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Comprehensive Examination

The Ph.D. comprehensive exam is a thorough test of the student's knowledge and intellectual capability.

The student is expected to demonstrate a mastery of the subject matter encompassed by the chosen field and ability to demonstrate how specific items interrelate. The student should be able to utilize knowledge in problem solving situations and for creative interpretation and speculation.

Candidates are required to have a minimum grade-point average of 3.0 for work performed at Penn State. The examination is officially scheduled and announced by the Dean of the Graduate School following recommendation by the doctoral committee chairman through the Department Head. The scheduling form is available in the Office of Student Programs, 202 Food Science Building, and must be completed at least two weeks prior to the oral examination.

The examination shall consist of both a written and oral section. Each member of the student's committee will submit at least two written questions to the Chairman of the committee who will administer the written section. All questions and answers will be distributed to each member of the committee for review. Within one week the committee will meet for the purpose of conducting the oral portion of the examination.

A favorable vote of at least two-thirds of the members of the committee is required for passing. Based on the student's performance, the committee may recommend to the Dean of the Graduate School one of the following actions:

  1. That the candidate be passed,
  2. That the candidate be re-examined at a later date,
  3. That the candidate be failed and eliminated from the program.

Note that in May 2001, the Food Science Faculty discussed the possibility of basing a substantive portion of the comprehensive examination on a thesis proposal drafted by the Ph.D. candidate. Although a thesis proposal is not currently required by our program, the Ph.D. candidate and his or her advisor are encouraged to use this approach for the comprehensive examination.

Students who pass their comprehensive exam can register for FD SC 601 (Ph.D. dissertation full time) for zero credits. Tuition is not charged for this course but there is a Ph.D. Dissertation Fee.