Comprehensive Examination


Composition of the comprehensive examination 

Below are the instructions for carrying out the BCB comprehensive examination. While the procedure follows all rules outlined by the Graduate School’s General Guidelines, BCB has a unique format with three components:

1. The Research Proposal - the student will prepare an NIH-style research proposal based on the interests of their chosen laboratory. This will not be graded as the written exam. Instead, the advisory committee members will create essay-style questions that are based on the proposal, and the student’s responses in a classical sit-down examination will be graded as the written examination. The proposal will also be used by the BCB study section following approval by the student's mentor. Upon receiving the proposal, the Major Advisor will request 2 questions from each advisory committee member based on their expertise, and ensure that the questions cover the following 5 categories:

1. Big picture knowledge (Clinical picture, benefactors if project is successful)
2. Knowledge of their chosen focus area (Information considered essential for those in your field)
3. Basic knowledge (e.g. as mastered in the Biomed core curriculum)
4. Methodology (Proper controls, strengths/weaknesses and alternate measures/approaches)
5. Statistics

2. The Written Exam- After submitting the proposal, the student will coordinate with their major advisor and the BCB program to identify a proctor, and to arrange a date/time for both their written and oral examinations to take place (*see below). The first choice for the written component should be the first-floor conference room, where Kim Lord will serve as proctor. Alternate arrangements should be made with the advisement of the program director. Ideally, the written examination should take place within a few weeks following submission of the proposal, which will allow the advisory committee sufficient time to read the proposal and write the questions for the exam.
On the date/time of the written examination, the student will bring writing materials that are sufficient to answer eight of the 10 questions in the exam. At least one question must be answered from each category. The student will have up to 4 hours to complete the examination, and no electronic devices should be available during this period. The exam will be collected by the proctor for duplication and distribution to members of the advisory committee for grading. Ideally, the graded examinations will be submitted to BCB within 2 weeks following the exam.

3. The Oral Exam- A passing grade on the written exam must be obtained prior to proceeding to the oral component. The program director will serve as chair of the Oral Examination, where they will ensure that all procedures are conducted within the policies and guidelines of the Graduate School. Advisory committee members will sequentially address the student with questions relating to their written examination, and student performance will be recorded on a grading rubric sent by email immediately following the oral examination. The anonymous grades for both the written and oral portions will be compiled and distributed to the student and advisory committee. The student is responsible to have the Exam Grade Reporting form signed by all members and returned to The Graduate School.

*The student is responsible for communicating with their advisory committee, the BCB program, and their Graduate Program Director to arrange an appropriate time/date for the components of their comprehensive examination (use of doodle poll is recommended). The Graduate School requires receipt of the Pre-approval form containing the time/date/place at least 2 weeks prior to the written examination. While the student can set the dates for the written/oral exam components right after submitting the proposal to their committee, they need to consider the time for their committee members to read the proposal and for the mentor to collect questions for the exam. Furthermore, the oral component must be completed within 4 weeks after the written component. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to respond to this email, and if necessary arrange a meeting with the program director.