Comp Exam

691 DOCTORAL COMPREHENSIVE EXAMINATION (Variable Credit). Taken when the doctoral student is in Regular Status and has completed a significant number of course credits applicable to the degree requirements. Considerable autonomy is granted to the academic unit in the design, administration, and evaluation of the comprehensive examination. Pass/fail only

The Comprehensive Examination ("Comp Exam") is completed by the individual student. All students in the Ed.D. program in Educational Technology are required to pass the exam.

The purpose of the exam is to give the thesis committee insight into the student’s ability to create, in expository form, a synthetic treatment of one or more topics using professional and ethical writing guidelines. Students who are able to successfully do this are deemed to be qualified to complete a dissertation study.


A student’s eligibility to take the exam is ultimately decided by her or his advisor, but the following program requirements must be completed first:

    • All doctoral core courses (EDTECH 601, 602, 603, 604, 605)
    • All research core courses (EDTECH 650, 651, 652, 653)
    • All cognate courses (3 courses, or courses being used for transfer credits)

Depending on a student’s prior preparation, an advisor may encourage a student to complete more electives before she or he is allowed to take the comp exam. Please note that ALL courses must be completed before one can submit a research proposal for the dissertation (the step typically following successful defense of the comp exam).

Exam Evaluation Committee

The Comp Exam will be created and graded by three faculty members in the Department of Educational Technology. This will include your advisor (Committee Chair) and two other people. The two other members will be departmental faculty about whom the advisor and student have conferred. The two other members should have specific interest in the topic and/or who might serve as a future dissertation committee member. For more guidance about who serves on the comp exam committee, please talk to your advisor, faculty sponsor, or program coordinator.

The exam evaluation committee will typically be the same people who will serve on the student’s Supervisory Committee (aka, “Dissertation Committee”). Following the comp exam, it may be that a committee membership changes based on a students' needs or member preferences. A fourth person can be added to the committee following the Comp Exam, but this can only happen if the proposed member is approved by the existing committee and then vetted by the Graduate College.

Exam Format / Content

The specific format for the Comp Exam is one of the following. The choice is determined by the supervisory committee, which will consider input from the student.

Option 1 - Portfolio Format: With this format, students will submit a portfolio during the semester they enroll in EDTECH 691. This option is usually for students who have already completed a literature review and/or a pilot study on their dissertation topic. While the contents of the portfolio are determined by a student’s committee, a portfolio would typically consist of 1-2 conference presentations (completed or accepted), a comprehensive literature review, at least one published (or in-press) manuscript, and a rationale and reflection paper outlining the relationship between each artifact.

Option 2 - Literature Review Format: With this format, students will have 90 days to write an extended literature review on a topic related to their dissertation. The finished product is a publishable quality manuscript that is approximately 50 pages in length (not including references).

Option 3 - Pilot Study Format: With this format, students will conduct a pilot study. Typically, this would involve obtaining IRB approval, collecting data, analyzing data, and reporting the results. This option is ideal for students who have already conducted a literature review on their dissertation topic and is contemplating a research proposal. The finished product is typically a 5,000 - 8,000 word publishable quality manuscript reporting the results of the pilot study.

Option 4 - Traditional Question Format: With this format, students will have a predetermined time (e.g., 3 weeks) during a fall or spring semester to answer three essay questions written by the members of their committee. Often this will involve two cognate-specific questions and a research methods question. The finished product often ranges from 40-60 pages in length.

Comp Exam Timeline

Starting in Fall 2019 for *all* students, once one is notified of eligibility to take the Comp Exam, then a student must register for EDTECH 691 within 12 months.

The Comp Exam must be submitted during the same semester as the student is registered for the Comprehensive Exam credit (EDTECH 691, 1 credit hour, Fall/Spring only). Students are expected to invest a significant and sustained effort in completing the exam.

Once a student is given the exam format and direction (in Options 1, 2 & 3), then s/he will have at least three months to complete the examination. The due date will fall within the semester in which the student is registered for EDTECH 691.

Authorship and Guidance

The document is an exam in the sense that students will not collaborate with others to write or edit the questions assigned after the topic(s) and format have been approved. The chair and the doctoral committee's role is to provide oversight of the topic and format of the exam, as well as to read it in its final form. No member of the committee will guide writing or provide formative feedback as the student develops the document.

Tie-In with EDTECH 698: Seminar in Ed Tech

EDTECH 698: Seminar in Ed Tech is a 1-credit hour per semester ‘course’ for students (starting with 2019 cohort). During the seminar sequence, faculty may encourage students to try to work toward a portfolio or literature-based comprehensive examination. EDTECH 698 does not lock students into one Comp Exam path or another; however, it may well help a student to know that her or his work in a given semester is continually being refined so that there will be a successful comp exam experience.

Exam Failure

      • A student can fail the comprehensive examination. Reasons for failing a Comp Exam include, but are not limited to:
      • plagiarism of any kind or amount
      • failure to submit the document by the deadline
      • improper documentation of sources
      • failure to adequately answer any and all questions
      • poor writing and/or organization

What constitutes “failure” is at the professional discretion of the exam evaluation committee.

Consequence of Failing the Comprehensive Examination

If a student’s evaluation committee has decided that the exam is a failed effort, then the student has two choices: (1) drop out of the doctoral program, (2) request (in writing) permission to take the comp exam another time. Should a request for a second attempt be made, the student must very clearly address the reasons why the first attempt was not satisfactory and address how any existing problems will be addressed. The request must be addressed to the Department of Educational Technology’s Doctoral Program Committee (DPC). It is at the discretion of the DPC to decide if a second attempt at the exam is allowed.

A student only has two total attempts to pass the exam. If the second attempt is also a failed effort, the student will be dropped from the doctoral program.


1) Prior to the semester in which you would like to complete your comp exam, you can contact your advisor and discuss the following:

A) Your eligibility to take the exam in the semester desired

B) The names of and rationale for other two members who will join the exam evaluation committee

2) You must register for the Comp Exam credit (1 hour) during the semester in which you plan to take the exam. The Doctoral Program Coordinator will provide you with the permission number.

Assuming you have passed your exam...

FIRST: You must submit the “Appointment of Supervisory Committee” form AND the “Application for Admission to Candidacy” forms. The graduate coordinator will help you complete these (a template will be provided).

SECOND: You must open a conversation with your committee chairperson in order to talk about next steps for the research methodology proposal. This formal document is described on the Research Proposal page

You can secure a fourth member for your Supervisory Committee should you so desire; a fourth member is not mandatory.* The advisor and program coordinator can help you with this. The Graduate College must approve any person who is external to Boise State University).


Do I study for it?

Not in the traditional way one might study for an exam (though one can prepare for it by organizing materials). The comp exam is a long-form written document, which should make extensive use of the readings and knowledge that the student has on hand. In addition, student’s coursework, as well as any professional experience in the field of educational technology, should inform the writing. The committee will be sure that you’re aware of seminal readings that you are expected to reference.

Can I use other materials I have written?

You may draw from other work you have done if it is germane to the questions. You are certainly welcome to use materials found for assignments in other courses. However, you may not self-plagiarize: please do not copy and paste passages from your previously submitted written work (ex., course projects, papers, etc.).

Can I use other materials to answer the questions?

Certainly. As indicated above, the comp exam is an “open book” test, so to speak. You are expected to cite literature to back your assertions.

Is there a rubric?

The Ed.D./EdTech program does not have a department-wide comp exam rubric (a committee might develop their own, however). Grading of and feedback on a comp exam will be directed at an individual student’s performance and areas of interest, and is left to the professional judgment of the exam evaluation committee.

Must I secure a proctor?

No. The exam is not proctored. The expectation is that students will only submit work that is their own.

Can I get help from my committee on the exam?

Your advisor or other members are precluded from giving advice or insight about how to answer the questions or resources you should use for the answers. After an assessment of your efforts, the committee will give you feedback on what needs to be improved for the dissertation document of, if you need to re-do the examination, what needs to be improved in the second effort.

Can I get help from others on the exam?

No. The exam is to be solely the work of the individual student. This includes any editing work. The submission of the document is the student’s affirmation that the exam answers are entirely his or her own, individual work.

When can I expect to learn about the results of my exam?

An exact time frame is difficult to establish given exam evaluation committee members’ schedules, the time during the semester the Comp Exam was submitted, etc. However, in general terms, the student can expect to know his/her results within four weeks of completing the exam.

Can my exam evaluation committee have four members?

No. The exam evaluation committee has only three people (so there is no tie vote).

Can I expect to get feedback on my exam?

Certainly. What depth and type of feedback you receive will of course depend very much on your committee members, and on the quality of your exam document (e.g., accomplished exam responses will not require detailed feedback identifying errors or weaknesses).

Can I submit a dissertation research proposal in the same semester as I take my comp exam?

This is entirely at the discretion of your advisor and committee; in some cases it is logistically possible to do so, especially if the comp exam is submitted within the first half of the given semester.