Comprehensive Examination

DMA EXAMS: GENERAL POLICIES AND DEADLINES

The Doctoral Comprehensive Examination is designed to evaluate the student's ability to integrate knowledge, apply theoretical concepts, demonstrate skills, and draw conclusions. Although it is composed of many parts, the examination is regarded as one entity and is evaluated as such. It normally covers course work completed for the master's and doctoral degrees as well as general musical and pedagogical knowledge normally acquired through professional experience.

The Doctoral Comprehensive Examination consists of three parts: a theoretical/analytical project, a written examination, and an oral examination. They must be taken during the academic year, and may be scheduled from the beginning of the second week of classes in the fall semester through the final exam period of the spring semester. Comprehensive Examinations may not be scheduled during the week prior to the start of classes in the fall semester nor during the first week of classes in the fall semester. The oral examination may be held no earlier than a week following the successful completion of the written examination, in order to allow all members of the doctoral committee adequate time to read and assess the written examination.

The Supervisory Committee must approve the scheduled dates for both the written and the oral examinations.

The Application for Comprehensive Examination form, secured from the Graduate Secretary, must be signed by all committee members and filed with the Graduate Secretary during the first twenty (20) in-session working days of the fall or spring semester in which the examination is to be administered (that is, roughly, by early September in the Fall term or by the end of January in the Spring term). If the form is not filed in the Graduate Office of the Glenn Korff School of Music within the time limit, the date of the examination is not confirmed and the student is required to set new dates.

Doctoral students are required to be in candidacy 7 months prior to the date they wish to defend their dissertation/document. If the student wishes to graduate just seven months after achieving candidacy (i.e., just shortly after seven months after successful completion of all parts of the comprehensive examination), special attention must be paid to timing.

For a May graduation, the seven-month rule dictates that all steps toward candidacy need to be accomplished by seven months prior to the last possible date set for final oral examinations in April, and thus, students who are aiming for this goal should plan their comprehensive exams and orals for completion in early September, so that candidacy is achieved by mid September. For an August graduation, candidacy needs to be achieved by mid December. For a December graduation, candidacy needs to be achieved by earliest May. Exact dates, which change every year, are found on the website of the Office of Graduate Studies at:
https://www.unl.edu/gradstudies/current/degrees/doctoral/
by scrolling down to large bullet point 3, "Candidacy."

If a student wishes to graduate in a shorter amount of time following admission to Candidacy, that student should consult with the doctoral specialist in the Office of Graduate Studies.


PREPARING FOR COMPREHENSIVES

Students are encouraged to seek advice from each member of their Supervisory Committee about preparing for the comprehensive examination. Members of the Supervisory Committee may make suggestions for study to the student, but they are not permitted to reveal the actual questions that will be asked.

The examination is both written and oral in nature and may be taken when the student has successfully completed all of the significant required course work (excluding the final recital, applied music, ensemble and/or dissertation/document). If the student must take significant course work listed on his/her Program of Studies in the semester prior to the semester of graduation, the written portion of the comprehensive examination can be taken no sooner than the eleventh week of that semester. For example, a student wanting to graduate in May who had significant courses in their Program of Studies that were being taken in the preceding Fall semester could not take the Comprehensive Examination before the eleventh week of that Fall semester. Given the conflict between this rule and the "seven-month" rule of the Graduate College, students should consult carefully with all members of their Supervisory Committee about whether the content of classes taken in the fall will be regarded by the Committee as "significant" for the purposes of the comprehensive exam.

After the analytical project and answers to the written questions of the comprehensive exams have been read, it is at the discretion of the student's supervisory committee whether or not the student may proceed to the oral portion of the comprehensive examination. If a student receives a no pass on all or any section of the project or written examination at this point, before the orals, he/she may retake the project or written examination or section of the written examination at a future date to be determined by the Supervisory Committee. A third attempt at the theory project or written examination is not permitted.

If the project and written portions are deemed strong enough, the orals are then held, no sooner than a week after the writtens. The Supervisory Committee determines the content of the oral examination questions and ensures an appropriate distribution and balance of questions. All members of the Supervisory Committee, including the outside member, are expected to be present when the oral portion of the examination is administered. The committee member from outside of the Glenn Korff School of Music may ask questions during the oral portion of the examination, but does not normally participate creating in the written portion unless the student has completed a sequence of courses in the professor's field of expertise.

Following the oral examination, each section of the student's comprehensive examination is assessed as pass or no pass. If the student passes all sections of the comprehensive examination, the student is automatically eligible to be admitted to candidacy for the degree (see below). If the student receives a no pass on any section of the oral examination, they may retake the section(s) at a future date to be approved by the Supervisory Committee. A third attempt at the orals is not permitted.

NOTE: Should the Supervisory Committee determine the student has failed the comprehensive examination, a letter must be submitted by the chair of the supervisory committee to the Dean of Graduate Studies stating the conditions under which the student may attempt another examination, or part thereof, not earlier than the following academic term. Typically, but upon the discretion of the supervisory committee, only two attempts to pass the comprehensive examination will be permitted, as indicated already.

CANDIDACY

When the student has passed the comprehensive examination, satisfied the language and/or research tool requirements of her/his approved program, and removed any provisional admission requirements, the Supervisory Committee will recommend to the Office of Graduate Studies that the doctoral student be admitted to Candidacy by filing the Application for Admission to Candidacy for the doctoral degree, noting the dates of completion of the comprehensive examination(s). By stated policy of the Graduate College, Candidacy must normally be achieved no fewer than seven months prior to the final oral document or composition defense, as detailed above. Only under unusual circumstances will the Graduate College consider the petition of a student achieving Candidacy late in a given semester for graduation at the end of the following semester.

SEE ALSO the separate section on Candidacy in this Handbook.


COMPREHENSIVE EXAMINATIONS: Detailed Procedures and Responsibilities

STEP 1. APPLICATION FOR COMPREHENSIVE EXAMINATION

The student must make formal application during the first twenty working days of the semester (in the first four weeks of the term), as indicated above. The dates set at this moment will determine both when the student sits for the written examination and, working backward, when the student must plan to be executing the theory and analysis project, as below. (And for those students intending to graduate the following May, all steps towards candidacy must be completed by late September, as explained above.)

STEP 2. WRITING OF THE DIRECTIONS OF STUDY & QUESTIONS

Theoretical Project--(Theory faculty). Immediately after formal application for the comprehensives is made, the student should contact a theory faculty member to approve the parameters and grade the project.

Applied Major Area--(Chair). Immediately after formal application for the comprehensives is made, the Chair begins the process of soliciting the questions and Directions of Study for the written examination; circulates these among the Committee via e-mail for approval; sends the Directions of Study to the student (OR instructs the student to contact the writer of the question for the Direction of Study); and sends the questions to the Graduate Secretary in preparation for the exam.

NOTE: The responsibility for writing the questions is with the Committee members; the Chair collects the questions from the writers and gives them to the Graduate Secretary. The Graduate Secretary must receive the written questions in final form at least 3 business days before the first day of the scheduled written examination, or the examination will need to be rescheduled.

STEP 3. THEORY AND ANALYSIS PROJECT (comprehensive project format).

The student first works with a theory faculty member to determine a project, as above. Then, working also in consultation with the Chair of his/her Supervisory Committee, the student will prepare a one-page project proposal to be submitted to the theory faculty supervisor not less than 30 days before the first day of the written comprehensive examination. Once approved, the student then executes the analytical project. All of this is before undertaking the written examination; the theory and analysis project is to be handed in on the day that the written examination begins.

The theory faculty supervisor should immediately grade the project, and give the graded theory project to the Graduate Secretary within 48 hours after receiving the project from the student. The Graduate Secretary will then copy the graded theory project and distribute it to the committee as soon as practicable after its return from the theory instructor.

The theory and analysis project may take one of two forms:

(1) Analytical Project. The student will analyze a work or portion of a work from the repertoire of their instrument/area not previously studied, i.e., literature presented on the lecture recital could not be used for this project.

(2) Theoretical Project. The student will focus on a theoretical topic or issue that applies to his/her instrument/area.

The project selected must be completed and submitted to the theory faculty member who approved the project on the first day of the written comprehensive examination.

Frequently asked questions regarding the “Theory Project” Component of the Comprehensive Exam:

How long must the project be?

The purpose of the one-page proposal is to allow the student, chair, and theorist to come to  consensus as to the appropriate scope of the project—the quantity of music, level of detail, and number and type of analytic tacks to be explored should be spelled out in the proposal. Once the proposal is approved, the length of the finished project will be dictated by the number of pages needed to meet the expectations of the proposal—no more, no less. Thus, there is no minimum or maximum page limit for the project; indeed, different students’ projects might vary significantly in length (though there will be less variance in the expected quantity and quality of effort put into the project—a one-page Schenkerian sketch can take as much work as writing several pages of prose, for instance!). Having said that, this should be a substantial project that showcases your ability to think theoretically and/or analytically and to articulate those ideas (with the thirty-day time frame in mind).

Do I need to focus on one movement or song? Can I write about an entire sonata/concerto /opera/song cycle? Can I write about just a part of a movement or song?

The scope of the project may vary widely from student to student—all the ideas suggested in the questions above are possible. The chair and theorist will work with the student to find an appropriate quantity of music to explore. Just ask about your specific idea. Generally speaking, selecting less music will create an expectation of greater detail in the analysis, while selecting more music may require the student to gloss over excerpts that don’t relate directly to the student’s thesis.

Am I expected to consult outside sources? Should it be annotated or include a bibliography?

This project is not biographical or (directly) historical—it is analytical. As such, it will typically consist almost entirely of the student’s own analytic observations. Exceptions are certainly possible; for example, a student who intends to refute or reinforce a particular theoretical concept in application to his/her instrument or area might do well to cite or quote literature on that theory. Generally speaking, however, the student is discouraged from consulting or citing outside sources. This project is meant to measure a student’s ability to think theoretically and analytically, not to research and report others’ ideas.

What kinds of analysis should I use? Do I have to use roman numerals?

The term “analytical project” is meant in the broadest sense—there is no a priori set of expectations as to the type of analytic work that should be represented in the project. Rather,  each composition should itself suggest modes of analysis to the student. (The student who selects a Webern work probably shouldn’t use roman numerals, while set theory is not helpful for a Bach aria!) Students is free to draw upon their experiences with any methods of musical analysis appropriate to the music at hand, whether they have studied those methods formally in a classroom setting or not. In fact, the selection of appropriate analytic tools to a given musical work is as much a goal of this project as the analysis itself!

Who will assess my work?

The entire Supervisory Committee will receive copies of the project. The theorist who approved the proposal and graded it will provide an evaluation of the student’s work to the chair, but the Supervisory Committee is charged with final assessment of the student’s work.

How do I get started?

You might begin by thinking about pieces you’d like to explore deeply, or about theoretical approaches you’ve found attractive. Your applied instructor may be able to provide advice about specific works you could address (though remember that you may not write about music you’ve studied before). Perhaps the best way to shape the proposal is to find a thesis; i.e., an idea about either a musical work or a theoretical idea that you set out to prove or to defend.

STEP 4. THE WRITTEN EXAMINATION

The written portion of the examination is given during a two-day period. Students will use Glenn Korff School of Music Macintosh-system computers to write answers for the written comprehensive exams. Only departmental hardware may be used (exception: composers may ask the Graduate Secretary about using their personal computer and notational software for questions involving music composition). This examination is composed of the following:

(1) Applied major area (8 hours in two 4-hour segments). The student will be asked to discuss the literature of his/her area from the various perspectives of history, theory, performance practice, and pedagogy.

(2) Minor/Related courses (Optional; for students who have declared a formal minor or related area only [1 & 1/2 hours]).
       When this area is outside music, the supervisory committee member representing that area furnishes the questions.
       When this area is music history and literature, the examination is based on courses taken and will presume extra reading and thorough acquaintance with the contents of those courses.
       When this area is pedagogy, the examination is based on additional information expanding upon the information provided by the student in the major area exam as noted in paragraph (1) above and on related courses.
       Students with a related area in music theory will be asked in this examination to synthesize material from two or more theory courses from the course of study in place of the theory and analysis comprehensive project described in STEP 3 above.
       Where the formal minor or related area is focussed on another aspect of music study, the Chair of the student's Supervisory Committee should consult with one or more music faculty members in the minor area to construct an appropriate examination.

STEP 5. DISTRIBUTING STUDENT RESPONSES

The Graduate Secretary copies the student's theory/analysis project and written examination responses and distributes the questions and answers to the Committee as soon as possible after the student has completed the written examination.

STEP 6. THE ORAL EXAMINATION (2 hours)

The oral examination is flexible and wide-ranging in content and, at the discretion of the Supervisory Committee, may possibly include re-examination of material contained in the theory project and the written examination, though it is by no means limited to covering these materials. Students should consult well in advance with the chair of their Supervisory Committee about what kinds of questions are apt to arise during the oral examination.

 

PH.D (MUSIC EDUCATION) ANNUAL EVALUATIONS & COMPREHENSIVE EXAMINATIONS

All Ph.D. Music Education students are required to pass both written and oral comprehensive examinations for admission to candidacy, following guidelines outlined in the Graduate Studies Bulletin.  Full-time Ph.D. students in residence are expected to achieve candidacy before the end of a twenty-four month period of study.  The candidate must complete and successfully defend a dissertation proposal and later defend a dissertation of original research before receiving the degree.

Annual Evaluation

The Ph.D. in Music Education prepares students for careers in higher education and provides opportunities to experience faculty responsibilities in the areas of teaching, research, and service/outreach. At the end of each academic year faculty will review each student’s performance in the areas of teaching and professionalism, research, and service.

Year 1 Annual Review Artifacts 

  • CV-A review of accomplishments that reflect developments in the student’s career
  • Teaching-A digitally recorded teaching demonstration and one-page self- and peer-evaluation of the teaching experience
  • Research-A research-based paper in the form of a manuscript submittable as an article to a music research or practitioner journal that demonstrates writing and critical thinking ability in the field of music education. The manuscript must comply with the publication guidelines of a specific target journal in the field.
  • Service/Outreach-Students, in cooperation with their advisor, will arrange for service opportunities appropriate to the student’s interest areas.
  • Reflective statements in the areas of teaching, research, and service/outreach that demonstrate the student’s professional development

Year 2 Annual Review Artifacts 

  • CV-A review of accomplishments that reflect developments in the student’s career
  • Teaching- A digitally recorded teaching demonstration and one-page self- and peer-evaluation of the teaching experience
    • Research-Most recent version of Year 1 Research Artifact, updated in light of the peer-review process of the journal to which it was submitted, and an additional research-based manuscript submittable for publicationStudents must also provide evidence that their work has been submitted for presentation in an on-campus or off-campus research venue.
    • Service/Outreach-Students, in cooperation with their advisor, will arrange for service opportunities appropriate to the student’s interest areas.
    • Reflective Statements in the areas of teaching, research, and service that demonstrate the student’s professional development

Comprehensive Exams

Students pursuing the Ph.D. in Music (Music Education) are required to submit a Comprehensive Examination Portfolio to their Supervisory Committee prior to their oral examination which includes the following:

• CV-A review of accomplishments that reflect developments in the students career

  • A short essay (2 pages maximum) describing long term professional goals,
    • Digitally recorded teaching demonstrations, self- and peer-evaluations from annual evaluations

•Results of the written comprehensive examination. Exam questions will be provided by the Chair of the Supervisory Committee. Questions relevant to the student’s Program of Studies will make up the exam. The format of the exam requires that the student not only demonstrate the ability to write with ample access to existing literature in music education, but will also demonstrate the ability to write without the aid of those printed or electronic resources.

   -Question 1 will be in the format of a position paper. Students will use the advice to contributors guidelines from Update or the Music Educators Journal for the length and format of the paper. The paper topic will be given by the Chair of the Supervisory Committee, and the student will have one week to complete the paper.

   -Question 2 will center on a discipline-related topic chosen by the Chair of the Supervisory Committee. The student will have 2 ½ hours to compose and answer to the question.

   -For students who have declared a minor or related area, a written examination question will be given and will center on a discipline-related topic chosen by the Graduate Faculty Member from the minor area who also serves as a member of the Supervisory Committee. The student will have 1 hour to compose and answer the question. Alternative: At the discretion of the Supervisory Committee, minor or related area content may be incorporated into written questions in the student’s major area.

• Most recent versions of Year 1 and Year 2 Research Artifacts, updated in light of the peer-review process of the journals to which they were submitted.

PH.D. (PIANO AND VOCAL PEDAGOGY) ANNUAL EVALUATIONS & COMPREHENSIVE EXAMINATIONS

All Ph.D. Piano Pedagogy students are required to pass both written and oral comprehensive examinations for admission to candidacy, following guidelines outlined in the Graduate Studies Bulletin.  Full-time Ph.D. students in residence are expected to achieve candidacy before the end of the fourth semester, following the procedure articulate below. Once candidacy has been achieved, the candidate must complete and successfully defend a dissertation of original research before receiving the degree.

Annual Evaluations

Year 1 Annual Review Artifacts 

  • CV-A review of accomplishments that reflect developments in the student’s career
  • Teaching-A digitally recorded teaching performance and one-page self-evaluation of the teaching experience
  • Research-Development and submission of research for presentation in an on- or off-campus research venue appropriate for the discipline of piano pedagogy.
  • Service/Outreach-Students, in cooperation with their advisor, will arrange for service opportunities appropriate to the student’s interest areas.

Year 2 Annual Review Artifacts 

  • CV-A review of accomplishments that reflect developments in the student’s career
  • Teaching- A digitally recorded teaching performance and one-page self-evaluation of the teaching experience
  • Research-- A research-based paper in the form of a manuscript appropriate for submission to a music research or practitioner journal that demonstrates writing and critical thinking ability in the field of piano pedagogy. The manuscript must comply with the publication guidelines of a specific target journal in the field.
  • Service/Outreach-Students, in cooperation with their advisor, will arrange for service opportunities appropriate to the student’s interest areas.

Comprehensive Exams

Portion 1:  Professional Portfolio

  • CV-A review of accomplishments that reflect developments in the student’s career with regard to teaching, research, and service
  • Digitally recorded teaching performances with self-evaluation and research artifacts from years 1 and 2.

Portion 2: Written Exam

The student will have 4 hours to answer four questions on discipline-related topics chosen by the Chair of the Supervisory Committee in consultation with the committee. Questions relevant to the student’s Program of Studies will make up the exam. The format of the exam requires that the student demonstrate the ability to write without the aid of printed or electronic resources.

   -For vocal pedagogy students who have declared a minor or related area, a written examination question will be given and will center on a discipline-related topic chosen by the Graduate Faculty Member from the minor area who also serves as a member of the Supervisory Committee. The student will have 1 hour to compose and answer the question. Alternative: At the discretion of the Supervisory Committee, minor or related area content may be incorporated into written questions in the student’s major area. (NOTE: piano pedagogy students typically do not declare a minor or related area.)

The dissertation proposal will normally be presented and defended in combination with the oral exam following the written comprehensive exam.