Comprehensive Examination Information

Non-thesis track students are required to take a comprehensive exam (hereinafter, “comps exam”) to demonstrate competency in the core areas of criminal justice. The exam is a test of the breadth and depth of the student’s understanding of basic research methodology, statistics, and the core CRJ courses taken during graduate studies. Thus, students should keep all their materials (e.g., syllabus, books, notes) from their core courses because it will be necessary when the student studies for the exam.
The "non-thesis" track involves a 3 credit "comprehensive exam" course in which students develop their own study guide for each of the 6 core classes. Students will work on skills including: professional writing, citation, organization, time management, and studying. Students will also develop a “study guide” which will be the only outside material allowed in the room during the comps exam.


Study Guide
The study guide that each student will develop is a 2,000-word, typed Word document with any material the student wishes to serve as notes and citation reminders. The font must be 12-point double spaced. This study guide must be submitted by the due date set in the comps exam class. On the day of the comps exam, the student will bring the approved study guide, and show it to the director (who will confirm that it is the approved study guide) before beginning the exam. Students are responsible for bringing their own study guide—do not expect the director/proctor to bring your study guide.


Taking the Exam
The comps exam is a closed book exam taken on one day in the first two weeks of April or the first two weeks of November, as set by the Graduate Director to accommodate all students in the comps exam course. The exam will be taken in a computer lab so students can type their responses.  All students will take the exam at the same time and date. Students should arrive at 8:45 a.m. to get situated for a strict 9 a.m. start. The exam will be from 9-3:30, with a half-hour break for lunch at noon. Students are not allowed to consult outside materials or people during lunch break. This means they cannot look at books, notes, computer, internet, or ask other people about the exam. This would be considered academic dishonesty and will be grounds for failing the exam; the dishonestly will be reported to the university offices and is likely to be result in dismissal from the university.


The student will answer 3 questions. One question pertains to research methods and statistics, and every student will respond to this question. In addition, three questions which pertain to the core CRJ courses (CRJ 740, 750, 785, 788) will be on the exam, and each student will choose 2 of the 3 to answer. Each question will be answered in 3-4 pages typed, double spaced, 12 point font, and avoiding excessive headings designed to waste space. Faculty in those core areas will grade the comps exam. The student must "pass" the entire exam in order to graduate. Comps exam questions are graded on the accuracy and length of the response; on the quality and breadth of the literature you are able to integrate; on the originality, quality and depth of the analysis; on the quality of writing, organization, and grammar; and on the ability to use APA citation style.

Each question is graded as Pass/Fail. The student must pass every question on the exam in order to pass the comps class and graduate.


Retaking the Exam
If the student does not pass, s/he will receive an “X” instead of a grade for the class and s/he must retake the comps class again the next semester, again completing all the assignments and creating a “study guide”.  The student will then take the comps exam again the next semester it is offered. During the semester that the student is studying to retake the exam, s/he must be continuously enrolled in the university for at least 3 credits. The student can take a class, or can take GRAD 899 which fulfills the requirement for continuous enrollment. GRAD 899 is not a course and does not count toward gradation; it is only used to meet the requirements for continuous enrollment. Students pay regular tuition for GRAD 899. If the student does not retake the comps exam the next (fall or spring) semester, the student will have to again register and pay for the comps exam class credits and retake the course; registering for the comps exam fulfills the “continuous enrollment” requirement. If the student fails the retake of the exam, s/he will be dismissed from the program and the university.

During the re-take exam, the student is only required to retake the portion that s/he failed. The re-take exam will contain new questions. The exam will be taken along with the other students at the regularly scheduled time. The student will begin at 9 a.m. along with all other students. The student will receive 2 hours for each question s/he is retaking (i.e., a student retaking one question will have 2 hours; a student retaking two question will have 4 hours).

Failing the comps exam has serious negative consequences: 1) not graduating, 2) having to retake the comps exam class, 3) having to pay for 3 more credits, 4) having to retake the test knowing that if you fail again you will not be eligible for a MA degree.  Thus, there is huge incentive to passing the first time.


Exam Policies
Students should arrive at 8:45 to get situated for a strict 9 am start. Students must be on time to take the exam. No extra time is given due to lateness.

The department policy on missed exams applies to the comps exam.

Students missing the comps exam for excuses other than those permitted by the policy will not be allowed to take the exam. Students missing the comps exam for documented excuses allowed by the policy will have to take the exam within 10 school days (before or after) of the regularly scheduled exam unless there is documented circumstances that prevent that deadline (e.g., a hospital stay of longer than 10 days). Make up exams will contain different questions than the regularly scheduled exam.

The student may use the previously described study guide for assistance, but no other materials are allowed. No assistance from other persons is allowed. Noncompliance with these requirements will result in immediate failure of the comps and expulsion from the Graduate Program as per Department and University of Nevada, Reno policies regarding academic dishonesty. Furthermore, to ensure that students benefit from the process of making their own study guide, all study guides will be kept in record to ensure that future students do not simply copy other students' study guides. It is permissible to look at others' study guides for ideas but students need to make their own study guides. Copying another student’s study guide is like copying another student’s assignment—it is academic dishonesty. The purpose of the study guide is to help you learn and study for the exam—simply copying someone else’s guide will not help you reach those goals.

Any student with a disability who needs to request accommodations when taking the comps should contact the Graduate Program Director and the Disability Resource Center (Thompson Building, Suite 101) to arrange for appropriate accommodations for taking the comp.