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Comprehensive Exams

All MPA students must take the comprehensive exam before the completion of their degree program unless they choose the Capstone project option. The comprehensive exam is held every semester if students need the exam.  Students do not have to wait until their last semester to take the exam; they may take the comprehensive exam after they have completed their core coursework.

The five core course covered on the exam are:

  • Public Policy Process
  • Perspectives
  • Administrative Leadership
  • Public Personnel Administration
  • Public Financial Management

We recommend students take their exam prior to their last semester in case revisions have to be made.

The exam is divided into two segments: a morning exam and an afternoon exam, consisting of two questions each, for a total of four questions. The exams primarily cover material from the core courses even though we like students to apply relevant material from any specialization area they have focused on.

Each session is 3 hours long. The morning is from 8:30 am - 11:30 am and the afternoon is from 1:00pm - 4:00pm with a two hour lunch break between them. Students may take the exam at Clemson or online. The exam is open note/open book and with this comes higher expectations for length, content and appropriate citations.

Each portion of the exam is graded by two faculty members and is graded with the following scale:

High pass, Pass, Low pass (needs revision), and Fail (must retake)

If a student receives a low pass or a fail they are given an opportunity to talk with the program coordinator to clarify what areas they need to revise or focus on if they have to retake the portion of the exam they failed.

Sample questions will be emailed to students no later than 4 weeks before the scheduled exam date. Exam dates will be approximately 3-4 weeks before the last day of classes in the semester.

If you plan to take the comprehensive exams please let Carolyn Benson, MPA admission coordinator, know at the beginning of the semester in which you plan to take them.