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MSTC Comprehensive Exam

MSTC Final Experience: Comprehensive Exam

Comprehensive Exam Details, Reading List, and Rubric


This final experience option asks students to prepare for and pass a final comprehensive exam in order to complete the program. After completing at least 18 semester credit hours in the MSTC program (and maintaining a 3.0 GPA), candidates opting for the final exam must complete an additional 3 hours of an elective from the courses listed under “Electives” in the degree curriculum, take directed research (TCOM 6390) during which they will study for the exam, and then enroll in the comprehensive examination course (TCOM 6094).

Students meet with the MSTC Program Director at the beginning of the semester and prepare for the exam on their own by reading and annotating a list of sources. Students propose an exam specialty area and an exam date between the 11th and 14th weeks of the semester. Students are given the exam on their proposed date and are required to return the complete exam within 24 hours. The exam is evaluated on a pass/fail basis. Students who fail the exam the first time will receive an Incomplete and will have an opportunity to retake the exam one more time.

In order to satisfy all requirements for this Final Experience option, students should first review the reading list (below) for the comprehensive exam.

Exam Subject Areas

Students will be asked questions in three areas of expertise:

  1. History of Rhetoric and Rhetorical Theory
  2. Foundations of Technical Communication
  3. One specialty area selected by students from the given options

Procedures and Timeline

Submit Memo Proposal with a Bibliography

By the end of the first (1st) week of the semester in which students enroll in TCOM 6094, students will submit a proposal written in memo format informing the Graduate Advisory Council (GAC) of their intent to take a comprehensive exam and, in an appendix to the proposal, will submit their reading lists with two (2) obligatory areas of expertise and one (1) specialty area from the given options. In the proposal, students should also propose a specific exam date between the 11-14th weeks of the semester.

As soon as the proposal is approved, students will not be allowed to change their areas of specialty even if they fail the exam and would like to retake it.

Get Approval from the GAC

The Graduate Advisory Committee will review and approve the proposal during the second (2nd) week of the semester. The Graduate Director will notify students if the proposal has been approved by the end of the third (3rd) week of the semester.

If students would like to reschedule the exam, they must notify the Graduate Director three (3) weeks before the scheduled exam date.

Prepare for the Exam

To prepare for the exam, students may read and annotate sources, review sample responses and questions, and/or complete other preparations. Students should review the rubric (below) that specifies expectations of the quality and level of engagement with the readings necessary to pass the exam.

Take the Exam


The exam is written in the form of an argumentative essay in which students must exhibit their mastery of the subject and the ability to construct a well-supported argument in response to the exam question. In the exam responses, students must formulate a clear thesis statement and define the scope of their discussion. To support their claims, students then must analyze and synthesize current research available on the topic and make conclusions.

The responses must include in-text citations from the reading list or other peer-reviewed works relevant to the field of technical communication. These citations must be integrated in such a way that engages them in terms of students’ key claims. Students must document correctly all sources using the MLA or APA citation style and include a Works Cited/References page at the end of the exam. The response must be submitted as a Word file, single-spaced, formatted with headings and other visual design elements (bulleted lists, indentation, etc.) as needed. The writing must be accurate and free of noticeable grammar issues.


The exam will be open book. Students will be given 24 hours to complete the exam and will have an option to choose two (2) questions from three (3) given options. The exam is evaluated on a pass/fail basis. Students can take the exam twice in order to qualify with a passing grade.

Students who fail the first attempt will receive suggestions on how to improve their performance on the second exam. During the second attempt, students will receive a new set of questions. If students fail to pass the exam on their second attempt, they should meet with the MSTC Program Director and discuss a different final experience option.

Review the GAC’s Feedback

The GAC will review and assess the quality of the written exam responses. The Graduate Director will send an email notifying students about the results of the examination one week after the exam. The committee will provide suggestions for improvement if students fail to pass the first attempt. Students will review the committee’s feedback and will be able to reschedule another attempt by the 15th week of the semester (usually the last week of scheduled classes) or take the exam the following semester. If students decide to take the exam the following semester, they will receive an Incomplete for TCOM 6094 in the current semester and will have to schedule the exam during the 11th-14th weeks of classes of the next semester.

Final Experience Comprehensive Exam Grading Rubric and Reading List (pdf)