Skip to main content

EPPL Comprehensive Exam


The EPPL Comprehensive Exam is a five-calendar-day take-home exam comprising two sections: a section that requires knowledge, synthesis, and/or application of topics addressed in the four EPPL core courses (EPPL 601, 602, 603, and 604), and an article critique that assesses knowledge of research design and methods gained in the required research or inquiry courses.

  1. In section one, students respond to a prompt based on topics and materials from the EPPL core curriculum. The focus is on integration and application of knowledge explored in the core courses (EPPL 601, 602, 603, and 604).
  2. In section two, students produce a methodological critique of a scholarly article chosen from a set provided by the faculty. Key to the assessment of this portion of the exam response is the sophistication of the student's critique of the selected study’s design, suggestions for improvement, and explanations of all points and suggestions made. Prior knowledge of the content addressed in the selected article is not required to write a successful response to this section of the exam.

The following policies apply to preparing for and taking the EPPL comprehensive exam:


Doctoral students are eligible to take the comprehensive exam after successful completion of the required EPPL core and research/inquiry courses. The exam can be taken prior to completion of Ph.D. advanced-level research electives (e.g., EDUC 700 and EPPL 765). The student must be enrolled for at least one credit hour during the semester when he or she is taking the exam.


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. 


The Office of Academic Programs schedules EPPL comprehensive examinations.  Students must file register to take the comprehensive exam. The deadline to register for fall comprehensive exams is August 1; the deadline to apply for spring comprehensive exams is December 1.

There is one opportunity during each fall and spring semester to take the exam, scheduled approximately 3 – 4 weeks after the semesters begin. The dates for EPPL comprehensive exams appear on the School of Education’s online Academic Calendar.

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 for resources provided by the program to assist with exam preparation.  During the exam period, however, all work must be done individually. Students have five days to respond to the exam’s items, under the auspices of the William & Mary Honor Code.  The exam may be written from any location that is convenient to the student.

Students writing comprehensive exams are permitted the use of any materials, but exam responses must not include work previously published or submitted for academic credit. Exam takers will be required to sign a statement certifying that all responses to comprehensive exam questions are original, unpublished, not previously submitted, and that the student had no assistance with content, writing, and/or editing during the exam period.


Each comprehensive exam will be read independently by two EPPL faculty members, with a third reader assigned if there is a discrepancy between the assessments of the first two readers. Exams will be evaluated using blind review and on a pass/fail/honors basis. A unanimous vote is required for an honors designation; a majority is necessary for pass or fail evaluations. The review of exam responses will be completed within three weeks from the last day of the exam period. The designated review 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.

If any part of the exam receives a “fail” evaluation, the designated committee chair will provide feedback to the student’s program advisor, including recommendations for addressing deficiencies. A second exam will be scheduled during the next exam period for the portion(s) of the exam that were failed.  If the student fails either section of the comprehensive exam twice, the student will be withdrawn from the program.