• How many comprehensive exams will I take?

    If you are a Ph.D. student, you will take two separate comprehensive exams, administered during different semesters. One exam is in musicology, following the procedures outlined in this website. The other is in your minor field; for information about that exam, please speak to your professors in that field. You can take the two exams in any order.

    f you are a M.A. student, you will take one comprehensive exam; however, the exam is separated into four smaller exams, each of which is graded separately (but which are all taken in one sitting).

    If you are in the joint M.A./M.S.L.S. program, you will also take a separate exam in Library Science, administered either in a different semester or in a different week of the same semester. For information about the Library Science comprehensive exam, please speak with your Library Science adviser. The two exams can be taken in any order, but if they are taken during the same semester, the Library Science exam must be taken during the university’s scheduled exam period.

  • When can I take comps?

    Ph.D. students must have completed all of their coursework in both the major and minor, including prerequisites, review courses, and language requirements, before they can register for comps.

    M.A. students must have completed all prerequisites (including any required review courses) and the language requirement before they can take comps, but it is possible to take comps during the final semester of coursework. Students may only take comps in courses that have been completed.

    M.A./M.S.L.S. students can take comps in one area (musicology or library science) before they have completed requirements in the other, provided they have completed all necessary requirements for the specific degree in which they are taking comps.

    It is not necessary for you to register for comps immediately upon completing all requirements; however, continuous enrollment must be maintained during the semesters between finishing coursework and registering for comps.

  • May I look at exams from previous semesters to help me study for my comps?

    Ph.D. students studying for their major comps are permitted to look at exams from previous semesters, which Dr. Santo keeps on file in his office for precisely this purpose. If you would like to have access to the exams, please speak to one of your professors, who will then inform Dr. Santo that you are permitted to look at them. Do not ask Dr. Santo for previous exams until the faculty member informs you that you may.

    Because of the different nature of M.A. exams, previous exams are not available for M.A. students. The same is true of minor comps for Ph.D. students. For specific questions about your M.A. or Ph.D. minor comps, please talk to the professor(s) who taught the courses on which you will tested.

  • What happens if I don’t pass my exam?

    If you do not pass your exam, you are allowed to re-take the exam one more time. In the event that you fail the first time, the exam committee will be happy to meet with you to discuss your exam and offer study tips to ensure that your retake will be successful; it is your responsibility to contact the committee. If you don’t pass the exam the second time, you are not permitted to continue in the degree program. It is possible to appeal the second failing grade, but only if you feel that there were non-academic circumstances affecting the outcome. Click here for information on appealing failing grades.

  • Will there be other people in the room (or other distractions) when I take my exam?

    While sometimes you might be the only person in the room, there is usually more than one person registered for comps in a given semester, so you should expect that others will be in the room with you. Also be aware that there may be other events going on in the building or outside. The proctor will have headphones available to help block out distracting noises; also feel free to bring your own earplugs.

  • Will I have access to a piano during the exam?

    No, you are not permitted to use a piano (to play through score excerpts or for any other reason) during the exam, even if you are the only person in the room.

  • May I type my answers on a computer rather than writing them out by hand?

    The “Application for Comps” form asks you if you would prefer to type your answers rather than write them. If you select this option, you will write your answers on a computer that is not connected to the internet, which the school will provide. You will not be permitted to use your own computer. If you are typing your answers, please bring an inexpensive flash drive to the exam with you, to save your answers in case for any reason you are unable to print them out.

  • What happens if I run out of time before I'm able to answer all of the questions?

    It is very important that you budget your time during the exam to make sure that this doesn't happen. It is not the proctor's responsibility to keep track of the time for you, so it is a good idea to bring a watch or an alarm clock with you (do not count on there being a clock in the room). If you do, however, find yourself running out of time, it is better to write an outline or forgo coherent paragraphs than to skip a question entirely. It is very important that you answer all of the required questions.

  • If a question is very detailed or specific and I don’t have that information, how should I answer the question?

    Focus on the larger picture related to the specific question. Show your familiarity with the issues involved in the question even if you don’t have the details at hand. Remember that the goal is to demonstrate your knowledge of music and avoid unnecessary irrelevancies. Stay on the given topic and do not drown in irrelevant details.

  • May I ask questions once the exam has begun?

    The proctor will have a phone number for at least one musicology faculty member during the exam, but you should only ask to contact him or her if a question is very unclear or illegible. You cannot ask for advice about how to answer a question once the exam has begun.

  • Will my areas of expertise be reflected in the questions?

    Yes and no. As a scholar you should be acquainted with all aspects of the field; your specific areas of expertise may or may not appear. Even if you are the only person taking comps in a given semester, the exam will never be tailored specifically for you.

  • Will my coursework be reflected in the questions for my Ph.D. exam?

    Again, yes and no, for the same reason as the previous question. While it can be very helpful to use class notes from your CUA courses to supplement your readings, it is more important that you read the current literature in the field. This is true even for M.A. comps in specific periods, which may cover material from the period not specifically emphasized in class.