Doctoral Program General Examinations

Outline for Comprehensive Exam Process

Ph.D. Program in Giftedness, Creativity, and Talent Development

Doctoral students are required to take general examinations. The examinations shall be taken before the proposal defense and not later than eight months prior to conferral of the degree. The examination consists of three parts: creating a portfolio, completing a computer exercise analyzing data based on the two required quantitative research courses, and an oral exam.

Ph.D. students will complete a comprehensive exam process that includes demonstration of competence in the three key areas of responsibility for academic positions (i.e., scholarship, teaching, and service). The process also includes completion of a written exam assessing statistical applications. Students will work with their advisor to determine what evidence will be presented in each of the three major areas, with some guidelines provided below. Once students have assembled evidence in all three areas, they will present the documentation as a portfolio to their advisory committee. The portfolio should demonstrate growth the candidate has made during the Ph.D. program; therefore, the components selected for the portfolio should have been developed after the student was accepted into the Ph.D. program. Students will schedule an oral exam with their committee, at least 2 weeks after the date of submission of the portfolio of evidence. The oral exam will include discussion of the materials in the portfolio as well as questions related to key aspects of expertise in the field of study.


Most students will be expected to complete their comprehensive exam after most coursework has been completed, usually approximately 2 years into the program. The statistics exam may be completed separately at whatever stage the student and advisor determine the student to be ready.

Statistics Exam

The statistics exam is intended to provide the candidate with an opportunity to demonstrate the following research skills:

  • Code and enter data into statistical software (generally SPSS)
  • Conduct a bi-variate correlation, paired and independent t test, and Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) statistical analysis
  • Report results using APA guidelines for correlations, t tests, and ANOVAs

The exam is open note and involves analyzing simulated data provided by the program.

Portfolio Components

Scholarship – (a) brief statement of intended line of/approach to research (1-2 pages), and (b) samples of written work completed after admission to Ph.D. program, demonstrating the student’s content knowledge and ability to apply to appropriate written context. Examples might include the following:

  • Grant proposal (actual or mock)
  • First authorship on a paper submitted for publication

Teaching – (a) brief statement (1-2 pages) of teaching philosophy, and (b) samples to demonstrate student capacity for teaching/preparing courses at the undergraduate or graduate level. These experiences should have occurred after admission to the Ph.D. program. Samples should incorporate multiple aspects of teaching, including planning, delivering instruction, and assessment. Examples might include the following:

  • Syllabus for a course (possibly for an experimental/new topic beyond standard courses in our/similar programs)
  • Teach a course/guest lecture
  • Evidence of working with other educators to implement course innovations, such as efforts to infuse creative thinking, critical thinking, etc. through social media

Service – samples to demonstrate involvement within the university or larger professional community, beyond the level of membership only in an organization. Service examples should represent work conducted after admission to the Ph.D. program. Examples might include the following:

  • National/regional presentation
  • Committee service within organizations or university
  • Consulting with schools
  • Evidence of working with other educators to implement course innovations/differentiation for advanced populations

Oral Exam

At the oral exam, students will be expected to explain how the portfolio evidence demonstrates competence in the field and coherence toward future positions. The committee may ask questions on any aspect of the portfolio, including the teaching and research statements, and may also ask questions reflecting the types of circumstances with which a scholar/expert in the field may be presented (e.g., questions that might emerge from an unexpected phone call or in a faculty meeting). The committee may also ask questions about content covered in coursework. Only the committee and the student will be present for the oral exam.


(updated 10/28/2015)