Western University PsychologyFaculty of Social Science

Ph.D. Comprehensive Examinations

Personality-Measurement Area Guidelines for Ph.D. Comprehensive Examinations

Each Ph.D. student in the Personality-Measurement area must write a set of comprehensive examinations in his or her first year of the program. These comprehensive examinations have two goals. One is to assess the level of achievement of the examinee and to ensure the person is acceptable to continue as a Ph.D. student in the program. The second goal is to provide all students in the area with, to a certain extent, a common background, learning material that the area believes is important for the understanding of contemporary theorizing, research, and practice in personality and measurement.

The Ph.D. comprehensive examinations in the Personality-Measurement area will be generally tailored to the individual student, subject to the guidelines that are listed below.

1. Each Ph.D. student will have a comprehensive examination committee comprised of his or her advisor, the area chairperson, and a third member. The third member is typically from the Personality-Measurement area but need not be. Where the chairperson is the adviser, another area person will be added. The committee will be chaired by the chairperson and it will be responsible for approving topics and reading lists and preparing and grading the comprehensive examinations. The composition of the committee will be determined by the student in consultation with his or her advisor.

2. Students will select three topics for examination in consultation with the committee. The topics must be formally approved by the committee by December 15th of the student’s first Ph.D. year. Some highly recommended topic areas are listed below, but each student is encouraged to submit one topic uniquely suited to his or her particular interests. That topic must also be approved by the committee. Collectively, the committee members should have some expertise relevant to all three of the selected content areas.

3. In consultation with the committee, the student will prepare a reading list for each of the three topics of study. The committee, at its discretion, may then suggest additional readings for the topics, but the student can negotiate the changes to the lists. All reading lists must be formally and unanimously approved by the comprehensive examination committee by January 15th of the student’s first Ph.D. year.

4. The Ph.D. comprehensive examinations will require six hours to write, two hours for each of the three topics of study. (The student can request to type the exams using a department-supplied offline computer.) The examinations will be organized by the committee and will be held on one day during late April or early May, providing the deadlines listed in points 2 and 3 have been met. If the student has not been able to meet those deadlines, they can be extended by five months, and the examinations will take place in late September or early October of the same year. If the examinations cannot be written by the
September/October deadline, the student will be dismissed from the program.

5. A student may elect to substitute an original review paper in place of one of the three topic areas. This decision must be made by the January 15th deadline, the topic must be approved by the comprehensive examination committee, and no reading list need be submitted beforehand. In such cases, the comprehensive examinations will still be held in April/May but will be only four hours in duration and will evaluate only two topic areas. The review paper, which must be written in the style of a submission to an APA journal, will be due one month after the written examinations are held.

6. Each comprehensive component will be graded on a pass/fail basis by each member of the student’s comprehensive examination committee. A component will be deemed to have failed if two of the three committee members do not pass that component.

7. If a student fails one or more of the three comprehensive components, he or she will be requested to prepare for a re-examination of the topic(s) in question or to submit a revised review paper. The re-examination (re-submission) must occur within one month of the recorded failure. If a student fails the re-examination (re-submission) of any topic area(s), he or she will be dismissed from the program.

8. Extenuating circumstances can arise that prevent the student from completing some component of the comprehensive examinations within the alloted time (e.g., illness). If such circumstances are deemed valid by the comprehensive examination committee, extensions to the deadlines described above will be considered. Such situations will be assessed individually and discussed by the committee on a case-by-case basis.

The following content areas are highly recommended as topics for the Ph.D. comprehensive examinations in the Personality-Measurement area. Students are strongly advised to pick one area from the personality side and one from the measurement side, in consultation with his or her comprehensive examination committee. Students are encouraged to submit the third area for approval based on their particular interests.

Personality: personality theory, contemporary issues in personality, personality assessment

Measurement: statistics and research design, multivariate statistics, psychometric methods and test construction