Comprehensive Exam

The comprehensive exam entails fulfilling all program requirements, which include meeting the minimum GPA in required courses and satisfactory completion of four written reports:

Click on each exam element to access further instructions & associated template. More information about the Practicum is available here. More information about the Policy Clinic is available here. 


View deadlines

Comprehensive Exam Committee Review

After submission, each of these elements are reviewed by the Comprehensive Exam Committee using a standardized rubric. Each committee member is responsible for reviewing one element of the Comprehensive Exam over the course of the academic year. 

View the rubric here


Document Authority Comprehensive Exam Committee Member
Professional Development Plan Jesus Barajas
Practicum Proposal Tyler Scott
Practicum Report

Mark Lubell

Policy Clinic Report Mark Schwartz

Updated Submission Process 

Effective spring 2024

  • Students will submit the exam document to the EPM Grad Program Canvas page by the document's associated deadline (see above). 
  • The exam will go directly to the assigned Comprehensive Exam reviewer.
  • If the document is found to be satisfactory, the document element is considered complete.
  • If the document is found to be unsatisfactory by the reviewer, the student and faculty advisor will be notified.
    • The student will be given 5 business days from the date of notification to make revisions and resubmit the document to Canvas. This will be the only opportunity for revision.
    • If the student does not make changes within 5 business days, the document will be deemed unsatisfactory.
  • If the revised document is again deemed unsatisfactory, the document will be sent to the rest of the Comprehensive Exam Committee for review. The entire committee must come to a decision (resolved by majority vote if necessary) if the document is satisfactory or if it is a failed element of the exam.

Unsatisfactory results

Approval of these four reports by the Comprehensive Examination Committee constitutes passing of the exam.

In the result of failure of an element of the Comprehensive Exam:

  • A Student Progress Assessment (SPA) will be used to report to the Office of Graduate Studies that the student is not making satisfactory academic progress. An interim SPA will be launched in the case that the annual SPA has already been completed.
  • If the associated document correlates with a graded course (Practicum Proposal/Report, Policy Clinic Report), failing the exam element will also result in a failure for the associated course.
  • A failed exam element, not related to academic misconduct, will require that the student engage in appropriate remediation actions, potentially including additional study, retake classes, or oral examination to demonstrate sufficient knowledge in the subject area. Remediation actions will be set by the Comprehensive Exam Committee, subject as needed to a majority vote.
  • A failed exam element related to academic misconduct will be resolved following referral to and investigation by the UC Davis Office of Student Support and Judicial Affairs. Potential outcomes may include academic probation, dismissal, or remediation actions such as retaking courses or oral examination. Remediation actions will be set by the Comprehensive Exam Committee, subject as needed to a majority vote.
  • A second failure of the remediation actions listed above will result in a recommendation of disqualification to the Dean of the Office of Graduate Studies. 

Oral examination

If required, the oral examination will be administered by at least three members of the Comprehensive Exam Committee. The student’s Faculty Advisor may not serve as a committee member. The student will be responsible to coordinate a date for the oral examination. The student must notify program staff once a date has been established.

The structure of the exam is as follows:

  • The student will write a policy brief assessing a current environmental issue. The assessment should include a quantitative component. The brief is expected to be at least 3 pages with original writing and citations.
  • The Policy Brief must be sent to the chair of the committee at least two weeks in advance of the exam date. The chair of the committee will distribute to the other committee members.
  • Committee members will have 10 days from the date the policy brief is submitted to provide their questions to the student.
  • Based on the topic of the policy brief, the exam committee faculty will each submit two questions to the student.
  • The student will have 24 hours to provide written responses to one question from each faculty member, three responses in total. Each written response should be 2-3 pages, single-spaced, with original writing and citations.
  • The student will give a 20 minute presentation to the committee on the date of the oral exam. The presentation should focus on the topic of the policy brief and the student’s responses to each of the 3 faculty questions. After the presentation, the student should be prepared to answer questions regarding the policy brief topic and 3 written responses.
  • The committee must unanimously agree that the student has passed the oral exam. Failure of the oral examination will result in a second failure of the Comprehensive Exam and a recommendation to the Office of Graduate Studies of dismissal.