April 5, 2014, 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Summer 2014 Friday, June 13, 2014, 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

The Graduate School requires that each program administer a comprehensive written examination of four hours during the last trimester of a student's graduate work. For more details see the Graduate Catalog and look at the FAQs below.

Frequently Asked Questions

These FAQs address some commonly asked questions and are here for your convenience. However, it is your responsibility to have read the Graduate Catalog and to follow the guidelines there regarding comprehensive exams.

The following FAQs apply to students graduating in current trimester. Changes may be made in future trimesters; all changes will be posted here.

When can I take comprehensive exams?

You must be admitted to candidacy in order to take comprehensive exams. Requirements for being admitted to candidacy include having a 3.0 grade-point-average and having removed all deficiencies. See the Graduate Catalog for more details on admission to candidacy and on eligibility for comprehensive exams. In addition, you must be in your last trimester of study, or you must be in your next-to-last trimester and have six or fewer hours left for the next trimester. See the Graduate Catalog for details. Note that you must apply to the Graduate School to take comprehensive exams, and this occurs early during the trimester you plan to take the exams. See the Graduate Catalog for details.

Course content is changing. Will the student be tested over what was in the course when they took the course or the current content?

Most courses change slowly, so you should have no difficulty answering most of the questions if you take comprehensive exams on schedule, during your last semester of study. If you delay taking comprehensive exams for several trimesters, a course may have changed sufficiently that you will not be able to answer the question.


Part-time students should take comprehensive exams as soon as they are eligible, which will be when they have only six required hours left. 

In establishing the minimum grade requirements for passing comprehensive exams, the faculty members have taken into account the fact that courses do change and that it will be difficult for a student to answer all of the questions. We do not expect any student to make 100% on the exam and therefore have set the passing grade to a lower value than we would for a normal in-class exam.

What is the format of the exam?

MS-ACS comprehensive exams will consist of two parts:

Part 1:  An 80-question multiple-choice exam consisting of 10 questions each based on the following courses: 542, 555, 560, 563, 618, 623, 663, and 664.  Questions will reflect basic knowledge that any graduate should know – the same kind of knowledge expected in technical interviews, for example. 

Part 2:  A  program that each student will complete, using Java and NetBeans.  Here are two sample programs, used in Spring and Summer 2013.  Note that these are samples only.  Your program will be different from these and may include topics other than those covered by these two programs and may require the use of different data structures.  

Be sure you know the basics of Java, including:
  1. Numerical processing (e.g. you should know how to find the max, min, or average of a list of numbers )
  2. String processing (e.g. you should know how to use common String methods).
  3. Basics of OOP, including constructors and classes.
  4. Basic control structures for repetition and selection.
  5. Data structures (arrays, linked lists, and array lists, especially)
  6. Inheritance (abstract classes, subclasses, using super, polymorphism)
  7. Exceptions (how to throw them and how to catch them)
  8. Sorting (both by natural order using Comparable and alternative orderings using Comparator)

The above list of topics covers the basics of object oriented programming in Java, but it is not intended to be inclusive. There may be topics on the exam that are not explicitly mentioned here. Study Java thoroughly, with special attention to the topics listed above.


What constitutes a passing grade on the exam?

A student who earns a minimum of 70% in each part of the exam will pass.

Which courses are covered on Comprehensive Exams?

  • Object Oriented Programming using Java (44-542)
  • Network Security (44-555)
  • Advanced Topics in Database Systems (44-560)
  • Developing Web Applications and Services (44-563)
  • Project Management in Business and Technology (44-618)
  • Information Technology Management (44-623)
  • Application Development in C#.NET (44-663)
  • Human Computer Interaction (44-664)

Can I get access to my old course websites to download materials to study from?

No. It is your responsibility to download materials from each course website while taking the course. Course websites will not be available to you after the course ends.

What happens if I fail Comprehensive Exams?

You may attempt Comprehensive Exams three times. If you fail three times, you cannot graduate. Comprehensive exams are given only one time during each trimester, so if you fail, you must return the next trimester to re-take them. These rules are Graduate School rules, so the Math & CSIS department cannot make changes or exceptions. See the Graduate Catalog for more details.

I am taking comprehensive exams during my next-to-last semester of study, and there is one of the eight courses covered in the exams that I have not yet taken. Am I responsible for answering the questions for courses I have not yet taken?

No student is required to take comprehensive exams prior to their last semester of study.  If a student chooses to do so, the student will still be held to the same standards as for those students who take comprehensive exams during their last semester of study.

It is true that students with six or fewer hours left for their last semester have the option of taking comprehensive exams during their next to last semester. Most students in this situation will have one course left to take plus one semester of Graduate Directed Project. Students earning 70% or more on the multiple-choice portion will pass that portion of the test. This means they must answer 56 of the 80 questions correctly.  If they are lacking one course, there are still 70 questions they should be able to answer, and they only have to answer 56 of the questions correctly.  In addition, students can try to make an educated guess for all questions, whether or not they have had the course, since there is no penalty for incorrect answers. Any student who feels that s/he cannot be successful under these conditions should wait and take comprehensive exams during the last semester of study.