Executive EdD Comprehensive Exam

Format: The EPPL Comprehensive Exam is a take-home exam, requiring knowledge, synthesis, and/or application of topics addressed in the four EPPL core courses (EPPL 601, 602, 603, and 604) and the research/inquiry sequence.

  1. The Comprehensive Exam includes a generalized question or a set of questions developed by the EPPL faculty. The question(s) is/are designed to cover policy, planning and leadership theory in the EPPL program. Students will approach the response through the lens of the their topic of interest and/or specialization area. Questions are designed in such a way as to further support the student in the development of a dissertation of practice research proposal. Further guidance will be available in the form of a rubric.


  • Identification and description of a specific educational problem,
  • Synthesis and critique of appropriate literature relevant to that problem and its significance,
  • Framing of potential research questions and an approach to examining the problem,
  • Describing the implications for equity and excellence of this proposed research,
  • Describing the policy, planning and leadership implications of this proposed research, and
  • Use of clear, concise, doctoral level academic prose. 
  1. The problem, presented as a researchable issue, may be contextual or one that serves as an example of a larger issue facing institutions, regionally or nationally, which promises to offer greater understanding to scholars and practitioners.
  1. Students will be given a time frame in which to respond to the question that begins in September following completion of the core and research/inquiry sequence and concludes in November of the same semester. Responses will be 18-20 pages in length, excluding references.


The following policies apply only to students in the Executive Ed Program preparing for and taking the EPPL comprehensive exam:

Eligibility. Doctoral students in the Executive Ed Program are eligible to take the comprehensive exam after successful completion of the required EPPL core and research/inquiry courses. The student must be enrolled for at least one credit hour during the semester when he or she is taking the exam.

Timing. The comprehensive exam must be taken within one year of completing the required EPPL core and research/inquiry courses. The comprehensive exam must be passed within five years from the time that the student is admitted to doctoral study. 

Scheduling. The Committee will schedule the comprehensive exam during the semester following the student’s successful completion of all core and inquiry sequence course work. Students will file an application with the School of Education Graduate Registrar to take the exam when they complete all required doctoral core and inquiry sequence course work.

Preparation and Completion. Students may work together as well as on their own while preparing for the comprehensive exam.  Students may consult with their advisors to gather resources provided by the program to assist with exam preparation.  During the exam period, however, all work must be done individually. The examination window will be from September through November with deadlines determined by the student’s committee. Students will respond to the exam’s items under the auspices of the William & Mary Honor Code.  The exam may be completed from any location that is convenient to the student.

  1. Students writing comprehensive exams are permitted the use of any resources and may build upon their own, original work in prior courses, such as logic models and action research cycles, but exam responses must not include work previously published. Exam takers will be required to sign a statement certifying that all responses to comprehensive exam questions are original and that the student had no unauthorized assistance with content, writing, and/or editing during the exam period.
  1. Evaluation. Each comprehensive exam will be read independently by the members of the individual student’s dissertation committee. Exams will be evaluated using a rubric and on a pass/fail/honors basis. A unanimous vote is required for an honors designation and for pass or fail evaluations. The committee will review exam responses within three weeks from the last day of the exam period. The committee chair will notify the EPPL department chair of the evaluation results. The department chair will then inform the Office of Academic Programs, which subsequently will notify the student.
  1. If any part of the exam receives a “fail” evaluation, the designated committee chair will provide feedback to the student, including recommendations for addressing deficiencies. Students will be given one opportunity to revise and resubmit the examination. If the student fails the comprehensive exam twice, the student will be withdrawn from the program.