Graduate students outside university hall

MA Comprehensive Exam Rules and Procedures


The Comprehensive Examination option is one of two options, alongside the Thesis Option (See, which MA students may decide to pursue as a graduating option, generally in their last semester of study. It is open to all MA students who have earned a minimum GPA of 3.0 and completed the minimum number of graduate credits. Students in the regular MA must have completed and earned a minimum of 27 graduate credits prior to sitting for the Comprehensive Examination. Students coming from the combined 5-year BA/MA track must have completed and earned a minimum of 24 graduate credits prior to sitting for the Comprehensive Examination. Students are tested in four subject areas that may include any four of the classes they took in the program, with the exclusion of LAWS 500, LAWS 503 and LAWS 513, which are not tested.

This guide helps to ensure that the process is as smooth as possible and students are able to meet the crucial deadlines and timelines that would make it possible for them to register and sit for the Comprehensive Examination in a timely manner and without impediments. Students seeking to pursue the Comprehensive Exam option should therefore begin the process as early as possible and contact the GPC at least a semester prior to their intended semester of graduation to inquire about the exam.


  1. Students must register into the graduate Comprehensive Examination course (GRAD CMP) for the MA in Law and Governance one semester prior to the semester in which they plan to sit for the examination. This course can be found in the University Schedule of Classes for the target exam semester, usually after class offerings for the targeted exam semester have been published in NEST ( This class is generally listed under the Generic Graduate Course (GRAD) line in the dropdown list of subject areas available for that semester. This must be done no later than November 15th for the April examination and no later than May 15th for the November examination.
  2. The comprehensive examination will be administered the first Friday of November and April every year. The examination period will be divided into two sessions. The morning session will commence at 9:30 a.m. and end at 12:15 p.m. The afternoon session will commence at 1:30 p.m. and end at 4:30 p.m. Each session runs for two and one half hours and students will be required to complete two questions per session.
  3. Students requiring accommodation must inform the department of the nature of the handicap and type of accommodation requested at the time that they declare an intention to sit for the examination.
  4. If you have declared your intention to sit for the exam with the Department and been approved, you will receive information from the department specifying the location and guidelines for the examination.
  5. Student must schedule a meeting with their Graduate Program Coordinator (GPC) to discuss their intent to take the exam in the following semester. Your GPC will review your work program, determine your present grade point average (GPA) and prepare any substitutions on graduate work programs, if necessary.
  6. Students in the regular MA must have completed and earned a minimum of 27 graduate credits prior to sitting for the Comprehensive Examination.  Students in the MA who are coming from the combined 5-year BA/MA track must have completed and earned a minimum of 24 graduate credits prior to sitting for the Comprehensive Examination.
  7. All students need to have a minimum 3.0 grade point average in their course work to qualify for the exam.
  8. In addition to responsibility for their coursework, students are responsible for reading and researching the required materials prior to taking the examination.
  9. Students wishing to use a computer must inform the department within two weeks of the intended examination date. A computer will be provided. However, students take full responsibility for loss of their work. If work is lost during a student’s exam, it is the student’s responsibility. Computer failure resulting in non-completion of a question may result in failure for that question.
  10. There will be no questions from the required core courses: LAWS 500, LAWS 503 and LAWS 513.
  11. Students in the Conflict Management; Governance, Compliance, and Regulation; Legal Management; or Intellectual Property concentrations will have at least two questions to answer from the content-based courses taken in the concentration.
  12. Students will answer questions based on the electives they have taken, except out-of-department electives.
  13. No more than four questions will be administered to a student at each sitting of the Comprehensive Examination.
  14. A failure on more than one question will result in a student being required to retake the entire comprehensive examination with all new questions the following semester at the next exam administration date.
  15. A failure on only one question will allow students to be re-tested on the failed question within the same semester. A “Clarifier” Exam will thus be administered and will consist of one question in the same subject matter area as the question failed and will be graded according to the same standards as the original question. The department will assign an administration date for the Clarifier within twenty (20) days of notification students of their failure on one question of the Comprehensive Exam. Students who intend to take a Clarifier shall contact the department within seven (7) days of notification by the department of their eligibility. For example, if students are notified on April 20 of their failure on one question and eligibility to take a Clarifier, they must notify the department of their intent to do so by April 27. The department will set a date for Clarifiers by April 28 and administer the Clarifier thereafter but not later than May 12. Students will be eligible for only one Clarifier per examination after failing a question. Failure of a Clarifier shall be deemed to be a failure on that question and, therefore, failure on the whole Comprehensive Examination for that semester. Students who fail the Clarifier must take the full Comprehensive Examination again in the next semester.
  16. The Comprehensive Examination format and rules are subject to alteration without notice.

Comprehensive Exam candidates should contact the Graduate Program Coordinator as soon as possible to determine exam eligibility or ask any questions they might have about the exam process.


Dr. Daniel Mengara
Graduate Program Coordinator
Schmitt Hall 241G
Phone: 973-655-5143
Email: or Book Me:

 This policy is subject to change without notice. Last amended, March 2020, by departmental vote and approval.