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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

Comprehensive Exam Policies

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MPA Comprehensive Exam Policy


All Masters in Public Administration (MPA) students must successfully complete a comprehensive examination as a part of their degree requirements. Students who are only pursuing a Certificate in Public Management (CPM) do not need to take comprehensive exams.


The examination may be taken in the semester in which the MPA student completes all course work (with the possible exception of the capstone project) or in any subsequent semester. The student's examining committee must approve any exceptions. The examination will consist of two required questions (of which students may or may not have a choice in the questions) coming from either the core courses in the program or from a case study (at the discretion of the MPA faculty member evaluating exams) and one question from the student's track (American Administration or International Administration). Students who take a majority of their coursework via University Extended Education (or by other special arrangement) may obtain permission from the MPA faculty member to substitute the track question for an additional MPA question. The written examination may or may not be followed by an oral examination. The choice to follow up with an oral examination is at the discretion of the student's examining committee. Students should note the following steps and details about the process.


1. Students must register to take the comprehensive exam by the end of the third full week of the semester.  Register with the Department Office Manager. We will need the student's address, telephone number, email, MPA track (American Administration, International Administration or Cities Student), and student's faculty advisor's name. Questions about registering for the comprehensive exams can be directed to the Department Office Manager at 507-389-2721.


2. The comprehensive examination will be administered during fall and spring semester of each academic year. For each semester the examination is given, students are to receive the examination questions via email (or D2L if arranged that way in advance) at 9:00 a.m. on a date to be determined by the department graduate director.  Unless informed otherwise, the comprehensive exam date will be the Saturday of the fifth week of instruction.  Answers to examination questions must be returned by email (or via D2L if arranged that way in advance) to the MPA comprehensive exam administrator by 9:00 pm that same day. If the examining committee requires an oral defense, the student will be notified of the time/date of the oral defense.


3. Prior to the comprehensive examination, students will be mailed or emailed confirmation of their acceptance into the examination process and a confirmation of the time/date of the examination and any other necessary details.


4. The student's written examination may not exceed 20 pages. The finished product must follow a standard and acceptable style manual format (e.g. APA, APSA, Chicago), be double-spaced, with standard margins and fonts (no exotic fonts), proper annotation, and in-text citations that clearly identify the source (e.g. author, title), however no formal bibliography is required.


5. Each student must submit their own individual exam. Students may utilize and access outside materials during the examination. The final product must be comprehensive and address the given questions. A successful written examination will be clear, concise and will illustrate the student's familiarity with the relevant literature and theories.


6. Each student examination will be administered by department faculty. The faculty member who authored the question(s) the student choose to answer will score the student's answer on that question. Faculty comments on individual examinations are available on request.


7. Scoring of exam questions will be conducted using a point system. Each of the two MPA-related questions are worth 33 points, for a total of 66 points possible for the MPA section of the exam. The track question will be worth 34 points, making a total of 100 points possible for the comprehensive exam as a whole. Total scores below 80 points results in an automatic failure on the comprehensive exam. Oral examinations are at the discretion of the faculty scoring the written exam, however, students scoring between 80-84 points on the comprehensive exam usually require an oral examination. Students scoring more than 84 points may be subject to an oral examination at the discretion of the examining faculty members.


8. Students will be notified of the results of the written part of the examination by mail or email, usually within about three weeks of the final exam date. If the examining committee requires an oral examination, the student will be notified by mail or email with the date/time of the oral exam. Oral exam format is determined by the faculty who scored the faculty's comprehensive exam. A mark of "fail" ends the MPA student's comprehensive examination process for that semester.


9. Students who fail the examination may retake the entire comprehensive examination once. After the first fail, the student may be advised to take additional course work and other advice might be given. Failure to successfully pass the examination the second time will result in dismissal from the MPA program.


10. Collaboration with other students on any of the track questions of the comprehensive exam is strictly prohibited. Collaboration on the MPA questions is strictly prohibited unless specifically granted by the MPA program faculty member who is evaluating the examination. Violation of any of these policies by the student, including plagiarism of any kind or form, will not be tolerated. Penalties may include automatically failing the comprehensive examination, removal from the program, and/or university disciplinary action.


11. Exceptions to this policy are at the discretion of the MPA graduate director in consultation with the MPA faculty.