Standards and Expectations for the M.Ed. Comprehensive Examination

The purpose of the comprehensive exam is to culminate the master’s degree sequence with a summative task that synthesizes and integrates content knowledge and skills with those gained during the M.Ed. program. The intent is for the student to identify his/her focus area in the Master’s courses and to establish a relationship among these areas and an argument or thesis. The exam provides students an opportunity to demonstrate understandings and competencies that are articulated in the objectives for the Curriculum and Instruction M.Ed. and which capture the ideas and skills of the chosen area of emphasis..

Application for M.Ed. Comprehensive Examination

Students are required to submit an application to their advisor and program director (Anne Jewett, for the M.Ed. Comprehensive Examination in the semester before graduation. If you are graduating in May, your application must be received by January 26th; in August by June 15th, and in December by September 15th. The application consists of an email that indicates (1) you will or have completed all of the required classes along with grades (if available) for each class; (2) your expected graduation date, and; (3) a statement that says that you have read and understand the requirements of the Comprehensive Examination. You may also choose to take your comprehensive examination the semester after you have completed your coursework by registering for affiliated status. There is a small fee for affiliated status—less than a one credit class. This option should be discussed with your advisor and the program coordinator.

Description of the Comprehensive Examination

The Curriculum and Instruction M.Ed. comprehensive exam requires students to use the knowledge, understandings, and skills accumulated during the degree program to create a 10-12 page paper that develops a thesis or argument based on your experiences and readings throughout the M.Ed. program. The comprehensive examination provides an opportunity (through summary, analysis, and synthesis) to demonstrate the knowledge and skills gained in your M.Ed. program. More information regarding the comprehensive exam is the following:

  • You may write your paper in the first person so that your own beliefs and learning experiences help to shape your narrative.
  • You should avoid overly academic or stilted language.
  • You should strive to make original insights about the thesis or argument and demonstrate that you see the relationship between the thesis or argument and the course of your study.
  • The paper should clearly exhibit your thinking about a clear and specific argument through:
  • A central thesis statement orienting readers to the relationship between the argument and other readings/texts in the program of study.
  • Supporting evidence of the thesis or claim.
  • Your defense of your argument incorporates the ideas that demonstrate your understanding of the curriculum, instruction, assessment, and diversity field(s).
  • An identified conclusion
  • Clear and cogent writing
  • Accurate and appropriate citations with a minimum of 5 appropriate citations from different sources that were used during the student’s program or found independently.
  • The use of APA style and formatting (7th edition), including an abstract. See OWL at Purdue The title page and abstract page do not count toward the overall page limit.
  • Appropriate headings and subheadings that make your organizational structure clear.
  • Please review the checklist at the end of the directions for guidance.
  • Please review the rubric syllabus that will be shared mid-January for expectations.

A synthesis is the creation of your position that results from an analysis of the diverse ideas presented in the text and combining these ideas with conceptions you have formed through readings and class discussions.

For those students not taking EDIS 5930, this comprehensive examination will be evaluated by two faculty members--your advisor and another faculty member assigned by the Curriculum and Instruction program director -- and will be assessed using the evaluation rubric that will be shared in mid-January. Advisors are permitted to provide help with assignment instructions and clarification, but are not permitted to review drafts ahead of time. Students are not permitted to seek peer review help from colleagues or writing centers, unless this is part of accommodations for a certified disability or English learner status. Students needing these or other accommodations should request these services from their advisor.

Preparing an Argument and Making Links to the Program

Remember that the key to a successful comprehensive examination is a clear thesis—an argument that is gleaned from your experiences/understandings or an anchor text and is the core of your essay. The preparation of this argument is important and you need to review the big ideas that you have interacted with in your program. Making explicit links to what you have experienced and learned in your M.Ed. classes is critical for being able to support your argument and your essay should explicitly link your program experiences to your argument. Read the following checklist and rubric (shared mid-January) carefully during your comprehensive examination process.

In summary, your paper should be anchored by a central thesis that assimilates the key learning objectives as well as central readings and course discussions from both core and area of emphasis classes.

Submission of Comprehensive Examination

  1. Before you submit your examination, review the M.Ed. Comprehensive Examination Checklist and the Comprehensive Examination Rubric.
  2. Send the examination via email to your advisor and the program director (Anne Jewett,
  3. Be sure to keep a copy of the email.

M.Ed. Comprehensive Exam Checklist

Central Argument:

  • Topic is relevant to my…
    • Field of study and/or to curriculum and instruction 
    • Program objectives 
  • Topic is clearly introduced/explained. 
  • Introduction includes a clear and appropriate thesis. 


Supplemental resources: 

  • I selected supplemental resources that are current, credible, relevant, and reflect the work of notable scholars in my field. 
  • I synthesized ideas and evidence across resources, rather than simply summarizing each resource. 
  • The resources I used reflect key concepts from my courses, program, and field. 

Program connections: 

  • I made explicit connection to professional and program experiences as they are relevant to my topic/argument. 
  • I explicitly cite texts read during the program. 

Support for claims: 

  • I used specific evidence and examples to support my claims, cited appropriately. 
  • I avoided overgeneralizations and conclusions that are inaccurate or not clearly supported by the evidence presented. 

Original Insights: 

  • I drew original and personal insights about my topic. 
  • My insights are well-developed and strongly supported by conclusions drawn from my program of study.. 

Clarity of Writing: 

  • My writing communicates ideas clearly and appropriately
    • Use of first person is acceptable 
    • Defines key ideas/concepts for the reader 
    • Avoids use of overly complex sentence structure, vocabulary, or jargon 
    • Uses professional tone 
    • Avoids informal language (such as contractions and slang) 
    • Avoids passive voice when possible 
    • Avoids deficit-oriented language about students. 

Stylistic Elements - APA (Strongly recommend using the Purdue OWL web page, APA 7th edition guide, or other resources): 

  • I included each of the required elements for an APA manuscript, including:
    • Title page 
    • Abstract 
    • Introduction 
    • Page headers (running head and page numbers) 
    • Headings within the paper 
    • References list 
  • I provided appropriate in-text/parenthetical citations whenever needed, including:
    • When using direct quotes 
    • When citing specific ideas, definitions, models, or theories 
    • When providing evidence from a resource to support my claims or illustrate my points 
  • I included page numbers for direct quotes and ideas that are very specific or are worded similarly to the original source. 
  • I used direct quotes sparingly if at all. When I used them, I used quotation marks, block quotes, and citations as appropriate.
  • I carefully followed APA formatting rules for:
    • Font style/size 
    • Spacing 
    • Margins 
    • Punctuation 
    • Capitalization (for example, when to use title case vs. sentence case) 
    • Regular font vs. italics 
  • Citations in my reference list…
    • Include all of the necessary information for each type of resource I am citing 
    • Are correctly formatted for each type of resource I am citing 
    • Include doi or “Retrieved from” addresses when necessary 
    • Are organized alphabetically 
    • Do not include extraneous information 

Technical Aspects: 

  • My paper consistently uses proper…
    • Grammar 
    • Spelling 
    • Punctuation 

Assessment Rubric for M.Ed. Comprehensive Examination

Assessment Rubric